The people from Jerusalem are a diverse lot of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and I bet what most of them want is peace. When human beings respect one another for being human, all of the dogma in the world makes no difference.
Jerusalem Patriarch ushers in Christmas festivities – Summary
“Bethlehem, West Bank - Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world gathered in Bethlehem Thursday, to celebrate Christmas in the city revered as the birthplace of Jesus Christ. The head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land, Patriarch Fouad Twal, arrived in the southern West Bank city in the mid- afternoon, after completing the traditional 8.5 kilometre Christmas procession from Jerusalem.
Twal, a 69-year-old Jordanian who was appointed Latin Patriarch last year, is to lead the Midnight Mass at Bethlehem's early medieval Church of the Nativity, built according to Christian tradition on the site of the stable where Jesus was born.
Israel, meanwhile, give permission for 420 Christians from the Gaza Strip to go to Bethlehem for the festivities. Some 3,000 Christians live in the coastal salient, which has a population of 1.5 million.
However only Christians under the age of 18, and over age 25, where permitted to leave the Strip, which Israel has kept under tight blockade since the Islamist Hamas and two other militant groups snatched an Israeli soldier during a cross-border raid on June 25, 2006.
The Gaza Christians will join the estimated 15,000 people who Bethlehem Mayor Victor Bartarseh said are flocking to the city for the Christmas celebrations.
Choirs from around the world are scheduled to perform in the city, whose hotels are fully booked, as was the case last year, a welcome change from the years in which Israeli-Palestinian violence kept pilgrims away.
Twal will lead the midnight mass at the Church of St Catherine in Bethlehem in the presence of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian and foreign officials.
In his Christmas message, Twal expressed regret that "our dreams for a reconciled Holy Land seem to be utopia."
"Despite the praiseworthy efforts of politicians and men of goodwill to find a solution to the ongoing conflict, all of us, Palestinians and Israelis, have failed in achieving peace. The reality contradicts our dreams," he said.
"The best gift we seek, above money and wealth, is peace," his message, concluded.”