Christmas -- the festival of peace -- was being organised like a military operation in the tiny town of Bethlehem on Friday (21 December) in the windswept Judean hills where King David once shepherd his father's flocks.
GV Manager Square and sign
SV TILT DOWN christmas tree
CU Tourist signs
MV Workers prepare rostrum
GV Television camera PAN ALONG electrical wires and lights ZOOM IN TO Temple
MV INTERIOR Priest lights candles
SV Part of Original foundations on which Church was built (2 shots)
SV INTERIOR Priest swings incense
CU ZOOM OUT Model of Baby Jesus lying in the Manger
Initials AE/22.33 AE.22.55
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: Christmas -- the festival of peace -- was being organised like a military operation in the tiny town of Bethlehem on Friday (21 December) in the windswept Judean hills where King David once shepherd his father's flocks.
With five different Christian communities celebrating the birth of Jesus on three different dates, every effort was being made by authorities to ensure smooth running. Arrangements have to be made for the Roman Catholics and Western churches to have access on December 24 to the Grotto of the Manager, the traditional site of the birthplace of jesus, which is under the Greek Orthodox Church of the Nativity.
The Greek Orthodox, like the Syrian and Coptic Churches, do not observe Christmas until the evening of January 6 and the day of January 7. And when they begin epiphany on January 18, the Americans are just starting their christmas celebrations.
Despite the spread of dates, the order of Christmas worship in Bethlehem has been carefully worked out. Since the 1967 war, the Israeli military administration -- which is responsible for all the occupied west bank of the Jordan including Bethlehem -- has worked with the churches to ensure that the services run with as much decorum as possible.
The security arrangements include posting armed guards on rooftops and along the access routes.
Despite the October war, authorities expect 10,000 visitors will flood into Bethlehem over Christmas. Most of them will come on the afternoon and night of December 24, when foreign and local choirs will sing in Manger Square. About 2,000 people lucky enough to acquire invitations -- including diplomats -- will crowd into St. Catherine's Basilica for the midnight mass.
This will be transmitted live on television satellite to Europe. The church is being completely renovated for this year's celebrations.