Shops are closed, tourists and pilgrims are nowhere to be found and Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity, built over the traditional site of Jesus’ birthplace, are virtually empty.Jumana Abbas is the Public Relations and Media Officer for the Bethlehem 2000 project, which was set up to renovate the city’s infrastructure in preparation for the Millennium celebrations in the city. Those activities kicked off with Christmas 1999, included a visit by Pope John Paul II and are set to continue through Easter 2001.Christmas 2000 was to have topped off a boom tourist year, but nightly gun battles nearby have turned it into a bust. Bethlehem borders Beit Jala, where Palestinian gunmen have hijacked the homes of Christians to fire on the Jewish Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo across the valley, drawing heavy retaliatory shooting from the Israeli army.According to Ismail, there were some 765,000 visitors to Bethlehem during the first nine months of the year an average of 85,000 a month.
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