A worker prepares lights ahead of Christmas celebrations in the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem December 19, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
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President Donald Trump's recognition of occupied Jerusalem as Israel's capital looms large in Christmas festivities this year in the traditional birthplace of Jesus. Some food vendors, sellers of holiday trinkets and a leading hotelier in biblical Bethlehem say Palestinian protests, triggered by what many here view as a provocative show of pro-Israel bias from the U.S., have hurt their Christmas business.The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is keenly felt – perhaps even more so at Christmas – in Bethlehem, just a few kilometers south of Jerusalem.While Palestinians try to draw attention to the barrier when foreigners pour in for Christmas, Trump's policy shift on Jerusalem two weeks ago has emerged as the dominant theme this year.Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was to have received Vice President Mike Pence, a devout Christian, in Bethlehem, but canceled after the U.S. pivot on Jerusalem.The Christmas season caps a banner year for tourism in the Palestinian territories, with 2.7 million visitors in 2017, compared to 2.3 million in 2016, Tourism Ministry official Jiries Qumsieh said. Despite some cancelations, Bethlehem's 4,000 hotel rooms were more than 90 percent booked for Christmas, he said.
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