In anticipation of the upcoming Christian holiday season, which begins today, December 19th 2011, and will last until January 20th 2012, the IDF and the COGAT conducted situational assessments in order to of improve Palestinian quality of life in the Judea and Samaria Region. The Minister of Defense, Mr. Ehud Barak, and the Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, decided to implement the following trust-building measures during this season.
- Provision of visitor permits for Christian Palestinians from the Judea and Samaria Region to visit Israel during the entire season, without limitations on age.
- 400 permits for Christian Palestinians to travel abroad via Ben Gurion Airport, following security inspections.
- 500 visitor permits for Christian Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to Israel and the Judea and Samaria Region in order to visit their families and participate in religious ceremonies. (Will be provided to minors under the age of 16 and adults over the age of 45)
- 200 permits for Christians from Arab countries to visit in the Judea and Samaria Region during the holidays.
More than 1.5 million tourists are expected to visit Bethlehem this year, while in 2010 alone, more than 1.1 million tourists visited the city. During Christmas the population of Bethlehem swells by more than 400 percent, amounting to an injection of economic activity; Almost $250 million are poured into Bethlehem, constituting a staggering 15 percent of its GDP.