Israel Defense Forces officials coordinated security arrangements with religious leaders ahead of the 2011 holiday season, making it a joyous holiday season for millions celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas and Eid Al-Adha.
During the holiday season, IDF officials ease movement restrictions on Palestinians in the Judea and Samaria Region; cooperate with Christian leaders on security at religious ceremonies; and ensure security for mass pilgrimages to holy sites.
Trust-building measures for the 2011 holiday season implemented by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz:
- Christian Palestinians (of all ages) from the Judea and Samaria Region visited Israel on tourist visas.
- 400 Christian Palestinians flew abroad via Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport.
- 500 Christian Palestinians from Gaza visited their families and attended religious ceremonies in Israel or the Judea and Samaria Region on tourist visas. (Limited to minors under the age of 16 and adults over the age of 45.)
- 200 Christian Arabs, traveling from Arab countries, entered the Judea and Samaria Region on tourist visas.
Expecting more than 1.5 million tourists in 2011, Bethlehem’s population swells by more than 400 percent during the holiday season, amounting to an injection of economic activity. More than $250 million in revenue is poured into Bethlehem, constituting a staggering 15 percent of its GDP.