An estimated 165,000 Christians are expected to visit Israel during the Christmas holiday season, according to Israel’s Tourism Ministry.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin will host the annual pre-Christmas reception for Israeli Christians and church leaders, which will also be attended by ambassadors, leaders of Christian organizations in Israel and other dignitaries from different communities.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the Tourism Ministry will provide free shuttle service between Jerusalem and Bethlehem for Christian pilgrims.

Hundreds of people recently gathered in Bethlehem in front of the Church of the Nativity, where many believe that Jesus was born, for the annual Christmas tree-lighting celebration.

Also scheduled is a parade through the main street of Nazareth to the city’s Basilica of the Annunciation on Dec. 24 at 2:30 p.m., followed in the evening by a fireworks display sponsored by the Tourism Ministry. On Dec. 25, a mass will be held at 10 a.m. in the Basilica.

The Tourism Ministry reported that 55 percent of all tourists who visited Israel in 2019 were Christian. The most popular sites they visited were the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Via Dolorosa and the Mount of Olives, all in Jerusalem.

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