Coronavirus robs biblical Bethlehem of Christmas cheer

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — The coronavirus has cast a pall over Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem, all but shutting down the biblical town revered as Jesus’ birthplace at the height of the normally cheery holiday season. What’s missing are the thousands of international pilgrims who normally descend upon the town in the West Bank. Restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops are closed. The renowned Christmas tree lighting service will be limited to a small group of authorized people, as will church services on Christmas Eve. For Bethlehem, there is no sign of the pandemic ending or tourists visiting anytime soon. One hotel owner put it starkly by saying: “Bethlehem is dead.”