- POSTED: 24 Dec 2013 16:11
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Christmas in the Holy Land is something that most Christians can only dream of. Every year, thousands of people make that dream a reality with a pilgrimage to Bethlehem - the place where Christmas started.
BETHLEHEM: Christmas in the Holy Land is something that most Christians can only dream of.
Every year, thousands of people make that dream a reality with a pilgrimage to Bethlehem - the place where Christmas started.
For the Palestinians that live and work there, this time of year is particularly special.
For the Canavati family, one day stands out on the calendar - Christmas, a day they spend months preparing for and weeks recovering from.
It's the busiest day of the year for this Christian Palestinian family who run a hotel in Bethlehem and preparation starts early.
Joey Canavati, chef and manager at Alexander Hotel, said: "There are a lot of reservations we have during the last two months. We have to get ready before the people come in. And when they come in, everything is ready, they feel at home, they feel the Christmas spirit."
Joey grew up in the walls of the hotel. As his parents worked upstairs, the kitchen became his playground.
He may be an only child but on Christmas Day, the hotel's guests are part of the family.
"We like people when they come to our hotel to feel that they are at home. We treat people like our family.
"We do encourage people from all over the world to come to Bethlehem and to celebrate it here."
The majority of the visitors to the Alexander Hotel are pilgrims who come to visit the Church of the Nativity next door - the place where Jesus was born two thousand years ago.
Joey's father, Joseph, was born here almost sixty years ago when Bethlehem was still a small, sleepy town.
Much has changed since but Joseph is optimistic about the future.
"Christmas in Bethlehem is renaissance… The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, that’s helping things to calm down. This season Christmas in Bethlehem is going to be best ever since I was born," said Joseph.
The pilgrims, who have often travelled thousands of miles to come here, seem to agree.
"The places, the scenery, everything is fantastic," said Daniel Oshevire, a pilgrim.
Every year, more than 70,000 pilgrims come to Bethlehem to visit the birthplace of Jesus.
In Bethlehem, Christmas is not only for Christians. Sixty per cent of the town's population is Muslim.
Muhammad Al-Saca works in a gift shop selling Christian art and iconography to tourists.
For him, Christmas time in Bethlehem is special, regardless of religion.
"There is no difference between Christian and Muslim. Everybody is the same. We are living together. We are living as brothers." said the shopworker.