But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel.

Micah 5:2

In an effort to restore a traditional spirit in the Christmas celebration, the mayor of Bethlehem called for an easing of the military guard in the town where Jesus was born. Since the 1967 war when Israel took over Bethlehem from Jordan, troops and police have appeared to outnumber the pilgrims as Israeli officials attempted to secure the town against sabotage from Arab El Fatah guerrillas. El Fatah has refused to guarantee the safety of tourists coming to the Holy Land for Christmas, thus frightening off large numbers of would-be visitors.

But in the three years since the war, there have been no incidents of terrorism in the crowded town at Christmas. Partly for this reason and partly because of the weakened condition of the Arab guerrillas since the civil war in Jordan in October, Mayor Elias Bandak of Bethlehem felt confident enough to ask that Israeli security precautions be kept to a minimum.

Bethlehem merchants expected a brisk business in olive wood and mother-of-pearl souvenirs from a larger influx of visitors during the 1970 holiday season. A Bethlehem municipal spokesman said that about 28,000 pilgrims were expected from around the world, almost double last year’s total.

The mayor also was said to have appealed to the Israeli military governor to allow Christian families from the surrounding Arab countries to spend the holidays in Bethlehem. The governor promised to arrange with the authorities a system for granting permits to those wishing to come. The spokesman declined to speculate on the possible number who might make the journey across the Jordan ...

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