The Statesman
December 15, 2010 - 1:00am

Bethlehem's mayor has lit up his town's main Christmas tree while complaining that Israel's limitations on access to his West Bank town are weighing heavily on holiday cheer.

Mayor Victor Batarseh and a Palestinian official threw a switch to light white bulbs strung around a tall, star-topped fir tree in front of the Church of the Nativity, marking the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

Part of Israel's West Bank separation barrier cuts through southern Bethlehem, blocking the road to Jerusalem, 3 miles (5 kilometers) away.

At his pre-Christmas news conference Wednesday, Batarseh said traditional carols call for peace and good will, but this is hindered by the Israeli barrier "that has cut the 2,000-year-old relation between Bethlehem and its twin city Jerusalem."


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