Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted Christmas greetings on Facebook Sunday night, promising Christians around the world to personally welcome them to Israel and give them a tour of the country’s holy sites.
“It’s a pleasure for me, on Christmas eve, to be here, standing in Jerusalem, the holy city,” Netanyahu said in a video greeting, standing on a balcony overlooking the city.
“I’m very proud to be the Prime Minister of Israel. A country that says Merry Christmas, first to its Christian citizens, and to our Christian friends around the world,” Netanyahu said in the video released on Christmas eve.
“I’m proud that Israel is a country in which Christians not only survive, but they thrive! Because we believe in this friendship among people. And we protect the rights of everyone to worship in the holy shrines behind me,” the prime minister also said.
In the video Netanyahu promises that next Christmas he will lead a tour “in the footsteps of Jesus and the origin of our Judeo-Christian heritage”.
“For those of you who come to Israel, I’m going to take a guided tour. In fact, I’ll be your guide on this guided tour,” he said.
Christians gathered in Bethlehem on Sunday evening for an annual parade and other events, ending in midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity.
Extra police officers were deployed at crossings in Jerusalem and Bethlehem for the holiday.