Bethlehem has seen a record number of tourists this year and its thousands of hotel rooms are fully booked for Christmas week, thanks to steadily declining violence in the West Bank over the past few years.

It is a welcome bit of good news in a period that is otherwise gloomy, with a U.S.-led Israeli-Palestinian peace effort appearing to have run aground.

So far this year, 1.4 million tourists have visited the traditional birthplace of Jesus and 90,000 are expected during the Christmas season, a significant increase over last year, according to Israeli government figures. The numbers of visitors have been rising steadily in recent years.

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