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A Christmas tour through the Holy Land (PHOTOS)

GlobalPost senior correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky takes us on a guided Instagram tour of celebrations in Bethlehem and beyond.

Little town of Bethlehem, big Christmas tree. (Noga Tarnopolsky/GlobalPost via Instagram)

Thousands of worshippers and tourists from around the world flocked Tuesday to Jesus Christ's storied birthplace in Bethlehem in anticipation of Wednesday's Christmas holiday.

From a Bethlehem bakery to a cave outside Nazareth, GlobalPost senior correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky here takes us on a guided Instagram tour of celebrations in the holy city and beyond.

We begin at the hills outside Bethlehem, just before Christmas, still dusted with snow a week after a rare and massive snowstorm.

(Noga Tarnopolsky/GlobalPost via Instagram)

 

In Manger Square, Bethlehem, political protest accompanies the festivities. Here, a peace sign is created out of discarded Israeli teargas canisters and colored candles:

(Noga Tarnopolsky/GlobalPost via Instagram)

 

In Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus is experienced as a local event. Here, a carved olive wood crèche tucked into the hollow trunk of a massive native olive tree.

(Noga Tarnopolsky/GlobalPost via Instagram)

 

At one of the tourist shops, an unusually ecumenical Christmas tree ornament celebrates the three local monotheistic religions.

(Noga Tarnopolsky/GlobalPost via Instagram)

 

A tourist reaches down to touch the very spot where Jesus us believed to have been born in the grotto beneath Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity.

(Noga Tarnopolsky/GlobalPost via Instagram)

 

A tale of two cities. In Bethlehem, a tree fashioned out of barbed wire and teargas canisters. In Nazareth, a fully laden, conventional tree.

(Noga Tarnopolsky/GlobalPost via Instagram)

 

In Bethlehem, the chapel, just cleaned, before anyone is allowed in.

(Noga Tarnopolsky/GlobalPost via Instagram)

 

For many, a pilgrimage to Bethlehem at Christmas is the realization if a lifelong dream. Here, a man kisses the candle he has just lit in the Church of the Nativity.

(Noga Tarnopolsky/GlobalPost via Instagram)

 

A crèche scene in real life: goats amble towards a roadside cave on the way between Jerusalem and Nazareth.

(Noga Tarnopolsky/GlobalPost via Instagram)

 

Bethlehem.

(Noga Tarnopolsky/GlobalPost via Instagram)

 

It is sad to be last year's model of olive wood manger figurines.

(Noga Tarnopolsky/GlobalPost via Instagram)

 

At Cafe Sima, one of the best Bethlehem bakeries, they have pasted an announcement on the wall warning customers of shortages in fruitcake. Irresistible raspberry Linzer bells and some gingerbread remain in stock.

(Noga Tarnopolsky/GlobalPost via Instagram)

 

In Jerusalem, Christmas is a festivity for Russians of all faiths. In particular the imbibing faith. Ergo, Christmas ornaments sharing a shelf with vodka.

(Noga Tarnopolsky/GlobalPost via Instagram)

Follow Noga on Instagram.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/131224/jesus-birthplace-bethlehem-christmas-nazareth-jerusalem-photos