• Too Quiet: Correspondent Josh Mitnick says that tourism by pilgrims coming to the Church of the Nativity has long been one of Bethlehem's major economic sources (see story). But since the Palestinian uprising in 2000, the city has fallen on hard times. "This year, they're saying the numbers of tourists are up," says Josh. "Streets have Christmas decorations on them, and I got an e-mail for a festival that is taking place in a Christian suburb of Bethlehem, something I hadn't heard about before."
But Josh says that almost everyone he talked to complains that the revival in tourism has not trickled down to them. "They claim that tourists don't linger – they come in and come out on buses," he says. "They're taken to souvenir shops rather than allowed to wander around Manger Square."
Josh recalls a very different Bethlehem that he visited in 1999, on the eve of the millennium celebrations. "Manger Square was abuzz with tourists and foreign camera crews. I also remember Manger Square in 2002, when the city was under Israeli curfew and the only thing in the square was an Israeli military jeep. "
This time, there were lots of cars parked on the square, but it was still not filled with tourists. "Everyone still seems very low-spirited despite the improvements. "
• Sweet! Contributor Irene Caselli says that her story on an environmentally friendly car trip from England to Mali caught her eye because it seemed to have everything: chocolate, Christmas, recycling (see story). "So I caught up with the guys taking this trip, using chocolate as fuel for their car, a couple hours before they got on the ferry in Poole, in southern England. They were both really enthusiastic and also very informed about the science. They had traveled in Africa before, so the really exciting idea for them was that they could do what they loved – but in a very green and positive way."
– Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor