CNN Photos

Christmas in Bethlehem

As a photographer based in the Middle East, Uriel Sinai sees his share of violence and hardship. This season, however, Sinai captured the Christmas spirit in the little West Bank town of Bethlehem. Pilgrims travel from around the world to visit the Church of the Nativity, where it is believed Jesus was born.

As people crammed into the small space with candles burning and smoke lightly filling the air, Sinai said he felt a bit of excitement.

“It was overwhelming in a way,” the Getty photographer said. “I always feel something, whether it’s a church, synagogue or mosque; it doesn’t matter if I believe in it or not. It lightens them.”

Sinai, who is Jewish, said he could relate well to a group of Muslim schoolgirls who were visiting the church. Even though they don’t really belong, he said, they were there. The curious way they looked at this other culture was beautiful to him.

While Sinai doesn’t see much decorative difference inside the church from year to year, this year, he said, it was more vibrant than the past couple of years; it felt more alive.

“I’m happy you can feel the holiday in West Bank,” he said.

–Elizabeth I. Johnson, CNN