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A Quiet Bethlehem This 2020 Christmas Celebration

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Sans the influx of tourists in the historical birthplace of Christ, a quiet Bethlehem community gets to experience a renewal in faith over a boom in business.

Prior to the pandemic, the Palestinian city located in occupied West Bank was always filled with visiting tourists who wanted to experience walking in the land of Jesus Christ’s official birthplace. In the past, those who wanted to visit the Church of the Nativity were forced to maneuver through the crowds teeming the streets of Bethlehem. This year, however, a quiet Bethlehem becomes largely part of the massive lockdown and quarantine restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Nevertheless, the absence of tourists is an opportunity for renewal, says Father Rami Asakrieh, the parish priest of Bethlehem. “Sometimes there are more than half million people who arrive in this period to visit the Nativity Church,” he recounts.

During the days leading to Christmas, however, the Church of the Nativity has been so silent, devoid of the yearly visiting faithful who traditionally visited Bethlehem from all over the world. A quiet Bethlehem, then, is a new thing for the community as locals are used to the noisy throng of commuters and visitors who annually arrived during the holiday season.

Armenian prayers are recited by four (4) monks below the Grotto of the Nativity, echoing through the typically crowded vicinity. Even during this year’s Christmas Eve, the most essential part of the celebration, the church was closed to the public. The lack of yearly visits from Palestinian authority representatives starkly reiterated the difference of this year’s celebration, as well.

“It has never happened before,” contemplates Asakrieh, as he mentions that the only times that the church was forced to close its doors were during periods of uprisings and Palestinian intifadas that were done in protest against Israel’s continued occupation.

“I think that this Christmas is different because people are not busy with the external manifestations of the feast,” the priest shares, referring to the customary purchasing of gifts and the conduct of extravagant get-togethers that have long been linked to Christmas celebrations.  “Now (people) have the time, and they are obligated, to concentrate on the essential… the theological spirit of Christmas,” he expressed. “Less business, but more religion,” Asakrieh continues.

During the days leading up to Christmas, the chapel of Saint Catherine, a small one that is next to the Church of the Nativity was made open to the local Bethlehem public. Amid a distinctively quiet Bethlehem atmosphere, many of the local faithful turned up as they donned their Sunday’s best.

One of them was Nicolas al-Zoghbi who mentions that the usual joy of the Christmas season was replaced by the overall feeling of depression. He shares that his son is among those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. “We hope the Lord will destroy corona, just get rid of it so we can return to our previous life,” states al-Zoghbi who is now in his 70s.

The city’s economy is hugely reliant on the annual influx of visitors who purchase items like rosaries and other Nativity-based trinkets from the shops and stands that pepper the place. Thus, a quiet Bethlehem during this holiday season signifies a highly decreased income for those who rely on the earnings that used to be generated from these yearly tourist visits.

Destinations

Disneyland Attractions That Have Been Lost In Time

Many Disneyland attractions have survived since it first opened in 1955, but others have come and gone. 

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Disneyland has brought joy to children and adults alike since it first opened in 1955. Many attractions have survived since the beginning, but others have come and gone. Here are some of the most memorable Disneyland attractions that have been lost but not forgotten. 

MIDGET AUTOPIA

This attraction only existed in Disneyland from 1957-1966. It featured miniature cars that traveled along a permanent path. The driver could control the speed using gas and brake pedals, but the steering wheel was not functional. It eventually was removed to make room for “It’s A Small World,” but it lived on for another ten years in Marceline, Missouri, the birthplace of Walt Disney himself.

 

COUNTRY BEAR JAMBOREE

One of the more classic attractions on this list, The Country Bear Jamboree survived from 1972-2001. It featured animatronic bears (and a few other forest creatures) that would perform pre-recorded songs. It was eventually removed and was replaced by “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.” 

ADVENTURES THRU INNER SPACE

An attraction ahead of its time, Adventures Thru Inner Space was a part of “Tomorrowland” and took guests on a magical tour through the atoms of a snowflake. It used an “omnimover” system that is still used in many rides to this day. It was eventually replaced by “Star Tours” in 1985.

FLYING SAUCERS

The Flying Saucers were a popular attraction within “Tomorrowland,” although they only existed from 1961-1966. Guests would sit on single-rider “saucers” that would move around in a fashion similar to how an air hockey puck moves. It also had a very exciting bumper cars element as riders could slam into each other. 

 

MONSANTO HOUSE OF THE FUTURE

Another attraction involved in the early days of “Tomorrowland,” The Monsanto House of the Future served as a glimpse into what a future house might look like. Complete with futuristic appliances. It lasted in the park from 1957-1967 and was the joint brainchild of Monsanto, M.I.T., and Walt Disney Imagineering. 

 

MINE TRAIN THROUGH NATURE’S WONDERLAND

The Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland was a ride enjoyed by Disneyland guests from 1960-1977. It served as a tour of the fictional town of Rainbow Ridge and featured multiple waterfalls over a thousand animatronic elements. It was eventually replaced by “Big Thunder Mountain.” 

 

THE PEOPLE MOVER

The aptly named “People Mover” did just that – it moved people! Another element of “Tomorrowland,” it ran from 1967-1995. It was a roughly 16-minute ride and provided riders with a scenic tour of Tomorrowland as a whole. It later served as a tour of the “World of Tron,” an attraction built in partnership with the release of the hit movie. 

 

CHICKEN OF THE SEA PIRATE SHIP AND RESTAURANT

This incredible attraction was a staple of Disneyland from 1955-1982. It featured an extensive, tuna-specific menu and was a joint venture with the tuna company, Chicken of the Sea. The company eventually removed their sponsorship and the beautiful pirate ship was turned into “Captain Hook’s Gallery” in 1969. 

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Rescue Dogs Saved By An Ethical Circus

the Midnight Circus in the Park decided to ditch the exotic animals for something a little more humane, rescued dogs.

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Circuses have gotten a bad rap lately for their abuse of animals. The people working there can have the best intentions, but when it comes to traveling with elephants and lions and bears it is kind of hard to do so respectfully to the animals. Elephants weren’t made to travel in a circus, they are very smart creatures who deserve our respect. Animal rights groups have noticed the poor care of these amazing animals and decided to protest circuses whenever they come into town. This hurts the circus’s attendance and leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. That is why the Midnight Circus in the Park decided to ditch the exotic animals for something a little more humane, rescued dogs.

The Midnight Circus in the Park which is based in Chicago threw a show in an effort to raise money for the hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. The circus shocked viewers by bringing out two beautiful pit bulls who performed flawlessly. Junebug and Rosie Rae helped reverse the negative stigma associated with pit bulls and dazzled the crowd with some unbelievable entertainment. This isn’t the first time the Midnight Circus in the Park has used pit bulls as performers, there was one named Lola who started the whole thing back in 2013.

The ringmaster of the Midnight Circus is Jeff Jenkins and he loves pit bulls as a breed. He is an advocate for pit bulls and has loved these dogs for a long time. Before running this circus Jeff Jenkins worked for the Ringling Brothers which has gotten a lot of flack for mistreating animals in the past. Jeff decided to take the negative connotation away from circuses and pit bulls as well. Now they are no longer mistreating animals, but in fact, rehabilitating them.

 

When Jeff is not working in the circus he works as the head trainer in the American Humane Society’s “End Dogfighting” campaign and it was working here that gave him the brilliant idea to incorporate dogs into his circus. He met the dog Junebug when a boy brought the dog to class and Jeff could tell that she was being poorly treated. The boy loved the dog and did not want to give it up, but Jeff offered the boy a deal, if Jeff could take care of Junebug then the boy could be a class assistant. This position was highly-sought after so the boy couldn’t say no.

Jeff took his new friend as well as Rosie Rae whom he adopted from a shelter and started to train them together. He put time and effort into turning them into seasoned circus performers who were just as loving and affectionate as any other dog. The only times the dogs have messed up have been when they stole a kernel or two of popcorn from a kid sitting in the front row. Other than that, they’re showing everyone just how sweet this breed can be and how fun and responsible this man’s awesome circus is.

 

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Britons Get Stuck Abroad Due to COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

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Britons get stuck offshore as they await the lifting of the recently imposed travel ban to and from the UK.

Many Britons get stuck abroad due to the recent travel bans imposed. Worries related to taxes, jobs, and Brexit get exacerbated as UK residents are forced to have lengthier stays in their current locations.

As more and more nations start imposing travel restrictions to and from the United Kingdom, more and more Britons get stuck in their present locations offshore. To halt the spread of the recently pinpointed highly communicable strain of COVID-19 virus, UK travel has come into a standstill.

23-year-old Heather Alder, a resident of Edinburg, went to Aarhus, Denmark with her fiancé last week. They had to visit her fiancé’s father and take him to do several tests for cancer. Alder and her fiancé were planning to go back to the UK this week but are now stuck in a farmhouse in Denmark due to the recent travel ban. “Even if the travel ban is lifted in a few days or weeks, we don’t know whether we can leave and we don’t know whether we can get back in easily,” Alder mentions.

Alder was able to secure a new job last month and she is grateful that her new boss has been so kind as to allow her to travel to Denmark. “My father-in-law’s house is about as remote as Denmark gets, so we’ve had to install new WIFI in order to be able to work from here. My boss has been wonderful about it all, but my partner is studying and working part-time for a Danish company, but pays tax in the UK. If we get stuck here for longer, we might have to report it, and he could end up having to pay tax in Denmark, where income tax is at 48%. This would have a big impact on our finances. It’s very stressful,” she shares.

The Brexit deadline is on 31 December 2020 and Alder does not know whether or not she will have to apply for a Denmark visa in case she will be forced to stay in the country for a longer period of time. “It’s very concerning that on top of everything, I now need to sort out my status here before Brexit. Due to Christmas closures, that means submitting documentation so I can apply as an EU citizen for the right to stay by 23 December. Nobody seems to have an answer as to what Britons in Denmark should do in the new year. Obviously, all our documents are in the UK, where we can’t return, which is making the whole process maddening and extremely worrying. The combination of Brexit and coronavirus has turned what was already a difficult situation into an unmanageable one,” Alder says.

The recent travel bans have caused further strain on many UK residents who are presently out of the country. Many of them complain about the need to go back to the UK in time for the resumption of work after the holidays. Nonetheless, Britons get stuck abroad and have to deal with the necessity of securing extended visas in their present locations and seek ways to do virtual ‘work-from-home’ arrangements while awaiting the lifting of the said travel ban.

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