Yusuf works on olive wood figures in Bethlehem. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
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Christmas is approaching and pilgrims and tourists have begun to arrive, crowding the souvenir shops that line the narrow streets and alleys of Bethlehem, the biblical town revered as Jesus' birthplace.Many souvenirs – including the West Bank town's trademark rosary beads – are imported from abroad, mainly China.A number of souvenir shops are now trying to fight the trend, stocking their shelves almost exclusively with locally made products. Some 120,000 people are expected to visit the Holy Land this holiday season, half of them Christian, according to the Tourism Ministry.Giacaman keeps just a few imported products in his store, most of them hidden in a small box beneath a counter.Maher Canawati, owner of the Three Arches souvenir shop, sells locally made gifts and even has a wood workshop in the back. But he keeps room for imports as well.While craft workshop owners grumble about foreign imports, not everyone believes the imports have seriously threatened local merchants and artisans.
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