Bethlehem - Pop music icon Paul McCartney said Wednesday he's carrying a message of peace for Israel and the Palestinians, rejecting criticism of his planned concert in Tel Aviv.
McCartney toured the West Bank town of Bethlehem, visiting the Church of the Nativity, built over the traditional birthplace of Jesus.
The Beatles legend ducked into the fourth-century church through its low, narrow entrance, taking pictures with a small camera on a strap around his neck. He lit two long, tapered white candles in different parts of the church, saying each time that they were "for peace."
After posing for pictures with fans of all ages outside the fortress-like church, McCartney was asked to respond to criticism from some Palestinians that his visit to Israel supports its occupation of the West Bank.
He said his visit Wednesday to the West Bank showed he was not playing favorites. "I'm here to highlight the situation and to say that what we need is peace in this region, a two-state solution," he said, referring to Israel and a Palestinian state.
"I get criticized everywhere I go, but I don't listen to them," McCartney said. "I'm bringing a message of peace, and I think that's what the region needs."
McCartney arrived Tuesday night ahead of his concert Thursday in Tel Aviv's largest park.
Four decades ago the Israeli government banned a planned concert by the Beatles, ruling that the rock group's performance could corrupt the morals of Israel's youth.
Paul McCartney Visits West Bank with Peace Message