The swarms of visitors and pilgrims who join costumed Santas and marching bands outside Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity in the Palestinian West Bank are missing this year amid the Israel-Hamas war.
As the war between Israel and Hamas rages approximately 100 kilometers away in Gaza, Christmas will be a “muted affair” in the occupied West Bank as there will be no commemoration for the event that Christians believe occurred here 2,000 years ago: the birth of Jesus Christ.
According to news.com.au, Jerusalem’s church leaders and the Bethlehem municipal council decided last month to avoid “any unnecessarily festive” Christmas celebrations to showcase solidarity with Gazans.
The war could not have come at a worse moment also for communities who rely on the Christmas tourism trade.
“Suddenly, in October, tourists disappeared from the streets. And now Bethlehem is completely closed from all directions”, Christmas House souvenir shop’s, Jack Giacaman said.
Greek Orthodox priest, Issa Thaljieh expressed regret for pilgrims would not see the reality of life for Palestinians this year as Bethlehem was “grieving” the violence in Gaza.
Visiting holy sites is important, he said, “but the most important is to know how Palestinians are living, how they are passing through the difficult situation daily, with the walls around, like living in a prison.”