Christmas celebrations is notably absent this year in Bethlehem. The town decided to forgo Christmas celebrations in solidarity with Gaza, where violence has surged, drawing parallels between the current situation and the hardships faced during the time of Jesus’ birth.
Typically bustling with tourists and pilgrims, the town now experiences empty streets and closed shops.
The Church of the Nativity, a usually busy site, remains silent. The Christmas Eve mass at the Church, which happens on Thursdays, will be closed to the public.
The reason behind this departur e from tradition is multi-faceted.
Gazan Christians, who typically visit Bethlehem for Christmas, face challenges this year as permits have not been issued due to restrictions.
Pilgrims worldwide are avoiding Bethlehem due to the perceived risk of conflict amid Israeli actions in Gaza.
The journey is further complicated by increased checkpoints since the October attack.
The cancellation of festivities serves as a mourning gesture for the lives lost in Gaza, estimated at over 18,000 since October, including 8,000 children. This decision has profound economic implications for Bethlehem, affecting not only tourism but also local businesses, such as those producing olive wood carvings.
Churches, typically vibrant during the season, now limit activities to prayers and services.
Renowned establishments like the Walled Off hotel and the Tantur Ecumenical Institute have closed their doors or faced disruptions. The poignant message resonates: if Christ were born today, it would be amid the rubble and shelling, reflecting the somber reality faced by Bethlehem and Gaza alike.
Despite economic hardships and restrictions, the local population seeks solace in prayers for the end of the pandemic and peace in the Holy