Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

Bethlehem, the historic birthplace of Jesus Christ, experienced a somber Christmas Eve amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza. The customary festive atmosphere was notably absent, with the traditional Christmas tree, nativity scene, and lively celebrations giving way to a subdued mood.

The city, typically bustling with pilgrims and tourists during this season, saw a decline in visitors due to the Israel-Hamas war that commenced on October 7. Residents, grappling with the impact of the conflict, expressed little enthusiasm for the usual Christmas festivities. The municipality canceled official events, and the Palestinian Christians refrained from celebrating, mourning the loss and displacement of their fellow Palestinians in Gaza.

In a departure from the usual grand Christmas tree at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, an art installation now stands—a poignant expression of solidarity with Gazans. Grey statues of Mary and Joseph are placed amidst rubble, accompanied by a banner calling for an end to the genocide, displacement, and blockade in Gaza.

Bethlehem’s Mayor Hanna Hanania conveyed the city’s sorrow and grief, emphasizing the need for the international community to acknowledge their plight. The toll of the conflict is evident, with casualties on both sides, leaving many disillusioned with the ongoing violence.

As Christmas messages of peace and love were replaced by messages of sadness and anger, religious leaders, including the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, gathered at the Church of the Nativity. Pizzaballa called for more than just a ceasefire, urging an end to hostilities and a collective commitment to break the cycle of violence.

Bethlehem and the wider West Bank have not been immune to the repercussions of the war, experiencing escalating violence and casualties. Church leaders in Jerusalem and Bethlehem chose to forgo festive celebrations in solidarity with Gazans, emphasizing the gravity of the situation.

Amid the lamentations, the plea for a lasting and sustainable ceasefire echoed through the ancient streets of Bethlehem. As the city that gave Jesus to the world, Bethlehem now calls on the world to reciprocate by granting peace to both Bethlehem and Gaza during this tumultuous time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *