The Christian leadership in Bethlehem have announced they will not have Christmas celebrations in the West Bank this year in light of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza which has resulted in killing more than 13,000 people.
In a letter, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem have unanimously agreed to cancel the commemoration of Christmas to conform to the spiritual significance of the holiday while Palestinians are being brutally killed by Israeli forces.
“Each year during the sacred seasons of Advent and Christmastide, our Christian communities throughout the Holy Land take great delight in their preparations for the commemoration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” the patriarchs wrote in a joint letter.
“In addition to attendance in religious services, these celebrations have normally involved participation in numerous public festivities and the large-scale display of brightly lit and expensive decorations as a means of expressing our joy at the approach and arrival of the Feast of the Nativity.”, it further stated.
“But these are not normal times. Since the start of the War, there has been an atmosphere of sadness and pain. Thousands of innocent civilians, including women and children, have died or suffered serious injuries,” the bishops continued. “Many more grieve over the loss of their homes, their loved ones, or the uncertain fate of those dear to them. Throughout the region, even more have lost their work and are suffering from serious economic challenges. Yet despite our repeated calls for a humanitarian ceasefire and a de-escalation of violence, the war continues.”
City officials in Bethlehem have also been taking down Christmas decorations in solidarity with Palestinians.
“Bethlehem Municipality crews announced the dismantling of Christmas decorations installed several years ago in the city’s neighbourhoods and removing all festive appearances in mourning for the martyrs and in solidarity with our people in Gaza,” the city posted on Facebook on November 14.
Why Bethlehem is significant for Christians?
Bethlehem is located 10 kilometres south of the city of Jerusalem. Since at least the 2nd century AD, people have believed that Jesus was born where now stands the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem.