World

Christmas in Bethlehem Canceled Due to Gaza Conflict

Bethlehem, the revered birthplace of Jesus Christ in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is experiencing an unusual silence this Christmas season. Local leaders have made the difficult decision to scale back festivities in solidarity with the Palestinian population, as heavy fighting erupted between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The conflict in Gaza has had devastating consequences, with over 20,000 Palestinians killed and almost 85% of the strip’s population displaced during Israel’s offensive. The war was triggered by Hamas’ terror attack on southern Israel in October, resulting in numerous casualties and hostages.

To show support for their fellow Palestinians, Bethlehem has removed decorations, canceled parades and religious celebrations, and the traditional Christmas tree in Manger Square is noticeably absent. Furthermore, accessing Bethlehem has become even more challenging due to the Israeli-built West Bank barrier and numerous checkpoints, restricting movement in the area and making it difficult for Palestinians to commute to work.

The violence in the occupied territory has reached alarming levels, with at least 300 Palestinians losing their lives in Israeli attacks. The lack of Christmas festivities this year deeply affects the residents of Bethlehem, who usually join in celebrating with their Christian brothers. The conflict has not only dampened their spirits but also dealt a severe blow to the local economy, as businesses were hoping for a busy festive period. However, without tourists and faithful visitors, many hotels, shops, and restaurants have been forced to close their doors.

One significant religious destination, the Church of the Nativity, a World Heritage site, is currently empty. Normally, hundreds of pilgrims would patiently queue to enter the grotto believed to be the exact location of Christ’s birth. This year, however, the number of visitors is significantly reduced.

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The ongoing fighting in Gaza has overshadowed the joy and peace that are usually associated with Christmas in Bethlehem. Locals and religious leaders alike express a deep sense of sorrow and longing for peace. The situation serves as a reminder of the pressing need for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, which would allow Bethlehem to thrive once again as a cherished destination for pilgrims and tourists alike.

Queenie Bell

"Introvert. Avid gamer. Wannabe beer advocate. Subtly charming zombie junkie. Social media trailblazer. Web scholar."

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