Christmas Cancelled In Bethlehem, The Town Where It All Started


Christmas is traditionally a boom time in Bethlehem, the place of the birth of Jesus. Crowds of tourists and pilgrims usually throng the streets, keen to visit the messiah’s birth place.

This year, however, the roads are empty, the shops shut, and Manger Square, the town’s centre, will be silent. The Church of the Nativity, built on the site where Mary is believed to have laid her firstborn among the animals in the stable, is normally busy with visitors by now. Not this year.

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This year Christmas has been cancelled in Bethlehem, a town about 50 miles from Gaza — where Israeli forces have sought out Hamas militants since their atrocity in Israel on 7 October.

Church leaders in Bethlehem and across the Holy Land decided in November to mute Christmas celebrations this year due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

Many people living in Bethlehem have links to Gaza through family, whether they are Muslim or Palestinian Christians. And there has also been a surge in violence on the West Bank since the outbreak of conflict in Gaza.

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Typically, Bethlehem—a Palestinian city of about 30,000 people in the Israeli-occupied West Bank—is jammed with more than 3 million visitors coming from all over the world to celebrate the birth of the Messiah.

Marching bands and carol singers and dancers and fireworks would fill the city with loud cheer and festive energy. Thousands would pack the Church of the Nativity, golden lights would twinkle across Star Street, and a giant tree with a ruby star would illuminate Manger Square.

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Instead, the streets are dark and hushed.

It will be a silent night this Christmas—but it’ll still be a holy night, according to local Christian leaders. Stripping Christmas of all its extraneous decorations and Western traditions, they say, will help them focus on the true meaning of Christmas, Christianity Today reports.

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