BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP)– The usually busy scriptural birth place of Jesus looked like a ghost town Sunday after Christmas Eve events in Bethlehem were aborted due to the Israel-Hamas war.
The joyful lights and Christmas tree that usually embellish Manger Square were missing out on, as were the crowds of foreign travelers and joyous youth marching bands that collect in the West Bank town each year to mark the vacation. Lots of Palestinian security forces patrolled the empty square.
“This year, without the Christmas tree and without lights, there’s simply darkness,” stated Brother John Vinh, a Franciscan monk from Vietnam who has actually resided in Jerusalem for 6 years.
Vinh stated he constantly concerns Bethlehem to mark Christmas, however this year was particularly sobering. He looked at a nativity scene in Manger Square with an infant Jesus covered in a white shroud, similar to the countless kids eliminated in the battling in Gaza.
A nativity scene embellished to honor the victims in Gaza is shown in Manger Square, near the Nativity Church, which is generally thought to be the birth place of Jesus, on Christmas Eve, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023. Bethlehem is having actually a suppressed Christmas after authorities in Jesus’ standard birth place chose to give up events due to the Israel-Hamas war. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
Barbed wire surrounded the scene, the grey debris showing none of the jubilant lights and bursts of color that generally fill the square throughout the Christmas season. Cold, rainy weather condition contributed to the grim state of mind.
The cancellation of Christmas celebrations was a serious blow to the town’s economy. Tourist represents an approximated 70% of Bethlehem’s earnings– nearly all of that throughout the Christmas season.
With lots of significant airline companies canceling flights to Israel, couple of immigrants are checking out. Regional authorities state over 70 hotels in Bethlehem were required to close, leaving countless individuals jobless.
Present stores were sluggish to open on Christmas Eve, although a couple of did when the rain had actually stopped putting down. There were couple of visitors.
“We can’t validate putting out a tree and commemorating as typical, when some individuals (in Gaza) do not even have homes to go to,” stated Ala’a Salameh, among the owners of Afteem Restaurant, a family-owned falafel dining establishment simply steps from the square.
Salameh stated Christmas Eve is typically the busiest day of the year. “Normally, you can’t discover a single chair to sit, we’re complete from early morning till midnight,” stated Salameh. On Sunday early morning, simply one table was taken, by reporters taking a break from the rain.
Under a banner that checked out “Bethlehem’s Christmas bells sound for a cease-fire in Gaza,” a couple of teens provided little inflatable Santas, however nobody was purchasing.
A priest strolls by the Church of the Nativity, typically thought to be the birth place of Jesus, on Christmas Eve, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem,