Another subdued Palestinian Christmas in Bethlehem

Another subdued Palestinian Christmas in Bethlehem
2 min read
24 December, 2017
Donald Trump's controversial announcement that the US will recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital has not prevented Palestinian Christians from enjoying the holiday season.
Bethlehem has been gripped by protests and clashes [Anadolu]

Palestinian Christians in the occupied territories are getting ready for Christmas after a tense month under an international spotlight.

It follows Donald Trump's announcement early December that the US will recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, which has led to a month of protests and clashes in the occupied territories.

Bethlehem has been the traditional centre point for Christmas celebrations in Palestine. 

This year - as ever - Christians and Muslims in the city are preparing for festivities in the supposed birthplace of Jesus Christ, which usually attracts thousands of tourists.

Scouts are holding their annual nativity march at the Manger Square - as they do every Christmas - while worshippers in Bethlehem will head to church for midnight mass this evening. 

But the lights were absent from the city's main tree for much of December and few tourists have made it to Bethlehem this year. Politics have once again hijacked Christmas in Palestine.

"Of course this created a tension around Jerusalem and this diverted attention from Christmas," Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem told AFP.

Palestinian President Mahnoud Abbas has called on Christians across the world to show solidarity with Palestinians who remain trapped in their towns due to the ongoing Israeli occupation.

"Listen to the true voices of the indigenous Christians from the Holy Land... that strongly rejected the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital," he said in a statement on Christmas Eve.

"They are the descendants of the first followers of Jesus Christ and an integral part of the Palestinian people."

Palestinian Christian leaders turned down meetings with US Vice-President Mike Pence this month in protest at the Jerusalem announcement, forcing him to cancel his trip to the Holy Land.

Bethlehem is still angered by Trump's announcement and a grim mood has overshadowed celebrations this year, as has the Separation Wall in a literal sense.

The Apartheid Barrier cuts Jesus' birthplace off from other Christian holy sites such as Jerusalem and Nazareth, and it has become a symbol of how the plight of Palestinian Christians - and Muslims - have been utterly ignored by their American brethren in the White House.

Clashes erupted between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces this month - including in Bethlehem - have led to 11 Palestinian deaths and scores of injuries.

With the Trump administration adamant on empowering Israel and side-lining Palestinian, it means there will likely be many more Christmases in Bethlehem with muted celebrations.

Agencies contributed to this story.