Home News No Christmas tree, no joy, no festival in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus

No Christmas tree, no joy, no festival in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus

by Afonso
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Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, is the most festive of Christian religious festivals. But this Monday, the city of Bethlehem, the streets, the hotels, the restaurants, the shopping malls—everything is empty. No tourists or pilgrims.

The news agency Reuters reported that on October 7, fighters of the Palestinian independence group Hamas launched an ambush on the Erez border in the northern part of Israel. After that, the Israeli air force started operations in Gaza from that day. Later, the ground forces also joined the operation from October 28. Israeli forces’ brutal bombardment has extended beyond northern Gaza into southern Gaza. Traders in Bethlehem said that no tourists or pilgrims are coming to the area due to these violence.

“We have lived in Bethlehem for four generations,” Alexander Hotel owner Joey Kanavati told Reuters. This hotel is our main source of livelihood. But today there is not a single guest in our hotel. This is the worst Christmas I have ever seen. Christmas in Bethlehem is cancelled. No Christmas tree, no joy! I have never seen such a Christmas in my life.

Bethlehem is located just south of Jerusalem in Palestine. Thousands of tourists visit the Church of the Nativity every year at Christmas. Christians around the world believe that Jesus was born here.

Joey Kanavati said, “Before the attack on October 7, our hotel was fully booked for Christmas celebrations. Many even booked hotels for next year’s Christmas. But soon after the war started, customers started canceling their bookings. All the emails we received after October 7 were ‘booking cancellation’ mails.

Showing the hotel’s empty dining room, he said, at least 120 people used to eat here every night. Now it’s all empty. No Christmas party, no Christmas dinner, no Christmas buffet.

After the Israel-Arab War in 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank of Palestine. Since then, Israel has begun to establish Jewish settlements there. But the Palestinians claim that this land is theirs. Israel is occupying this territory illegally and by force.

Each year the center of the Christmas festivities is a large paved area in front of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, known as Manger Square. On Christmas Day today it was found to be deserted, silent and almost empty. Almost all the shops in the surrounding streets are closed.

Rony Tabash, a souvenir shopkeeper, said there have been no pilgrims here for almost two years. No tourists. Even so, I open the shop as a daily habit. I hope everything will be normal again.

Alaya Salameh, a restaurant owner, said he has no business. No foreigners, only a few local Palestinians eat from his restaurant. Still he kept the restaurant open. Because if the restaurant is closed, its employees will be unemployed.

Alaya Salameh also said, “I cannot drive away the workers who have been running my business for so long in this difficult time. But from where I will pay them every month, I am restless. All we can do now is pray for the situation to return to normal. As you know, Bethlehem is the city where the messenger of peace was born. This city should therefore spread the message of peace to the whole world.

On October 7, Hamas fighters ambushed Israel’s northern Erez border. Israel claimed that about 1,200 Israelis were killed in the operation. Apart from this, about 240 people were taken hostage. Then the Israeli air force started operations in Gaza from that day. Later, the ground forces also joined the operation from October 28.

More than 20,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip, which has been reduced to rubble by Israeli forces for more than two months. 70 percent of these victims are women, children, minors, adolescents and the elderly. Along with that, another 52 thousand 586 people were injured and 6 thousand 700 people are still missing. Apart from this, thousands of families lost their housing and took shelter in various schools, government institutions and hospital premises.


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