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Bethlehem's Christmas Tree Absent in Solidarity with Gaza

Bethlehem foregoes traditional Christmas celebrations in solidarity with those suffering in the Gaza Strip, using the absence of the festive tree to draw attention to the ongoing conflict.

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Sakchi Khandelwal
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Bethlehem's Christmas Tree Absent in Solidarity with Gaza

In the heart of Bethlehem, Manger Square, traditionally adorned with a towering 6-meter Christmas tree, stands stark and empty this year. In a somber departure from the usual festivities, locals have chosen a subdued celebration in an act of solidarity with their brethren suffering from the war in the Gaza Strip. The absence of the customary bustling Christmas tree serves as a potent symbol of the ongoing conflict and its impact on neighboring communities.

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Bethlehem's Christmas Without Celebrations

The Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem, a city known for its vibrant Yuletide spirit, have been notably muted this year. Around 30 leaders of Palestine's main Christian churches took the unanimous decision to cancel the customary festivities. The Israeli authorities have sealed off part of the town, further exacerbating the situation, making access difficult since the onset of the war. The Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Center for Peace have raised their voices, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Symbolism in Sorrow

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In the midst of this, Reverend Munther Isaac described the season as one of prayer and lament. Symbolic of their shared suffering, a nativity scene has been crafted from rubble, reflecting the poignant message that if Jesus were born today, he would be under the rubble in Gaza. Tamar Haddad, a local resident, echoed these thoughts, stating that Christmas does not feel celebratory this year, adding to the somber tone of the season.

The Future of Christian Community in Gaza

Concerns for the future of the Christian community in Gaza are palpable. Restrictions and the ongoing conflict have made it increasingly difficult to engage in dialogue with political leaders in Israel. The Christian community feels besieged within their church buildings, fearing that the war could potentially spell the end of their presence in Gaza. Yet, they continue to hope and advocate for a ceasefire, despite feeling that their pleas fall on deaf ears.

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