West Bank’s Bethlehem cancels Christmas celebrations due to Gaza conflict

BETHLEHEM – Churches in Bethlehem, the reputed birthplace of Jesus, in the West Bank decided to keep only religious rituals and cancel all other celebrations for the current Christmas season to show sympathy to the Palestinians suffering from Israeli attacks and siege.

Bethlehem Mayor Hanna Hanania told Xinhua that this Christmas is completely different from previous ones as the holiday has been shrouded in a sad atmosphere due to the Israel-Hamas conflict in the Gaza Strip and the widespread closure of West Bank cities under Israeli siege.

Hanania meanwhile extended his sadness over the situation of Palestinians in Gaza, where families move with their children from one place to another in search of a safe place “despite that there is no such place.”

He said that in previous years, Bethlehem annually attracted some 1.5 million tourists and pilgrims from across the globe. In a bleak contrast, this Christmas has been completely devoid of tourism since the beginning of the Gaza conflict on Oct. 7.

Palestine’s tourism sector is expected to lose US$200 million by the end of 2023 due to the impact of Israel’s attacks on Gaza, according to Palestinian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Rula Maayah.

The minister said Palestine’s tourism sector faced dire circumstances during this year’s Christmas season, primarily in Gaza and the West Bank, noting that Bethlehem appears particularly desolate this winter. – BERNAMA-XINHUA / pic AFP