Palestinian officials have banned Christmas decorations in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, and will not allow trees or lights to be displayed over the holiday.
“Bethlehem Municipality crews [are] dismantling of Christmas decorations installed several years ago in the city’s neighborhoods and removing all festive appearances in honor of the martyrs and in solidarity with our people in Gaza.”
A spokesman for the municipality explained to the British press:
“The reason is the general situation in Palestine; people are not really into any celebration, they are sad, angry and upset; our people in Gaza are being massacred and killed in cold blood.”
“Therefore, it is not appropriate at all to have such festivities while there is a massacre happening in Gaza and attacks in the West Bank,” he added.
The Christians in Bethlehem and Jerusalem are angry at the Palestinian Authority after it decided that this year, the traditional Christmas celebrations will not take place as a sign of solidarity with the war in Gaza.— assaf gibor (@assafgibor) November 15, 2023
In the square of the Basilica of the Nativity, the… pic.twitter.com/27Fg4OZ0z0
Catherine Salgado, a journalist contributing to PJ Media, slammed the decision to remove Christmas displays in Gaza.
“Imagine the outcry if Jerusalem or Rome had sent crews to Muslim neighborhoods before Ramadan to remove Islamic symbols!” she wrote.
“But even though Jews and Christians are the most persecuted religious groups and Islam is among the most intolerant of religions, don’t expect global backlash and outrage.”
“What makes this Christmas cancellation so particularly disturbing is that it is in honor of the ‘martyrs,’ which is Palestinian double-speak for ‘terrorists killed by Israelis,'” she continued.
“The heinous Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack left hundreds of Israelis dead and forced Israeli authorities to come to grips with the reality that Arabs have been refusing peace in favor of trying to destroy Israel for decades, and they’re not going to change their minds now.”
“When I was in Bethlehem recently, I saw huge signs warning Israeli citizens that they were “forbidden” to enter, cautioning: “Dangerous To Your Lives.” My tour guide explained that the signs apply specifically to Jewish Israelis. And unsurprisingly, the same Muslims who hate Jews also hate Christians.”
The Christian population in Bethlehem has declined from 80 percent to just 20 percent in the last 50 years.
The decline repeatedly comes amid harassment from the Palestinian Authority and local Muslims.
Bethlehem was 86% Christian in 1950, but in 2016, that figure stood at 12%, the National Catholic Reporter notes.
As Israel Today noted, Bethlehem usually attracts thousands of visitors in the run-up to Christmas, as Christian tourists pilgrimage to Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity.
However, a “muted” Christmas “mass and prayer” service will still take place in Bethlehem.
Only some 33,000 local Christians remain in the three towns of the Bethlehem area, according to 2022 estimates.
Israel has been at war with Hamas since the terrorist organization launched a surprise attack that killed about 1,200 people on October 7.
Israel launched airstrikes and a ground offensive in Gaza in response to the attacks, seeking to eradicate Hamas.
The Christian Post reported that the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry claims over 11,000 people, including thousands of minors, have been killed since the war began.
The health authorities haven’t distinguished between combatants and civilians in their death toll numbers.
However, the United Nations World Health Organization voiced concern that women and children are “bearing the brunt” of the casualties.