As Christmas unfolds in Bethlehem, usually a beacon of joy and celebration during the holiday season, the city finds itself in the grip of sorrow and despair. Pastor Munther Isaac of the Christmas Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem captures the somber mood, expressing resilience but also highlighting the profound impact of the Israeli state’s ongoing attacks on Gaza.
In a poignant live telecast that has resonated globally, Pastor Munther Isaac conveys the sentiments of Palestinians grappling with the harsh reality of the current situation. Despite the resilience of the Palestinian people, he emphasizes that this assault is the most significant blow in recent memory. The city’s iconic Manger Square, typically bustling with visitors and festive lights, stands desolate this year, symbolizing the absence of joy and celebration.
Residents of Bethlehem, like Madeleine, speak of the emptiness that pervades the city. The cancellation of festivities due to the ongoing attacks on Gaza has cast a shadow over Christmas in Bethlehem. Father Eissa Thaldjiya of the Nativity Church echoes these sentiments, remarking that he has never witnessed such a subdued Christmas, even during the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Father Spiridon Sammour, a Greek Orthodox priest at the Church of the Nativity, laments the absence of peace and joy during what is traditionally a season of celebration. He acknowledges the challenges faced by those in Gaza, emphasizing the need for global unity in prayers for peace.
Leaders of various churches in Jerusalem have also raised their voices against the actions of the Israeli state. In a meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem called for an immediate ceasefire. Their statement, reported by Vatican News, underscores the gravity of the situation and emphasizes that the meeting was not a mere exchange of pleasantries but a collective demand for an end to the bloodshed in Gaza.
As the world witnesses Bethlehem’s subdued Christmas, it is a stark reminder of the toll that conflicts take on ordinary lives. The global community, urged by the leaders of Bethlehem and Jerusalem, faces the challenge of ensuring that the spirit of peace and goodwill prevails even in the face of adversity. The plea for a ceasefire resonates not only within the sacred walls of Bethlehem but reverberates globally as humanity yearns for compassion and an end to the suffering in Gaza.