Christians around the world are celebrating Christmas. But in the Holy Land, Israeli-Palestinian tensions have put a damper on festivities.
Bells at the Church of the Nativity summoned the faithful to celebrate Christmas at the traditional birthplace of Jesus in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. But turnout was sparse in the wake of three weeks of Palestinian protests against U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
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Palestinian Michael Kumsiyeh sat in his empty souvenir shop in Manger Square and put the blame squarely on Trump.
“He makes a problem. He doesn’t make any solution. He doesn’t find any solution for the problem,” said Kumsiyeh.
Café owner Hader Kanaan said customers are few and far between.
“This Christmas this year is very sad. No celebration. Nobody happy. Bad situation. Everything [is] bad,” he said.
Some tourists cancelled their trips to Bethlehem, but others were not deterred.
“I wasn’t afraid to come. I’m not afraid being here at all. I’m pleased to see the security,” said Gail Perkins, who came from Los Angeles in the United States.
She said there no better place to be on Christmas than Bethlehem.
“It kind of makes the biblical stories that I’ve known all my life come alive because I can see the countryside, hear the language and smell the food,” she said.
Many pilgrims waited a lifetime to visit Bethlehem, but the Palestinians who live here are still waiting for better times.
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