Middle East

Bethlehem suppressed a pandemic Christmas

Bethlehem: During yesterday’s Christmas celebration, Christian worshipers visit the Church of Nativity. – AFP

Bethlehem: At Manger Square in Bethlehem, Santa’s hated visitors and drum-striking scouts marked Christmas Eve, but the numbers were higher than usual as the coronavirus could cast a shadow over the celebration for the second year in a row. It has decreased. The cities that Christians believe Jesus (PBUH) was born in are usually the center of the holidays, with thousands of people filling the streets and hotels.

However, the Zionist entity, which controls all entrances to Bethlehem on the west bank of the occupied Jordan River, has banned borders with foreigners in order to curb transmission from the Omicron strain of coronavirus. “It’s very strange,” said Christel Elayan, a Dutch woman who married a Palestinian who came to Bethlehem from Jerusalem. “(Before the pandemic) a lot of people came from different countries to celebrate Christmas, but now we know that the people here are probably not tourists.”

Last year, Bethlehem drastically reduced celebrations due to a pandemic. Virtual tree lights and a handful of scouts visited. This year’s celebration was more vibrant, but still a fraction of the normal size. “If it’s a year, it’s an interesting experience,” Elayyan said of the pandemic. “But this is the second year and it’s a big loss for people here because we don’t know what will happen in the future.”

The bright Palestinian tourism minister, Lula Maya, said Bethlehem was celebrating again “thanks to the vaccine.” In honor of the Midnight Mass celebrated at the Church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem, Patriarch Jerusalem said the celebration was “certainly more enjoyable this year”.

“Compared to last Christmas, there were far more participants, which is an encouraging sign,” he told the masked congregation, but regretted the lack of foreign worshipers due to the pandemic. .. “We pray for them and at the same time ask for their prayers, and all this will soon be over and the city of Bethlehem will once again be filled with pilgrims.”

Bethlehem welcomed an average of 3 million visitors a year before the pandemic, with 10,000 people gathering at hotels in the city on Christmas alone, about half of which came from abroad. The municipality said it worked this year to appeal to local visitors from the Palestinian community throughout the sanctuary. Although some hotels were crowded, about a quarter of the available rooms in the city were closed due to a pandemic, said Elias Arja, head of the Palestinian Hotel Association.

Despite Christmas Eve being the most important day of the year for many in Bethlehem, some companies kept closing their doors on Friday. Inside the Church of Nativity, visitors could even meditate almost alone in the cave where Jesus (PBUH) is said to have been born. “Surreal,” observed Hudson Harder, a 21-year-old American student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “Of course, there are some selfish parts like’Oh, this place looks very empty’, but on the other hand, you feel in the store all the money they’re losing.”

A short distance from the cathedral, statues of Pope John Paul II and Francis covered the front of a store selling carved olive tree statues and nativity scenes. Owner Victor Epiphane Tabash said it was the 57th Christmas behind the counter. For him, many shopkeepers around Manger Square “have nothing to say about Christmas.” “Only scouts can feel like a little holiday,” he said. A group of uniforms marched past and blew Christmas carols with drums, trumpets, and bagpipes.

Tabash said the export kept the business alive because customers didn’t buy it directly during the pandemic. He compared the pandemic with the previous two Palestinian uprisings or intifadas. “We have lived in Intifada, the war, but the coronavirus is worse,” he said. Outside, a Palestinian woman from Jerusalem, Malam Saeed, took a selfie with her husband and two children in front of a towering Christmas tree adorned with sparkling red and gold balls.

After days of depression, Saeed said it was a time of joy. “Unlike normal years, I’m afraid of the worst, but I’m still afraid of COVID,” she told AFP. “When there is a war, we know our enemies and we know who we are fighting with. But in the case of COVID, because it’s a very small enemy we never see. , And even worse. ”— AFP

https://news.kuwaittimes.net/website/bethlehem-marks-subdued-pandemic-xmas/ Bethlehem suppressed a pandemic Christmas

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