The Palestinian Authority has asked Christians to tone down their Christmas celebrations this year in the town of Jesus’ birth.
Religion News Service reported that the Palestinian government asked the Bethlehem municipality not to set off holiday fireworks and to limit the festive street lights and decorations that are a hallmark of the holiday.
The main annual Christmas celebration under the Palestinian Authority is held in Bethlehem.
Catholic pilgrims hold candles as they take part in a Catholic mass inside the Grotto in the Church of the Nativity, where many Christians believe Jesus Christ was born, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)
Hanna Amireh, who heads a government committee on churches in the West Bank, told Religion News Service that the Palestinian government had asked for “a certain decrease” in festivities due to the ongoing violence.
Palestinians have launched a wave of nearly daily terrorist attacks against Israelis since September. The Palestinian Authority has complained that Palestinians killed while in the midst of attacking Israelis are being unjustifiably executed. Other Palestinians have been killed during clashes with Israeli security forces during the wave of violence many Palestinians are calling the “knife intifada,” or uprising.
“I’m truly disappointed,” Ekram Juha, director of the Bethlehem mayor’s office, told Religion News. She said she is a “Christian and a believer.”
“This is the place where Jesus was born, and if you limit Christmas celebrations here, you are limiting something spiritual and holy. I can understand limiting celebrations elsewhere, but not here in Bethlehem,” Juha said.
According to Amireh, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah was expected to light the official Christmas tree in Manger Square but would not attend a festive dinner following the lighting.
The church leader said that the annual Christmas day procession of festively dressed Christian clergymen and drum-beating children was expected to proceed.
Less than 30 percent of the Bethlehem population is Christian. Most years during annual Christmas messages, at least one Palestinian official comes out with the claim that Jesus was Palestinian, not Jewish.