“We will’t justify placing out a tree and celebrating as regular when some individuals [in Gaza] don’t even have homes to go to,” mentioned Ala’a Salameh, one of many homeowners of Afteem Restaurant, a household owned falafel restaurant simply steps from the sq..
Salameh mentioned Christmas Eve is normally the busiest day of the yr.
“Usually, you’ll be able to’t discover a single chair to sit down – we’re full from morning till midnight,” mentioned Salameh. This yr, only one desk was taken – by journalists taking a break from the rain.
Underneath a banner that learn “Bethlehem’s Christmas bells ring for a ceasefire in Gaza,” youngsters supplied small inflatable Santas, however nobody was shopping for.
As a substitute of their conventional musical march by the streets of Bethlehem, younger scouts stood silently with flags. Close by, a bunch of native college students unfurled a large Palestinian flag as they stood in silence.
“Our message yearly on Christmas is considered one of peace and love, however this yr it’s a message of unhappiness, grief and anger in entrance of the worldwide neighborhood with what is occurring and occurring within the Gaza Strip,” Bethlehem Mayor Hana Haniyeh mentioned in an handle to the group.
Over 20,000 Palestinians have been killed and greater than 50,000 wounded throughout Israel’s air and floor offensive in opposition to Gaza’s Hamas rulers, in line with well being officers there, whereas an estimated 85 per cent of the territory’s 2.3 million residents have been displaced.
The warfare flared after a lethal Hamas assault on southern Israel on October 7 wherein militants killed about 1200 individuals, most of them civilians, and took greater than 240 hostages.
The Gaza warfare has been accompanied by a surge in violence, with some 300 Palestinians killed by Israeli fireplace.
The preventing has affected life throughout the West Financial institution. Since October 7, entry to Bethlehem and different Palestinian cities within the Israeli-occupied territory has been tough, with lengthy strains of motorists ready to cross navy checkpoints.
The restrictions have additionally prevented tens of hundreds of Palestinians from leaving the territory to work in Israel.
Amir Michael Giacaman has reopened his retailer, Il Bambino, which sells olive wooden carvings and different souvenirs, for the primary time since October 7. There have been no vacationers and few native residents have cash to spare as a result of those that labored in Israel have been caught at house.
“When individuals have extra cash, they go purchase meals,” mentioned his spouse, Safa Giacaman.
“This yr, we’re telling the Christmas story. We’re celebrating Jesus, not the tree, not Santa Claus,” she mentioned, as their daughter Makaella ran across the abandoned retailer.
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