In Bethlehem this year there will be no decorated Christmas tree and no Christmas atmosphere because of the war

The hometown of Jesus is decorated for Christmas every year and attracts thousands of Christians from all over the world/Photo: EPA-EFE/ATEF SAFADI

There will be no Christmas tree in Bethlehem this year as the birthplace of Jesus will celebrate Christmas "discreetly and without many lights" this year in the shadow of the war in Gaza, local authorities said.

Many of the residents of Bethlehem, which borders Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank, have been deeply affected by the war in the Gaza Strip, 50 kilometers away.

In the first days of December, church dignitaries meet every year in Bethlehem to herald the beginning of the forty days before Christmas, which usually attract many tourists.

But this year the streets and squares of this city built on a hill are almost empty.

"We have never seen Bethlehem like this, not even during the pandemic. The city is empty, it's sad," Father Ibrahim Faltas, a Franciscan monk outside the Church of the Nativity, told Reuters.

"Today should be a day of joy," he adds.

Palestinians are hurting "many children, women, old people, people who died in this crazy war," he commented.

A statement issued on November 10 by church leaders in the Holy Land expressed sympathy for people grieving over the "uncertain fate of their loved ones" – a possible reference to the families and friends of the hostages taken by Hamas.

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