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ALM Feature

In shadow of Gaza, Christmas is canceled in Israel this year

Against the backdrop of the war in Gaza, Arab Israeli municipalities — including in Nazareth, Jerusalem and Haifa — canceled all grand Christmas celebrations.
Palestinian Issa Kassissieh, dressed as Santa Claus.

BAQA AL-GHARBIYYEH, Israel — Christmas will be a somber, muted affair this year in the birthplace of Christianity, as Christian Palestinians cancel holiday celebrations in Nazareth, Jerusalem, the West Bank and Jordan in solidarity with and mourning for the residents of Gaza.

The lights on the hallmark Christmas trees near the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth and at Bethlehem’s Manger Square are dark for the first time in decades. Also absent are the thousands of pilgrims who come annually from around the world to join in the celebrations, kept away by the war and suspension of most flights to Israel. 

Israeli Jewish tourists, for their part, are also unlikely to visit the predominantly Arab town of Nazareth to enjoy the colorful decorations, parades and Christmas markets, as they grieve for those slaughtered by Hamas on Oct. 7 and process the national trauma. 

Most of the councils and religious associations representing the estimated 150,000 Arab Christians in Israel have announced plans to hold limited religious ceremonies or rituals in church buildings and compounds. 

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