Bethlehem/PNN/ Monjed Jadou report –
Life was restored in Bethlehem city during the lighting of the Christmas tree and the opening of the Christmas market on Saturday night where the city witnessed the visit of thousands of Palestinian citizens from different governorates and cities of the occupied 48 land and few tourists and foreign diplomats to participate in the celebrations Christmas tree lighting.
This Christmas atmosphere came during the organization of the Bethlehem municipality, Saturday, the Christmas tree lighting ceremony, in the Church of the Nativity Square.
The ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, representing President Mahmoud Abbas, the Governor of Bethlehem Kamel Hamid, Mayor of Bethlehem Anton Salman, and the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Rola Maaya.
Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said: “The light is one and the darkness is multiple, and our people are seeking light and fighting darkness, and we are living this year in the darkness of occupation, Corona, and division.”
He added: We are facing colonial settlement colonialism that aims at our land, trees, children, youth, water, and capabilities, and tries to break our resolve, but with our chests, steadfastness, and the determination of our people, it will not affect us and our morale with anything. With their steadfastness, our children being killed, and the families of the martyrs moving forward.”
He added, “Bethlehem Governorate and its economy were the most affected, along with Jerusalem, by the pandemic, due to the decline in the flow of tourists and tourism. We are facing this virus with measures that rise to the highest international levels and standards that make us in the ranks of developed countries.”
The Palestinian city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank was all but closed last Christmas, losing its peak tourist season to the pandemic.
This December has seen Israel shut out foreign travelers for 14 days to try to prevent the Omicron variant from taking hold, and the hope is that the ban will end as scheduled, in time for Christmas travel. In its last pre-pandemic winter, in 2019/20, Bethlehem hosted 3.5 million visitors.
Mayor of Bethlehem Anton Salman said the travel ban had prevented several foreign delegations from attending.
Salman sends a message of love and appreciation for our families, friends, and followers in the world through the media and social media, for their participation in the Christmas tree lighting ceremony from far.
He added that lighting the Christmas tree today is an occasion and a tradition that we cherish in Bethlehem. By lighting the tree we start our glorified Christmas season and remind the world that Bethlehem is the capital of Christmas with the grace of our Lord. In Bethlehem, the will of God manifested, and his word was embodied with the birth of his only Son in a humble Grotto, in order to be a savior and a redeemer for humanity and to lead it into the era of light, into the era of salvation.
The message of Christmas is portending love, justice, and peace. This truth is emphasized in the Holy Books, and in the Holy religions. Christmas must start in ourselves by proclaiming Christ as our Redeemer, the King of our life so that his love will live in us, not by words but by reality Salman said.
Christmas comes this year and humanity is still suffering from Covid 19 virus and lives under its severity. Recession is still prevailing on our economy due to the stoppage of tourism which resulted in great material losses and the loss of our beloved ones, but our belief in God’s will and the message of Christmas which was clear in the sky of Bethlehem, the city, its church and the people of Bethlehem stood lofty and steadfast facing the Corona Virus with callousness and reminding the world with the good omen which the angels declared in the sky of Bethlehem and with the Star of Bethlehem, which led the magi to the grotto where the child was
Bethlehem decided this year to override our wounds and be armed with the values of Christmas and to let hope to overcome pain and to celebrate Christmas with rejoicing and great joy, and to give the occasion its joy and sublime meanings and spot the light on Bethlehem and its role, and to assure the world that injustice will never prevail and that achieving a just and comprehensive peace and the equality which the message of Christmas was embodied in God’s will and that the justice of heaven is ultimately coming”. Salman said in his speech.
On Thursday, the Christmas market opened in Bethlehem in the historic star street, one of the world heritage sites, and will continue for ten days, which can be extended, in an attempt to bring joy on the occasion of the glorious Christmas holidays, on the one hand, and help the local population improve their economy ahead of the holidays.
Carmen Ghattas, director of public relations in the Bethlehem municipality, said in an interview with PNN that the number of participants in the market reached 141 participants who opened their shops and in order to celebrate Christmas holidays on the one hand and to benefit economically, albeit in a small way, explaining that the municipality facilitated the opening of the market for everyone and was Interested in involving the largest possible number of shop owners.
The owners of the shops that were opened expressed their happiness with the opening of the market, explaining that it gave them space and an opportunity of hope to improve economic conditions and the experience of transforming the street into a permanent market.
Rakan Murad, who lives is in the street and opened a booth to sell natural juices, said that he was happy with the opening of the market and decided to participate in it in this booth in front of his house to sell juices, in order to experience the possibility of continuing to work on the street in the future.
Hanan Damas from the city of Beit Jala told PNN that she is coming today to participate in the market in order to sell her handmade woolen product “crochet”.
She explained that she hopes that there will be an active commercial movement in the market that will help sell her products, which are handmade products that are professionally made.
Fairuz Khoury, a Palestinian woman who visited the Christmas market, told PNN that she was very happy to see the market on star Street, which was considered a dream in previous years, stressing the importance of continuing to strive to promote the street as a historical street and a commercial market, not at Christmas but throughout the year.
Khoury indicated that if this street was in European countries, you would find people sitting and working in their shops, as the street carries the fragrance of history, calling for more work to continue the idea of reviving the Street despite all the difficulties in this context.
She stressed the positive atmosphere and positive spirit that she witnessed in the market today, calling on citizens to visit the market and enjoy the Christmas atmosphere that Bethlehem coexists with despite the pandemic.