Bethlehem’s Christmas Tree, a sign of hope for Christian Arabs

(CMC) This year, the tree has once again been lit. The Christmas tree placed at the center of the square of Bethlehem, in front of the Basilica of the Nativity, where tradition commemorates the birth of Jesus, has lit the Palestinian sky with lights and colors. It is a great celebration that takes place every year, bringing together hundreds of people from all backgrounds and faiths.

“I love everything about this place because I live here and because Jesus was born here. We usually have many festivities. This is a beautiful celebration!”

Portland, Oregon, USA
“It is our first time in Jerusalem, in Bethlehem. Today we came over, we wanted to see this side of the wall, get to see Palestine, and get to hear about the Palestinian side of the conflict…We wanted to get to see Bethlehem and the place where Jesus was born.”

“It is beautiful; I just wish people would come here, despite the situation. I hope tourists come here because it is amazing, it is beautiful. Indeed, it is Christmas… And here we can actually see the church and the mosque in front of each other and it is fine, as if there were no problem.”

There are no borders among members of the audience: a Muslim woman sits next to a friar; a scout leader gives directions to a tourist arrived from afar.
This indicates a great cultural wealth, cultural and human diversity.

Vice President of the European Parliament
“Christmas here in Bethlehem has an extraordinary importance, because it shows the world that Palestine, which everyone tries to identify only with the Muslims, (and especially in these days) is rather a rich and multicultural society. Therefore, spending Christmas in Bethlehem, among Muslims, Christians and other faiths, has a special meaning. “

Several authorities who came over to celebrate Christmas here, occupy the front row seats , despite their differences, conflicts and tensions: Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, as well as the representatives of the various religions and the mayor of Bethlehem are present.

Mayor of Bethlehem
“When the Christmas celebration comes from the heart of Bethlehem, from the Palestinians who really do not know the meaning of peace, who lost a lot of their young people just recently, who are really sad and yet are capable to give all the world, through the lighting of the tree, which means the revival of the meaning of peace, love and hope for the whole world;
our message is that Palestinians do deserve to live justice and equality. Despite the fact that Bethlehem is walled, we are still giving messages of peace to the whole world.”

The desire for peace will never die. And among those present, it seems that ‘hope’ is not an empty word, but rather a real experience.

“Nice atmosphere, nice weather…everything is beautiful here. It is peaceful. We try to be happy despite the situation in Palestine, besides the wall and everything else that is going on here…There is actually a place here, where we can be happy.”