• Bethlehem

  • Tuesday, December 19, 2023 at 7:00 AM
    Last Update : Tuesday, December 19, 2023 at 7:00 AM

Tourism in Bethlehem Takes a Hit After Cancelling Christmas Celebrations in Solidarity with Gaza

(AWP) - cenes of Christmas joy in the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank have disappeared this year after local and religious authorities decided to cancel all public celebrations, including Christmas celebrations, in solidarity with Palestinian victims of the Israeli war that has been ongoing in the Gaza Strip since October 7.

The Church of the Nativity decided to limit its Christmas celebrations to indoor prayers.

Father Issa Thaljieh, the church’s priest, said, "Bethlehem adorns itself with joy and celebration during the Christmas period, because Christ was born in the city of Bethlehem, in the Church of the Nativity which we are in today. But with the difficult circumstances that Palestine is facing in general, and in Gaza City in particular, celebrations are limited only to prayers and celebrations inside the church, given the challenging conditions that our people in Gaza are going through."

According to the Palestinian government, cancelling Christmas festivities in Bethlehem has resulted in significant economic losses, especially within the tourism sector, which represents about a fifth of the gross domestic product.
Palestinian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Rula Maayah, said, "At times like these, the city of Bethlehem always welcomed tourists from all over the world, and most hotels were expected to be fully occupied at this time of year."

She added, "Certainly, the economy in general in Palestine was harmed by this aggression, but the tourism sector in Palestine has been particularly hard hit, especially in Bethlehem, as it is a city that relies heavily on the tourism sector."

The Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that the city has almost 6,000 hotel rooms that would have been fully booked during the Christmas season which usually witnesses a surge in sales of antiques, souvenirs, clothes, and visits to restaurants.

In contrast to previous years, the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism said that Bethlehem received only 118 tourists from Indonesia in November, who spent one night in the city.

Jack Jaqman, a manager of an Eastern antiquities company, said, "In the city of Bethlehem, October and November represent the most important months from a tourism standpoint. We were preparing for this season and investing all our efforts since the summer. We saved as much goods and cash as we could in preparation for this season, which was hit hard at the beginning and not during its peak. Tourism died out, and it was a substantial economic blow to tourism and our businesses in Bethlehem."

The Palestinian ministry added that the tourism sector in Bethlehem has suffered a 100% decline since the outbreak of the war in Gaza, leaving hotels desolate and leading to the closure of restaurants.