Munther Ishaq is the pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem.
He says it is impossible to celebrate when children in Gaza are brutally murdered.
There will be no parades, Santa Claus or Christmas music.
Usually, the streets of a traditional Christmas town are filled with people, twinkling lights, and decorated Christmas trees.
Every year it comes One million tourists and pilgrims To the city where Jesus was born.
The sounds of bagpipes and drums fill the streets as uniformed Palestinians march through the city.
Many line up for up to an hour to enter the Church of the Nativity, all the way to the small cave where Jesus' birthplace is marked with a silver star.
But not this year.
Church leaders Jerusalem decided that this year's celebration would be a prayer, not a celebration.
– Pastor Isaac told the Associated Press that while the world celebrates Christmas, our children are lying under the rubble, homeless and their homes destroyed.
More than 20,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks since October 7, while 53,320 Palestinians have been injured, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. This information has not been confirmed from independent sources, but the United Nations says it was credible in previous conflicts.
A hundred years ago, Bethlehem was a city controlled by Christians.
But now they constitute less than twenty percent.
Many have given up their lives behind walls and under occupation. But businessman Jack Giacaman is holding his own.
– I hope everyone will pray for peace in Bethlehem, the city where Christmas comes from, says Giacaman.
For generations, he and his Catholic family have been making olive wood souvenirs for pilgrims and tourists.
But now the streets are empty.
In October, November and December, Bethlehem Christmas City reaches its peak season, a time when the city earns 80 percent of its income.
– There is no joy here. We see poverty spreading. People can't buy anything. They buy half a loaf of bread instead of a whole loaf, Giacaman told NRK.
After Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, in which more than 1,200 people were killed, Palestinians in Bethlehem had to bear the consequences as well. Israel has practically imposed a siege on the entire city.
Thousands of Palestinians who work in Israel cannot go to work, their incomes are missing, and thousands of families are suffering.
– There are not many Hamas members here, and yet we are all being punished with a new blockade, he tells NRK.
When the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation visited Bethlehem in November, the situation was completely quiet in the Church of the Nativity.
– Nobody buys Christmas decorations. And many of them do not even put Christmas trees at home. “People are depressed because of the war in Gaza, and we don't feel like celebrating the holidays,” Giacaman says.
The Christmas season is usually busy for Giaccaman, but with the absence of tourists, he has plenty of time.
For the first time in years, he had time to go to the famous midnight mass in the Church of the Nativity.
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