Bethlehem Xmas Suffers Under Occupation

"I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the Synagogue of Satan."--Revelation 2:9

Now that Christmas is here, the IMEU is pleased to present a collection of photos from Bethlehem, the southern West Bank town that Christians revere as the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

A scenic town with an ancient pedestrianized Old City at its core, Bethlehem attracts tourists to its holy sites - among them the Church of the Nativity and the Shepherd's Fields - and the handicraft shops clustered around the central Manger Square.

Special celebrations for Christmas are planned in Bethlehem on December 24th and 25th. Local community groups, like the Bethlehem Peace Center, will bring together Bethlehem's Christian and Muslim communities for exhibits of Palestinian art, music, folkloric dances and theater on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Day, tourists and locals will team up for home visits to impoverished areas, followed by Christmas caroling and a candlelight procession.

The Church of the Nativity will host its annual Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, an event attended by local Christians, pilgrims and dignitaries from around the world. And thousands are expected to gather in Manger Square on Christmas Day to celebrate the birth of Jesus, one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar.

Yet despite the Christmas festivities, many in Bethlehem will struggle this year. Economic and political hardships persist as a result of Israel's ongoing military occupation and separation wall that nearly encircles the city and cuts it off from Jerusalem and the northern West Bank.

According to the United Nations, since 2002 when construction of the wall began, the number of tourists arriving in Bethlehem has dropped by over 90 percent. But according to the Palestinian Authority, recent efforts of its Tourism Ministry and increased international awareness of the situation in the city have slowly begun to reverse this trend.

Preparing for Christmas in the birthplace of Christ

A Palestinian boy, wearing a Santa Claus costume, attends a lighting ceremony of the main Christmas tree in the West Bank town of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem on December 20, 2009, five days before the Christmas. (Luay Sababa, Maan Images)

Palestinians gather during the lighting ceremony of the main Christmas tree in the West Bank city of Beit Sahour near Bethlehem on December 20, 2009, four days before the Christmas. (Luay Sababa, Maan Images)

Palestinian children hold a large Palestinian flag during a childrens Christmas parade in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on December 23, 2009. (Haytham Othman, Maan Images)

A Palestinian boy poses for a picture with people wearing costumed entertainers during a childrens Christmas parade in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on December 23, 2009. (Luay Sababa, Maan Images)

Inside the Church of the Nativity

A group of Catholic nuns from the Holy See pray inside the Grotto of the Nativity, the place where Christian tradition holds that Jesus Christ was born. (Amanda Nunn, IMEU)

Christian pilgrims visit the Church of the Nativity as the Christmas season gets into full swing in Bethlehem. (Amanda Nunn, IMEU)

A Christian pilgrim prays before an Orthodox icon in the Church of the Nativity. (Luay Sababa, Maan Images)

The alter of the church is adorned with multi-colored ornaments in celebration of the Christmas season. (Amanda Nunn, IMEU)


  1. Ah, so nice to see PALESTINE for once, the real Palestine. God bless them!

  2. Forgot to mention I love the jingle! I may have to use that on Christmas!

  3. Lovely photos...

    Thanks for sharing...

    BTW, love the jingle above... very catchy...


If you sit by a river long enough, you'll see the body of your enemy float by.
Old Japanese proverb