The yearly joyful parade of children going through Bethlehem was another symbolic casualty of the fighting in Gaza on Sunday.
The footage of this year’s once-loud holiday procession showcasing the Boy and Girl Scouts shows the children walking serenely through Bethlehem, or Beit Lechem, in the present-day Israeli-occupied West Bank, with peace banners in their hands. The city of Jesus’ birth had its celebrations canceled due to the conflict.
“We want life, not death” and “Peace to Gaza and its people” were written on banners held by a group of Palestinian Girl Scouts.
There were just photographers and guards on the streets with the scouts, as opposed to the multitudes of onlookers witnessed in past years.
In the renowned Procession of the Patriarch, which traces the path of the Roman Catholic patriarch from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in resemblance to the one Joseph and Mary took on Christmas Eve, the children’s march is an integral element.
Patriarch Joseph makes his way to the Church of the Nativity during the Bethlehem procession. He sees the Christmas installation encircled by debris and razor wire, covered in a tarp.
The city of Bethlehem, which usually welcomes tens of thousands of tourists from all over the globe at this time of year, has suffered another setback with its somber celebration.
A fresh wave of violent events throughout the West Bank has hit the religious center, which is currently fighting to keep its business afloat amid the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Bethlehem Mayor Hanna Hanania, boasting about the city’s 1.5 million yearly tourists, declared that tourism has ceased since the conflict started.
Hotel manager Rony Fakhouri, 27, told reporters that the Dar Al Majus hotel had lost around 100,000 shekels, or $27,000, due to the decline in travelers. He said that since the conflict broke out, the guesthouse has seen a mere twelve visitors, compared to the typical two hundred who stay during the holidays.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism, which is in charge of Bethlehem’s events, the city’s economy would take a $200 million hit this year, with the town itself bearing the brunt of the loss (at least 60%).