A worker in Bethlehem, West Bank, wraps festive lights around a tall Christmas tree topped by a Palestinian flag. RNS photo by Michele Chabin

Palestinian Authority limits Christmas celebrations in West Bank

A worker wraps festive lights around a tall Christmas tree in Bethlehem topped by a Palestinian flag. RNS photo by Michele Chabin

A worker in Bethlehem, West Bank, wraps festive lights around a tall Christmas tree topped by a Palestinian flag. RNS photo by Michele Chabin

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (RNS) The Palestinian Authority has asked municipalities to tone down their public Christmas celebrations this year amid escalating violence between Palestinians and Israelis.

Hanna Amireh, who heads a government committee on churches in the West Bank, confirmed the Palestinian Authority is requesting “a certain decrease” in festivities following the deaths of dozens of Palestinians since mid-September. The majority of them were killed during clashes with Israeli forces or carrying out terrorist attacks, according to the Israeli government.

Amireh said the government has asked the municipality of Bethlehem, the town where Jesus was born and where official Palestinian celebrations of Christmas take place, not to set off holiday fireworks this year and to limit the festive lights and decorations that traditionally adorn the town to two main streets.

READ: 3 Israelis convicted for ‘revenge killing’ of Palestinian teen

Although Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah will light the towering Christmas tree in Manger Square he will not participate in a festive post-lighting dinner hosted by the Bethlehem municipality, Amireh said. The colorful annual Christmas procession, which includes the heads of churches and drum-beating Palestinian scouts, will be held as usual.

News of the limitations upset Palestinian Christians, who comprise less than 2 percent of the population in the West Bank and Israel.

“I’m truly disappointed,” Ekram Juha, director of the Bethlehem mayor’s office, said of the Palestinian Authority’s plans.

Juha, who described herself as a “Christian and a believer,” said Palestinians “have a difficult situation but we’ve lived with this situation for many years and celebrations have gone on. This is the place where Jesus was born and if you limit Christmas celebrations here you are limiting something spiritual and holy. I can understand limiting celebrations elsewhere, but not here in Bethlehem.”

(Michele Chabin is a contributor to RNS.)


  1. 2 percent of the population? That looks to prove the math of wheat and chaff. The original “Christians” were far less than 2 percent of the Roman-Judea population when begun. Christians need to do two things: Realize Jesus was NOT born in December, He was far more than likely born at the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot, September/October) and to live the realization of Christ Jesus every day whether opposed by others or not. We see what a world rejecting Christ has reaped upon the west and east and the mid-east populations. Preaching Christ raised is just as important (and even more so), than the trappings and machinations surrounding Christmas.

  2. Amen. That’s the truth! Preach Christ alone without all the trappings of this world. For friendship with the world is enmity with Christ!

  3. The problem so many ‘enlightened’ (ignorant) Christians don’t get is that this is the time of year to celebrate Christ’s birth. That is the time I proclaim “the Savior of the world was born” via all kinds of media. I will not tone that down for anything. The fact that Jesus was most likely born at the Feast of Tabernacles is another issue. Since most are used to it at this time of year, I do both. But this is the time of year that I notice what other sensitive Christians do, more of an openness to the things of God. I don’t notice that in October so much. Thus, I will optimize that oppurtunity for sharing the gospel with them at this time of year. (No, I am not guilty of anything pagan like santa claus or saturnalia because I’m not engaging in that and I decide how to define what I celebrate, not them. (duh.)) We see the enemy in those who attack the opportunity for the proclamation of Christ’s birth in any way. I am not fooled.
    ( :
    The celebrations will…

  4. What was the Palestinian Christian population in 1936?
    Even in 1970?
    Christian Arabs in Israel are blessed to live in Israel.
    We also know Abbas and the PA will not allow any Jews to live in the West Bank or East Jerusalem the fact is Islam is not a sound bedrock for democratic institutions and the celebration of Christmas is also about freedom of speech, expression and worship.
    I wish some people commenting here would remember that when being critical of Christian expression in public in the USA.
    Christmas is the celebration of Jesus, he was born Jewish in Israel to Jewish parents lets remember that too.

Leave a Comment