Christmas in Bethlehem Disappointing but Not because of Trump
Although one of the first of many angry responses by Palestinians to US President Donald Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the Israeli capital was to “unplug” the Christmas tree in Bethlehem’s Manger Square and “cancel Christmas” in the holy city, the festivities were interrupted more by the weather than by the political moment. Cold, blowing winds and driving rain placed a literal damper on the planned festivities, normally attended by scores of VIPs and thousands of visitors from around the world. But on Christmas Eve, shortly after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas published an open letter to Christians proclaiming an end to any Palestinian participation in an American-led peace process, celebrants were ready although the elements were not. Officially, the decision had been made by Palestinian leadership to limit celebrations to religious observances, but a number of pundits expressed a common belief that after “days of rage” marked by violent street rallies, people sought to avoid the possibility of a raucous [read dangerous] outpouring and stayed home. Before the downpours began, modest numbers of onlookers mulled about Manger Square and a steady stream of visitors paid respects at the Church of the Nativity. But during evening hours, the famed church served as a shelter for pilgrims seeking relief from the weather in Bethlehem’s Manger Square where the Roman Catholic’s chief clergyman in the Holy Land, the apostolic administrator of Jerusalem, The Most Rev. Msgr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, celebrated Midnight Mass.