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Bethlehem Christmas festivities ‘subdued’ amid ongoing violence

In a freaky scene just before Christmas, angry Muslims gave new meaning to the expression “Bad Santa” by launching a full-blown assault on Israeli soldiers near the separation wall in the West Bank last week, throwing rocks and fire bombs while dressed as St. Nick.

A few dozen thefts hardly seems the most pressing concern amidst a rash of violence that has killed 22 Israelis and more than 120 Palestinians (two-thirds of them attackers shot dead in the act). Three Palestinians are killed and three Israelis injured, one critically, in the West Bank. The Israeli military said at the time that soldiers had come under attack when they entered the camp.

Lisette Rossman, a 22-year-old student from Albuquerque, N.M., said the violence made her think twice about visiting a friend studying in Jerusalem.

Violent protests and a wave of Palestinian knife, gun and car-ramming attacks targeting Israelis since October have killed 129 on the Palestinian side, 19 Israelis, an American and an Eritrean.

Israeli forces or armed civilians have killed at least 124 Palestinians. He said an “active community“, standing together with the rest of Palestinian society, was what mattered most. Israel accuses Palestinian leaders of inciting the violence.

This year, the holiday spirit will be harder to find as weeks of Israeli-Palestinian violence dampens the Christmas spirit.

On this Christmas Day, we begin in a place where Christmas is very important – Bethlehem.

The Quinn family, from Milwaukee, Wis., gathers in Manger Square, Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, 2015. Children sold sticks of gum. I met one Muslim woman, she had her hair covered in a hijab.

In recent years, Bethlehem had enjoyed a relative calm and thousands of revelers and pilgrims poured into Manger Square each Christmas.

Hotel owners and vendors in Bethlehem have complained this holiday season of lagging business from travelers coming to the city for Christmas celebrations. Officials had hoped for a bumper year in 2014.

“Our Christmas this year is engulfed by the horrific situation on the ground”, said Baboun, adding that the major religious festivals, processions and ceremonies will still be held in and around the city.

Born in poverty in a cave-like stable, He, who is truly God, came to save us, to forgive our sins and to raise us to new life, and to give us the energy to work towards a better world. But the crime wave in the little town of Bethlehem is a sign of how badly the Palestinian economy is faltering. The Rev. Simon Hijazeen of St. Justin’s Latin Church in Nablus did not decorate his church and parish home in colorful lights this year.

“The Israelis are suffocating us”, she said. Twal is expected to lead Christmas morning mass at the town.

“The procession of the patriarch will definitely take place”, said the mayor.

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