Thousands of Palestinians and tourists Tuesday gathered at the Manger Square in Bethlehem, marking the start of Christmas eve.
— Shehab Agency (@ShehabAgencyEn) December 24, 2019
Local faithful and pilgrims gathered at the square outside the Church of the Nativity, where a 15-meter Christmas tree had been erected.
— Palestine Chronicle (@PalestineChron) December 23, 2019
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, headed the annual procession from the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem and to Manger Square, passing through a massive metal gate in the towering Israeli concrete wall that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem.
Thinking on this #ChristmasEve of #Palestine & all Palestinian Christians denied entry to #Bethlehem (& their homeland in general)…may justice, freedom & #peace be theirs! Tear down this wall so that we may all finally be free! #MerryChristmas2019 #MerryChristmas #WWJD pic.twitter.com/fxVkLwqLqw
— Dr. EJ O'Dell (@emilyjodell) December 24, 2019
The Palestinian Christian population has dwindled in recent years. Many are choosing to leave their homeland to escape the nearly 60-years of Israeli occupation.
As Ramzy Baroud, journalist, author and editor of The Palestine Chronicle commented:
“There are various estimates on how many Palestinian Christians are still living in Palestine today, compared with the period before 1948 when the state of Israel was established atop Palestinian towns and villages. Regardless of the source of the various studies, there is a near consensus that the number of Christian inhabitants of Palestine has dropped by nearly ten-fold in the last 70 years.”
70 years ago, Bethlehem was 86 percent Christian. The demographics of the city, however, have fundamentally shifted, especially after the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in June 1967, and the construction of the illegal Israeli apartheid wall, starting in 2002. Parts of the wall were meant to cut off Bethlehem from Jerusalem and to isolate the former from the rest of the West Bank.
(The Palestine Chronicle, Wafa, Social Media)