Opinion by Rateb Y. Rabie, KCHS
CNN — The iconic occupied Palestinian territories’ city of Bethlehem will undergo a profound departure this year from its usual jubilant atmosphere.
For Palestinians, Christmas in Bethlehem represents a window to the world. It has long been synonymous with joy and hope, and an occasion to commemorate the place of birth of the Christmas story itself.
Picture the vibrant streets adorned with festive lights, the air filled with the melodies of choirs and boy scouts parading with their musical instruments, while those who are celebrating taste traditional Palestinian Arabic food.
Nestled in the heart of Bethlehem is the place revered as the birthplace of Jesus, the prince of peace.
This year, however, there will only be a shadow of the dazzling Christmas tree in Manger Square, where Christians, Muslims and visitors from around the world usually gather to celebrate.
Bethlehem will stand dark and deserted – a poignant reflection of the suffering endured by the Palestinian people, particularly in the Gaza Strip.
Earlier last month, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem called on their congregations to forgo the customary celebrations, while still upholding the religious and spiritual aspects of Christmas.