A church in Bethlehem has caught the headlines after placing a baby Jesus among rubble in their nativity scene, representing the devastation of the current Israel-Hamas war.
The Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem unveiled a new display earlier this month to symbolize the destruction of the communities in Gaza. Baby Jesus lies swaddled in a kaffiyeh, the distinctive patterned Palestinian scarf, surrounded by stones.
Rev. Munther Isaac, pastor of the church, told The National the image was intended to portray the suffering of families in Gaza.
“We came with the idea of a manger in the rubble, and it’s inspired by the difficult images we see on a daily basis on our television screens of children being pulled from under the rubble in Gaza,” he said.
“These images break us and are devastating. We are tired of the world rationalizing and justifying the killing of our children in Gaza.”
In this scene, shepherds and wise men bring gifts for Jesus, like in a regular nativity. However, the baby lies in the rubble, and the wooden figures are placed outside, deviating from the usual setup.
Over 70 years ago, Bethlehem, believed to be Lord Jesus’ birthplace, was around 86 per cent Christian. However, after the 1948 war, many Palestinians were forced out, leading to a drastic decline in the Christian population.
In 2017, Palestine had about 47,000 Christians, over 98 per cent in the West Bank and a small community of 1,000 in Gaza.
During the recent war, West Bank churches are holding daily prayers in solidarity with Gaza residents.