Nazareth, the Israeli Arab city where Jesus is thought to have been raised, has canceled some Christmas celebrations in protest at U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Nazareth, the largest Arab town in Israel with a Muslim and Christian population of 76,000, is one of the Holy Land’s focal points of Christmas festivities.
The city is traditionally thought to be where Jesus grew up. The imposing Basilica of the Annunciation in central Nazareth is built on a site which many Christian faithful believe was the childhood home of Jesus’s mother, Mary.
“We have decided to cancel the traditional Christmas singing and dancing because we are in a time of the dispute, because of what Trump has said about Jerusalem,” City spokesman Salem Sharara said.
According to Sharara, the town’s market stalls and the traditional Christmas church services would be held as they are every year.
Within an hour of the announcement, the Palestinian towns of Bethlehem, Jesus’s traditional birthplace, and Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank briefly switched off their Christmas lights in protest.
There was no word from the Bethlehem municipality whether it was also weighing a cutback on its celebrations at a crucial time of year for the town’s tourist trade.
President Trump had last week announced the move, reversing decades of US policy and recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, jeopardising Middle East peace efforts and upsetting the Arab world and Western allies alike.
His decision was a significant US policy change which angered the Arab world, amid further plans to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is sacred to Christians, Jews, and Muslims and is a contentious part of Israel-Palestinian negotiations.
Following the 1967 Middle East war, Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital. But the claim is not recognised by the international community or Palestinians. Palestinians maintain that Jerusalem will be the capital of their future state.
Today, the head of Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas called for fresh protests across the world against the US President’s controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
”We demand the Islamic world make every Friday a day of anger and revolution in every capital and city until we bring down Trump’s decision.
“We ask churches, the Pope and our Christian brothers to devote their Sunday prayers to Jerusalem,” Ismail Haniya said:
Since Trump’s controversial announcement, at least 12 rockets or mortars have been fired from Gaza towards Israel. In response the Jewish state’s army has hit at least 10 targets in Gaza, mostly Hamas bases.
Protests in other parts of the Palestinian territories, as well as across the Arab world, have broken out since Trump’s announcement.
The Palestinians’ chief representative to Britain, Manuel Hassassian, blasted the American leader’s decision to move the US embassy.
“He is declaring war in the Middle East, he is declaring war against 1.5 billion Muslims (and) hundreds of millions of Christians that are not going to accept the holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel,”