Bethlehem: Greek Orthodox Christians Mark Christmas

In contrast to other years, few people gathered today at the Church of the Nativity to mark the Greek Orthodox Christams on Tuesday. The Bethlehem City municipality cancled all celebrations for Christmas this year, and only kept the religious events on the schedule.
It was a somber gathering of the top Orthodox Christian religious figures in the area, in what is supposed to be a time of celebration for Christians, as the Israeli war on Gaza entered its 11th day, with at least 577 Palestinians, many of whom were women and children, killed, and more than 2,700 wounded.
Early Tuesday morning, the Patriarch of the Assyrian Orthodox Church was the first religious figure to arrive in Bethlehem, followed by the Patriarch of the Coptic Church. At midday, the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, Theofilos III, arrived at the Manger Square in Bethlehem city centre, where he was greeted by Bethlehem Governor Salah Al-Ta’mari, Mayor of Bethlehem, Dr. Victor Batarseh, and the Palestinian Minister of Tourism, Khouloud Daibes, in addition to members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) from the Bethlehem.
Father Attalah Hannah, a Palestinian Greek Orthodox official, told IMEMC after the midday mass that all the world has to do its best to stop the killing of Palestinians in Gaza. “From this holy place on this speacial day, I send a message of peace, I call upon all the nations of the world to stop the attack on our nation living in Gaza, the attacks on Gaza are a crime.”