As we remember the birth of Jesus, it may have escaped our notice that the little town of Bethlehem, his birthplace which lies in Palestinian territory, is now cut off by a 4-metre high Israeli security wall on three sides.
Palestinian Christians also have to contend with demolition and eviction orders issued by Israeli occupation forces.
Over in the Gaza strip, which is now under an Israeli siege, many Palestinian Christians have been denied access to Bethlehem even as the town welcomes foreign tourists.
This report from Al Jazeera:
Both Christians and Muslims, from the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Israel and other parts of the world, gathered in Manger Square on Christmas eve for festivities that would last through the night, Al Jazeera’s Nour Odeh, reporting from Bethlehem, said.
“But to get to Bethlehem, you have to go through a number of checkpoints, and you also have to brave the elements – it is about to rain here,” she said.
Emma Serienni, a 20-year-old on her first visit from the United States, said: “Going to the checkpoint and the barrier is really crazy. But being here, it is totally worth it.”
For pilgrims from the Gaza Strip, the Hamas-run territory under an effective Israeli siege, the trek was still more of a challenge.
While it would be just a two-hour drive for Gazans under normal circumstances, with all of the coastal strip’s border crossings shut by Israeli forces, residents had to apply for permission to travel to the occupied West Bank.
Although around 900 Gazans applied, only 300 were allowed to make the trip.
Mustafa Barghouti, an elected member of the Palestinian parliament, condemned the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip and called on the world to support Palestinians “in the spirit of Christmas”.
Speaking to Al Jazeera at Manger Square, he said: “The message is that while people are trying to celebrate here, the people of Gaza have no food, have no toys for their children, have no electricity, no fuel and no safety.
“People in Gaza don’t have bread, don’t have flour. This siege, which is inhuman and unacceptable, should not continue.”