Christian village in West Bank pray for peace on Christmas

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Young women pause in front of the unadorned Christmas tree in the predominately Christian the village of Zababdeh near Jenin in the occupied West Bank, on December 24, 2023.

Young women pause in front of the unadorned Christmas tree in the predominately Christian the village of Zababdeh near Jenin in the occupied West Bank, on December 24, 2023.
| Photo Credit: AFP

An unusual silence fell over the streets of Zababdeh, a Palestinian village that is home to one of the biggest Christian communities in the occupied West Bank. An unusual silence fell over the streets of Zababdeh, a Palestinian village that is home to one of the biggest Christian communities in the occupied West Bank.

On any other Christmas Day, Palestinian Christians would have flocked from surrounding towns to enjoy the fairy lights and a festive market in the village of some 5,000 people.

But as the war rages in Gaza and violence also surges in the West Bank, the Christian community here is in no mood to celebrate Christmas on Monday.

This year its members are praying for peace and mourning the dead, worried too about violence even closer to home.

Early on Christmas Day, gunfire and sirens were heard in nearby Jenin, the city that has seen near daily raids by Israeli forces.

“How can we celebrate?” said Nazeria Yousef Deabis who has lived in Zababdeh all her life and never known the atmosphere so sombre. There is no Christmas tree in her house. “People don’t feel festive — they’ve lost friends and relatives in Gaza,” she said. “The occupation is destroying Jenin and children are being brutally killed.”

The Israeli Army says its frequent raids in Jenin, especially on the adjacent refugee camp, target “terrorists”, but the Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah says many of the dead are civilians.

Israeli forces and settlers have killed more than 300 people in the West Bank since the start of the war on October 7, Palestinian health officials say.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six-Day war of 1967.

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