Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in the city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on Saturday evening to attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve.
Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, along with a number of ministers, lawmakers and mayors of Bethlehem, Beit Jala, and Beit Sahour, were present at an official reception held at the presidential residency in Bethlehem near the al-Duheisha refugee camp.
Abbas and his escorts were expected to parade to the Nativity Church later in the night to attend Christmas celebration and the midnight mass.
On Friday, Abbas released a Christmas message to the public, saying that
Despite the Israeli occupation, our presence in our homeland and the preservation of our cultural and national heritage are the most important form of resistance in the face of the darkness of a foreign colonialist occupying power.
He described Christmas as “a Palestinian call for hope and justice,” which is “a unique message that we have been carrying generation after generation, as a precious treasure that began in Palestine and is celebrated all over the world.”
We are about to mark 50 years of Israeli occupation, the longest military occupation in modern history,” he wrote in his statement, highlighting that despite Bethlehem’s religious and historical significance, the town “has not been spared the brutality exercised by decades of humiliation, colonisation and Apartheid.
Jesus’ place of birth is a city now surrounded by 18 illegal Israeli settlements and divided by the illegal Annexation Wall, including the latest illegal Israeli steps to construct the Wall at the Cremisan Valley.
Israeli occupation policies have cut Bethlehem’s connection with Jerusalem, both an integral part of the occupied State of Palestine, for the first time in 2000 years of Christianity.