The Israeli Arab city said it had cancelled Christmas celebrations in protest at the US President’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Mr Trump announced the move last week, 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. 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.
City spokesman Salem Sharara said: “We have decided to cancel the traditional Christmas singing and dancing because we are in a time of dispute, because of what Trump has said about Jerusalem.”
Nazareth 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.
Sharara said 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.
Mr Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city, was a significant US policy change.
It 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.
Ismail Haniya said: ”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.”
Since Trump’s controversial announcement last week, 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 told the BBC: “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.” (ExpressUK)