The Muslim mayor of Nazareth has cancelled traditional outdoor songs and plays celebrating Christmas in the city where Jesus spent his childhood.
Mayor Ali Salam, who once made the curious boast that U.S. President Donald Trump “learned everything from me” about how to win elections, indicated that he was punishing local and visiting Christians as revenge for the President’s decision to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“Our message is we love Jerusalem, we’ll never abandon you under any circumstances,” Salam declared.
“Our identity and faith aren’t up for debate … The decision [by Donald Trump about Jerusalem] has taken away the joy of the holiday, and we will thus cancel the festivities this year.”
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While Nazareth is located within Israel proper rather than Palestinian Authority territory in Gaza and the West Bank, a majority of its inhabitants are Arabs with Israeli citizenship.
At a little over 30 per cent of the population, Christians are a significant minority — but are dominated by the Muslim majority which voted Salam into power.
Nevertheless, the local administration has already walked back his aggressive position somewhat, conceding “there are commercial interests of the city and we are used to hundreds of thousands [of Christians] coming for this season.”
Some elements of the traditional celebrations will therefore go ahead, such as the Christmas market and a parade on December 23rd — but the singing performances and outdoor plays which usually mark the season will be prohibited.
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According to the Bible, the city of Nazareth is where the archangel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary she would bear the Saviour, making it one Christianity’s holiest sites.
After giving birth to Jesus in Bethlehem — now located in the Palestinian-controlled West Bank — Mary and the rest of the Holy Family are said to have fled to Egypt to escape from Herod the Great, who ordered all of the infant boys in Bethlehem killed after learning a new king had been born.
Mary returned to Nazareth following Herod’s death, where the Bible says her child “grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.”