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Palestinians celebrate Christmas Eve in Bethlehem

Dec. 24, 2016 12:59 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 24, 2016 9:26 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinians marked the occasion of Christmas Eve on Saturday morning in the southern occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem, which is traditionally held as the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

A parade lead by the Latin Patriarch of Palestine, Jordan, and the Holy Land Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who is also the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem, are set to arrive in Bethlehem in the afternoon and will be officially received at the Nativity Church in Bethlehem's Manger Square.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah are also expected to arrive in Bethlehem later Saturday to partake in Midnight Mass.
Abbas released a statement Friday marking the occasion of Christmas, 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, colonization 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.”

He affirmed that the state of Palestine would continue to preserve its national heritage as well as “the historic status quo of all religious sites, including the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound” in occupied East Jerusalem.

He lauded the commitment of Palestinian Muslims and Christians to coexist peacefully throughout the centuries, and condemned “failed attempts” to divide them that he said “originate from those with a racist and colonialist mindset,” referring specifically to a recent law proposed by Israel to mute the Muslim call to prayer.
Abbas addressed all Palestinians in his message, “particularly our refugees in Syria and Lebanon, including al-Dbayeh and Mar Elia refugee camps, as well as those who will celebrate Christmas in Gaza and in our occupied capital Jerusalem.”“I salute our prisoners,” he added.

“The message of hope, the message of justice and peace brought by Jesus from a humble Grotto in Bethlehem shall prevail over the darkness of exile, colonization, unlawful imprisonment, and Apartheid.”
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