Bethlehem church brings people to tears after redesigning Christmas nativity scene to reflect Israel-Hamas war

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    A church in Bethlehem, the biblical birthplace of Jesus, is receiving attention for its decision to redesign its Christmas nativity scene to reflect the impact of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

    Just weeks before Christmas, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, located in the West Bank, unveiled a new display of the nativity scene that shows baby Jesus lying in a manger amid rubble. The imagery symbolizes the destroyed Palestinian communities in Gaza and the ongoing war between Israel and the Hamas terror group, a church official said.

    “Church families met last week and built it together. It was a moving experience for our families. During the service on Sunday, some people were in tears,” Reverend Doctor Munther Isaac, the church’s pastor, told The New Arab.

    Bethlehem is historically recognized as the birthplace of Jesus and his birth is celebrated by Christians and others on Christmas, Dec. 25. The nativity scene often depicts Jesus as a baby, alongside his mother Mary, often regarded by Catholics as a saint; as well as his father Joseph, wise men and their respective gifts, shepherds, angels and various animals, including donkeys and sheep.

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    Bible on a podium, nativity scene

    A picture shows an installation of a scene of the nativity of Christ with a figure “symbolizing baby Jesus lying in his manger amid rubble”, inside the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on Dec. 6, 2023, a few weeks before Christmas amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images)

    Isaac said the church has been “surprised and overwhelmed” by the response the church has received regarding the new manger.

    “Bethlehem has no visitors this year. Pilgrims are not coming to Bethlehem this year because of war,” Isaac told the New Arab. “But we were surprised and overwhelmed by the attention and response this Manger received through the social media and media in general.”

    Nativity scene in a church

    Bethlehem is historically recognized as the birthplace of Jesus and his birth is celebrated by Christians and others on Christmas, Dec. 25. (HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images)

    Baby Jesus, surrounded by rocks, rubble

    Reverend Doctor Munther Isaac, the church’s pastor, said the installation of a scene of the nativity of Christ has a figure “symbolizing baby Jesus lying in his manger amid rubble.” (HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images)

    He added, “We are pleased our message has reached the world. This is what Christmas looks like in Palestine this year, the origin of Christmas.”

    While the current war between Israel and Hamas has primarily taken place in Gaza, a territory that runs along the Mediterranean Sea and shares its borders with Israel and Egypt, the fighting has escalated violence in the surrounding region, including the West Bank, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.

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    In the West Bank, known by Israelis by its biblical name Judea and Samaria, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have launched various and often deadly raids, including a raid Friday morning in Tubas and its refugee camp.

    Candle, baby Jesus

    Reverend Doctor Munther Isaac said the church has been “surprised and overwhelmed” by the response the church has received over the new manger. (HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images)

    Israeli undercover forces entered the Faraa refugee camp, a stronghold of terror activity, where they killed the local commander of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade and arrested suspected Palestinian militants.

    The undercover operation ultimately resulted in a firefight with local gunmen that left six Palestinians killed, including a 14-year-old boy.

    Yigal Carmon, a former counterterrorism adviser to two Israeli Prime Ministers, told Fox News Digital that operations in the West Bank are being executed by Israelis to prevent a “third front” of its current war — in addition to fighting in Gaza and fighting with the Lebanese terrorist movement Hezbollah on its northern border.

    Church flag, nativity scene

    Israel Defense Forces continue to conduct operations in the West Bank, known by Israelis by its biblical name Judea and Samaria. (HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images)

    “The initiative is always ours to prevent a third front. So the gangs of Hamas and the PIJ [Palestine Islamic Jihad] know we are in full force not only in Gaza and in the north but also in the West Bank,” he said.

    The IDF has used numerous drone attacks to knock out terrorists during such operations.

    A photo of the church in Bethlehem

    The new nativity was displayed a few weeks before Christmas amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images)

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    The Times of Israel reported that since the start of the war, Israel has arrested over 2,000 wanted Palestinians in the West Bank, including more than 1,100 affiliated with Hamas.

    The Palestinian Health Ministry says Israeli forces have killed 267 Palestinians in the West Bank since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7.

    Fox News’ Benjamin Weinthal and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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