A Covid Christmas comes to Bethlehem.

The pandemic has put a damper on Christmas on the place the place it’s mentioned to have all begun: the city of Bethlehem within the West Financial institution.

“Nice unhappiness,” Father Ibrahim Shomali, the chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, mentioned of this 12 months’s celebrations. “We’re very pissed off, however what can we do? We have to settle for the fact and do the fitting factor.”

Midnight Mass on the Church of the Nativity is normally one of many social occasions of the 12 months for the occupied West Financial institution. The traditional limestone church takes on the environment of a glittering film premiere as diplomats and Palestinian officers emerge from motorcades of shiny BMWs in tailor-made fits and stylish clothes.

This 12 months, the ceremony shall be restricted to church officers, a handful of European diplomats and Bethlehem’s mayor. The Palestinian Authority imposed powerful antivirus restrictions on Bethlehem on Dec. 10, organising checkpoints round its perimeter, ordering the closing of eating places, cafes, colleges and gymnasiums, and forbidding almost all giant gatherings.

Bethlehem has about 1,000 confirmed, lively coronavirus circumstances, in line with official knowledge, though the true quantity is considered a lot larger. All intensive care beds at hospitals are occupied, the Well being Ministry mentioned.

Throughout a current go to, the expansive foyer of the 222-room Bethlehem Resort was silent. The leather-based couches and chairs have been empty, the lights and heating have been turned off, and a wonderful coating of mud was gathering on espresso tables.

“There’s normally nowhere to sit down throughout this time of 12 months,” mentioned Elias al-Arja, the resort proprietor, sporting a winter coat and a big black masks. “It ordinarily will get so crowded that there’s little room to maneuver.”

Since March, when the authorities found the primary circumstances of the virus within the Bethlehem space, Mr. al-Arja mentioned, the resort has struggled to pay its money owed. He needed to lay off all however two of his 80 staff. To repay money owed, he mentioned, he has offered his second house in Ramallah and a plot of land in Jericho.

“It’s been devastating,” he mentioned.

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