Waiting for Christmas in the streets of Jerusalem

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Even the Christians in Jerusalem eagerly await the arrival of Christmas. Anyone who wants to find the Christmas atmosphere in the Holy City must go to the Christian or Armenian quarter of the old city. Only here, in fact, can one admire decorations, lights and Christmas decorations on the doors of houses and churches. In Jerusalem, Christians are a small minority, adding up all its definitions, they are only 2% of the total population. The universal message given by the birth of Christ also becomes an occasion to joyfully manifest a minority, but very important religious affiliation in the city. In this period on Via San Francesco, one of the main streets of the neighborhood at the entrance of the Convent of San Salvatore, they open specially two shops with only Christmas decorations and lights. Issa, one of the owners, tells us that the place belongs to Catholic scouts and that sales go to support their business. Scouts are a very important Christian institution in the Holy Land, just think that the scout music groups with drum and bagpipes open the procession of the Custodian’s official entrance to the Basilica of the Nativity on the first Sunday of Advent. It is not surprising, therefore, if passing through the streets of Jerusalem, you can hear children practicing and rehearsing for the celebrations or if you see them perform.

At the sound of bagpipes, in fact, even in Jerusalem, as in Bethlehem and in many cities of the Holy Land, the beginning of the month of preparation for Christmas is inaugurated with moments of celebration and with the traditional lighting of the tree. In the first week of Advent the tree on the roof of the Terra Santa School is lit, the one in the Armenian quarter, and the one of the scouts who organize for the occasion a small party with food stalls and a musical show. We talk with Josephine, Dina and Daniella, very young Christian girls, while if they are photographed with the tree illuminated behind them. For them too, Christmas means family and prayer: “Christmas is a happy time for us”, they declare by mutual agreement. From the faces of the many children present, with their mouths still dirty with icing sugar, and observing the boys and families singing Christmas carols, we can only agree with them: Christmas is the joy of being with loved ones . In fact, it seems that, at least for this period of the year, all the daily concerns dictated by life, which is not always easy for Christians in this land, are set aside to leave room for moments of joy and joy to celebrate with the community. “We decorate our homes with the tree and the manger like all Christians do” – continues Adir, 62, while choosing some decorations of the store – It is a time of the year that we spend with family members. On Christmas day we go to Mass and then we have a big lunch together “.

With the Christmas season, the many markets throughout the city also begin, an event very much felt by local Christians and not only. In the Christmas market, organized by the Al-Mamal foundation last Friday, veiled girls and curious Jews also wandered among the stalls of Palestinian craft products. Christmas becomes a moment of encounter between different cultures and an extra moment to try to create that bridge of peace and dialogue that at other times of the year seems so distant. The Association pro Terra Sancta also participated in the event, exhibiting the works produced by the three local partners with whom it collaborates: the ceramics of Nusf Jubeil, the mosaic works of the Mosaic Center and the soaps of the women of Shorouq of Bethany. To brighten the day there were also the very sweet children of the Magnificat Institute, with Santa’s hat and white T-shirt, they sang songs of the Christmas tradition from all over the world. For Jerusalemites Christians and the whole of the Holy Land, Christmas is a joyful time to live with the family and to them all wishes and support from ATS pro Terra Sancta.