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As the war between Israel and Hamas continues to rage and the hope of another ceasefire fades, a Lutheran church in Bethlehem has decided that its nativity scene will reflect the realities of the war. Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, which is in the West Bank under Palestinian Authority rule, displayed its nativity scene with baby Jesus wrapped in a kaffiyeh, the patterned scarf associated with the Palestinian people. Instead of lying in the traditional manger, baby Jesus lies amidst a pile of rocks, representing the rubble of destroyed Gaza homes.

“We came with the idea of a manger in the rubble and it’s inspired from the difficult images we see on a daily basis on our television screens of children being pulled from under the rubble in Gaza,” said the church’s pastor, Reverend Munther Isaac. “These images break us and are devastating. We are tired of the world rationalizing and justifying the killing of our children in Gaza.” The nativity scene comes at a time when Christmas festivities have been canceled at the birthplace of Jesus as a sign of solidarity with the people of Gaza, who are facing starvation and death as the war continues. Isaac hopes the nativity will “challenge the world to work for peace.” “If Christ were to be born today, he would be born under the rubble and Israeli shelling. This is a powerful message we send to the world celebrating the holidays,” he said.

Pope Francis has said he hopes the images of nativity scenes that will decorate numerous homes this Christmas season will help them to remember the conflict facing the people in the land where Jesus walked. “While we contemplate Jesus, God made man, small, poor, defenseless, we cannot help but think of the drama that the inhabitants of the Holy Land are experiencing, demonstrating to these brothers and sisters of ours, especially to children and their parents, our closeness and our spiritual support,” he said to an audience at a Saturday conference in Paul VI Hall with two delegations who had donated the Christmas tree and the Nativity scene that would adorn St. Peter’s Square.

The war continues to be a divisive point amongst Americans, especially amongst party lines. A recent Pew Research Center poll showed that 65% of Americans believe that Hamas bears a lot of responsibility for the conflict, while 35% put the onus on the Israel government. When broken down into parties, 73% of Republicans and Republican leaners put the responsibility on Hamas while 62%  of Democrats and Democrat leaners did. In young people aged 18 to 29, 46% stated that Hamas bears most of the responsibility. Americans are split in how they feel about military operations against Hamas, with 32% being usure, 27% saying Israel is going too far, and 25% saying it is taking the right approach.

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