The birthplace of Jesus is facing particularly tough times this Christmas, owing in large part to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Life in the occupied Palestinian territory is always unpredictable and often extremely hard,” said Christian Aid’s Head of Middle East Region William Bell. “Covid-19 has made a bad situation worse.”
Covid-19 restrictions are keeping pilgrims and holidaymakers away from the Holy Land. Business is “at a standstill” said relief agency Christian Aid in a December 21 press release, which reported that “shops, restaurants and hotels are empty.”
Christian Aid partner Rami Khader, Director of the YMCA in East Jerusalem, said the town of Bethlehem is especially hard hit.
“Bethlehem is dependent on tourism,” Khader explained. “Families have lost their only income, livelihoods are in danger.” Uncertainty is magnifying the tension of economic loss. “[N]o one knows when the pandemic will be over,” Christian Aid quoted Khader.
The Executive Director of non-profit NGO and former Christian Aid partner Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans, Suzan Sahori said the times are grueling for her people. “Most of the family-owned workshops are closed,” Sahori reported, “or are working a minimum number of hours.”
People are adapting, but the picture of the situation is dire.
“During the Coronavirus lockdown,” Sahori said, “most of the families who gain their livelihood from olive wood product manufacturing planted vegetable gardens on their properties to raise their own food.”
She described olive wood artisan Jack Nasrallah and his family. Sahori observed them picking vegetables, and smiling while at their work. “It was especially beautiful to see the joy on the face of Jack’s daughter as she was happily picking zucchini.” Jack and many other artisans have used the downturn in business to work in their gardens, where they can enjoy the fresh produce, the outcome of their hard work in the land.”
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