Christmas celebrations in Nazareth — Jesus’ childhood hometown, according to Christian belief — have been canceled to protest the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The city council announced Thursday that Mayor Ali Salam, a Muslim, had ordered the axing of all planned artistic events, including a festival and large Christmas market.
“Our identity and faith aren’t up for debate,” Salam said. “The decision [by Donald Trump about Jerusalem] has taken away the joy of the holiday, and we will thus cancel the festivities this year.”
Nazareth is one of the holiest cities in Christendom because it was there that the angel Gabriel is believed by Christians to have told the Virgin Mary she would conceive and bear Jesus.
According to the New Testament, Jesus also grew up in the town.
The annual celebrations are a major tourist draw and source of income for the city, which is inhabited primarily by Arab citizens of Israel, two-thirds of whom are Muslim and the remaining third Christian.
In an address last Wednesday from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace, a new approach was long overdue.
He described his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.
The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum, and condemned by the vast majority of the international community. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.