On Friday we visited Nazareth again, hoping to experience some of the Christmas atmosphere there. We saw many Christmas street lights, trees and decorations in shops and homes, and inflatable Baba Noel (Santa Claus) dolls for sale. Our local friend said there were less Christmas decorations than in previous years, and wondered whether this was connected to the influence of the Islamic movement in the town.
We also visited the nearby town of Cana (Kafr Kanna), where we saw the Wedding Church (Catholic), said to be the site of the wedding at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine. There was also a Greek Orthodox church, but it was closed. There were some souvenir shops, implying that some tourists, presumably mainly Christians, visit this town.
In the evening, we went to a Christmas-themed dance show. It was held in the refurbished Diana Cinema in Nazareth. The show focused on the journey of the Magi, featuring musical adaptations of familiar Christmas carols (sung in Arabic). The dance troupe, Mawwal, includes Christian and Muslim dancers from all over Nazareth. They also have a dance school with 120 students. The show combined traditional Arabic dancing with modern dance styles. It was good to see such cultural events taking place, despite the low level of government funding for the Arab sector.
Haifa has a large Christian population, too, and in certain parts of town one can see trees and other decorations. Many shops sell Christmas items - from trees and decorations to cards and chocolates. Christmas also features prominently in the Festival of Festivals, the annual event held on Saturdays during December to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and the nearest Muslim festival (the Islamic lunar year means their festivals happen in different seasons each year), in this case, Eid al-Adha. The mixed city of Haifa promotes pluralism and co-existence, and its residents generally respect the traditions of various local groups.
I encourage members of each religion or community to take an interest in the festivals of the others, and to make the holiday season truly reflect goodwill and tolerance.