Israeli soldiers fired tear gas, pepper spray and stun grenades at Palestinians calling for free movement between Bethlehem and Jerusalem on Friday.
The Christmas-themed protest was held in front of Checkpoint 300, where Israeli soldiers control Palestinian movement between the occupied West Bank cities.
Approximately 100 protesters, some of them dressed in Santa Claus suits, chanted against Israel’s military occupation and for Palestinian freedom.
“Jesus came with a message of peace, his city suffers oppression,” one demonstrator’s sign read.
“Santa Claus stands with the Palestinian people,” stated another.
Half a dozen people were injured, including journalists, during the protest.
Palestinians and their supporters highlight around Christmastime that if Joseph and Mary were to make their journey from Nazareth today, Israel’s military checkpoints and massive concrete wall would prevent them from accessing the Bethlehem manger where tradition holds Jesus Christ was born.
Israel’s wall completely encircles Bethlehem, as do its settlement colonies, turning a once vibrant Palestinian cultural center and international tourist destination into a shuttered ghetto.
Israel’s regime of movement restrictions imposed on Palestinians living under its military rule prevents the free access to places of worship, including the al-Aqsa mosque and Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Even the Holy Fire of Easter must pass through an Israeli checkpoint during the ancient ritual observed by Orthodox Christians in Palestine.
Video by Keren Manor/Activestills.org