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As Christmas approaches, Bay Area Palestinian Christians conflicted over festivities

Bay Area Palestinians conflicted over holiday festivities
Bay Area Palestinians conflicted over holiday festivities 02:42

BURLINGAME – The war in Gaza is changing the way people are observing the holidays in the Middle East. There's a tremendous sense of pain and loss.

Bay Area Christian Palestinians are finding it difficult to celebrate, as Christmas approaches.

Yasmine Rafidi, her husband, and children were visiting her parents in the West Bank on October 7, and realized they had to leave quickly.

"At that point they told them they're not letting them through," said Rafidi.

They drove east to the Jordan border, knowing it would be safer, but knew her parents without U.S. passports would face a different situation. 

"I just wanted my kids safety, so I took them of course, without thinking twice. I'll cross (the border).  But that also meant saying goodbye to my parents," said Rafidi.

Holding back tears, the Burlingame resident feared her parents would be returning to a Palestinian city that could become a war-zone overnight, like Gaza. 

"He said goodbye to me and hugged all of us. They turned back and went to Ramallah," said Rafidi.

With Israeli airstrikes escalating after a brief cease-fire, Rafidi, like so many others, tries to get updates on loved ones.

Rafidi is Christian, but isn't decorating the trees in her courtyard this year. 

A cousin leaves a message sharing how Palestinians in Bethlehem aren't celebrating Christmas in the same way.

The lights and decorations are noticeably absent. A baby Jesus lies in rubble at a church in Bethlehem.

"This is what Christmas looks like in Palestine, with occupation, with destruction, with the bombardment of children. While the world is celebrating, our children are under the rubble. While the world is celebrating, our families are displaced and their homes are destroyed. So this is Christmas to us in Palestine," said Pastor Munther Isaac.

"A lot of kids, men, and women are being massacred and we're celebrating? It's not right," said Rafidi.

Her family has already lost friends and loved ones.

"The idea that they were hiding in the church thinking it's safe. They're all gone. A dad and a few of his kids and his sister and brother. It's sad," said Rafidi.

At a time of celebration around the world, Yasmine is desperately trying to cling to hope even when so many of her people are facing death and utter darkness.

"Where do they go? Where?" asked Rafidi. 

Rafidi eventually reunited with her parents, who remain in Jordan today.  

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