Exploring The Oldest Youth Organization YMCA’s Role In Palestinian Christmas

Since December 22, Palestinian content creator Salma Shawa has been posting a #PalestinianXmas series on Instagram. It is a series of videos that showcases the unique ways Palestinians made use of or celebrated Christmas. In one of the videos, she talks about how in Palestine Santa Claus’ role isn’t just to distribute gifts but rather also be an activist and demonstrator against the Israeli occupation by taking part in protests and marches across the streets. Showcasing another aspect of Christmas in Palestine, on Christmas Eve Shawa posted a video on the importance of the YMCA for Palestinian Christians.

This is a refreshing take on how Christmas is usually celebrated in Gaza. Looking back at its history, the YMCA has been in Gaza since 1952 before it ended up getting destroyed in the troughs of the genocide in 2023. Since its establishment, it boasted many programs including the Vocational training center which offered vocational training to Palestinians as well as the Program Department that held the sports, cultural, social and recreational activities including youth and work camps.

Last year, the YMCA acted as a special landmark during the holiday celebration as it hosted a massive Christmas market where vendors sold Christmas items. The market also included a host of activities for the kids as well as a special tree lightning ceremony.

It truly was a safe haven for all especially as it boasted the special moto, “Here is a place whose atmosphere is peace where political and religious jealousies can be forgotten and international unity be fostered and developed.” Ending the video on a sad note, Shawa made it clear that the YMCA which was a symbol of hope and of the beauty of the Christmas spirit is now destroyed and that Christmas will not be celebrated this year in Palestine as everyone will be in mourning.

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