The Muslim mayor of the Israeli city of Nazareth has now said that Christmas celebrations will be permitted following reports that they would be canceled due to U.S. President Donald Trump's controversial decision on Jerusalem.
"I don't know why people thought that there would be cuts to the celebrations. Everything, except for three singers who will not be coming, will be held as normal. We have already welcomed 60,000 people to the city today," Mayor Ali Salam told Reuters on Saturday.
"[I] invite all the residents of the State of Israel - the Jews, Muslims and Christians - to come to the city of Nazareth and take part in the Christmas celebrations," the mayor declared, according to the Times of Israel.
"Nazareth is the city of peace and brotherhood between religions and nations, and there is nothing like the spirit of the holiday and the shared experience to prove it."
Last week it was reported that Salam had decided to limit Christmas celebrations in Nazareth - the city where Jesus Christ was raised - over Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
"Our identity and faith cannot be bargained," Salam said, according to a Fox News translation of 10 News. "[Trump's] decision has taken away the joy of the holiday and we will cancel the festivities this year."
Initial cancellation calls were met with criticism, i24News reports. The Brotherly Covenant, an NGO devoted to incorporating Christians into Israeli society, released a statement condemning the municipality's move and stated that cancelling Christmas in Nazareth would hinder chances at co-existence.
According to the group, this decision "harms Christians in Israel and in the world on their holy day," the statement read, asserting that it also "harms the city's economy and and relations between the various religions."
However, according to Jerusalem Post, Salam later said he recognizes that Nazareth has "commercial interests," as it welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors during the Christmas season.
"Our message is we love Jerusalem, we'll never abandon you under any circumstances," he reportedly said.
Nevertheless, he called Trump's move "wretched," adding that he had "stabbed" Palestinians, who view East Jerusalem as part of their future capital.
The Nazareth Municipality further explained that only selected artistic performances on stage will be canceled, JPost reports, but the outdoor stalls of the Christmas market will remain open and the lighting of the Christmas tree is still scheduled to take place.
"Christmas season in Nazareth is the season of good and blessing and we are completely vigilant that commercial interests won't be damaged," Nazareth officials said.
Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was applauded by Israeli rabbis and American evangelical leaders, but sparked protests in Palestinian territories as well as across the Arab world.
Reuters reports that within an hour of the announcement, the Palestinian towns of Bethlehem, Jesus's traditional birthplace, and Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank briefly switched off their Christmas lights in protest.e city's economy and and relations between the various religions."