Thousands of visitors flock to Bethlehem each Christmas to celebrate in the birthplace of Jesus Christ. But this year, the holy city will receive unwelcome guests as radical feminist group Femen intends to stage a controversial protest.
Activists have indicated a topless demonstration will take place on Christmas Eve in the garden of the Church of the Nativity, site of Christ’s birth according to the Christian faith. This would coincide with the peak of celebrations, with up to 100,000 expected to travel to the Palestinian city.
Femen founder Inna Shevchenko would not confirm the action but told Metro: “Bethlehem can be a place for us to attack. This city can see the rebellious naked breasts of Femen.”
Shevchenko rejected any obligation to respect cultural sensitivities in the deeply religious city. “We respect our naked war against oppression and if there are cultures that are not able to coexist with that idea, [that] means those cultures are anti-humanist and don’t deserve respect from us.”
The Ukrainian group have enjoyed a recent surge, with a new branch established in Israel this year and a series of high profile stunts, including a live TV attack on global football authority FIFA. Femen has also acted to distance itself from Victor Svyatski, a founding member filmed making sexist remarks.
Having already protested in Tunisia, the threat is being taken seriously by Bethlehem authorities and its mayor Vera Baboun. “This cannot happen in the birthplace of Jesus,” her spokesperson said. “It would destroy the spirit of Christmas and we are working with intelligence and security to prevent their action.”
Local activists and businesses have also stated fierce opposition to Femen plans, and the reaction on social media has been hostile. “Maybe the aim of the protest is to unite Palestinians and Israelis against them,” one user posted.