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Muslim Mayor of Nazareth Backtracks After Canceling Christmas Over Trump Jerusalem Announcement

Man in a suit gives a thumbs up in front of a Christmas tree, while woman in red smiles in the background.

Last week, the Muslim mayor of the city of Nazareth — the place where Jesus Christ grew up — announced the city would cancel all public events celebrating Jesus' birth, Christmas. He framed the move as a response to President Donald Trump's statement acknowledging Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. On Saturday, he backtracked, blasting reports of Christmas cancellation as "incorrect."

"Our identity and faith aren't up for debate," Ali Salam, the Muslim mayor of Nazareth, said on Thursday. "The decision [by Trump to recognize Jerusalem] has taken away the joy of the holiday, and we will thus cancel the festivities this year."

The city council announced Thursday that Salam had ordered the cancellation of all artistic events, including a festival and a large Christmas market, The Times of Israel reported. Israel's Channel 10 reported the same, along with the same remarks from Salam. Israel's I-24 News also reported this move.

Britain's The Independent reported a similar statement from a Nazareth spokesman. "We have decided to cancel the traditional Christmas singing and dancing because we are in a time of dispute, because of what Trump has said about Jerusalem," spokesman Salem Sharara said.

Sharara said the town's market and the traditional Christmas church services will be held as every year.

Salam backtracked on the cancellation, telling Reuters on Saturday that these earlier reports were fake news.

"I don't know why people thought that there would be cuts to the celebrations," Salam told Reuters. "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."

The mayor did acknowledge that three singers who were scheduled to perform would not appear, and he gave no reason for their absence.

"Reports that Christmas events were canceled this year are incorrect," Salam told The Times of Israel. "Just as every year, the city is decorated for the holiday and we are excited to receive the tens of thousands of visitors who will arrive, and to give them a festive and special experience."

Salam said travelers from all faiths were welcome in Nazareth. "[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," he said. "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."

He did not mention Trump's Jerusalem announcement in these later remarks.