Israel Bars Gaza Christians from Easter Worship

Posted by on March 31, 2018 in Government, Politics

Palestinian Christians celebrating the Holy Fire of Easter ceremony in Jerusalem’s Old City on 15 April 2017
Photo Credit: The Electronic Intifada

By Tamara Nassar | The Electronic Intifada

Israel is blocking hundreds of Palestinian Christians in Gaza from praying at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem this Easter.

Meanwhile, Israel is imposing a tight closure on all Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip for nine days around the Jewish Passover holiday.


COGAT, the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation, stated that only those over the age of 55 will be allowed out of Gaza to visit the church in Jerusalem where Christians believe Jesus was buried and resurrected.

Israeli occupation authorities said they would grant 500 exit permits to Palestinian Christians from Gaza this year, despite the fact that only about 120 meet the age restriction.

“Many will not be able to travel without relatives who are under the age limit,” Israeli newspaper Haaretz stated.

Israel issued 700 permits last Christmas and a similar number last Easter without age restrictions.

But Israel routinely imposes arbitrary age restrictions, such as it did last Ramadan on Palestinian Muslims entering Jerusalem from other areas of the occupied West Bank.


Israel typically announces its holiday permit policies at the last minute, sometimes even after a holiday begins, according to Israeli rights group Gisha, making it difficult for Palestinians to plan travel.

Sometimes Israel grants permits to some family members and not others, forcing families to separate during holidays or abandon a trip altogether.

In a video on COGAT’s Facebook page earlier this month, Israeli military officer Alaa Halabi demanded that Palestinian Christians who left Gaza using their Christmas permits and never returned do so immediately.

“The situation will make it difficult for us to endorse other steps in favor of the Christian population,” Halabi said.

Gisha called “this address to Gaza’s Christian community, the reduced Easter quota and the age limitation” an open “act of collective punishment against Christians in Gaza.”

 

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