Israel to grant Gaza Christians holiday travel permits

A Palestinian store owner decorates a Santa at his shop in Gaza City, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel announced on Sunday that it will allow Christians in the Gaza Strip to travel to Jerusalem and the West Bank for Christmas.

Until its notice just two days before the holiday, it was unclear whether Israel would grant permits to members of Gaza's tiny Christian community to leave the Hamas-ruled coastal territory.

Advertisement

COGAT, the Israeli defense body responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, said the permits would be issued “in accordance with security assessments and without regard to age.”

COGAT had earlier said that Israel had not yet decided whether to issue the permits en masse and was considering individual permit requests. COGAT said it also was allowing 100 Christians from Gaza to travel abroad.

[Don’t miss the latest news from the church and the world. Sign up for our daily newsletter.]

In previous years, Israel has granted travel permits to large numbers of Gaza Christians to visit religious sites and spend time with family in Israel and the West Bank.

About 1,000 Christians live in Gaza, a tiny fraction of the territory's 2 million people. Most are Greek Orthodox, with Catholics making up about a quarter of the small community.

While the ruling Islamic militant Hamas movement considers the Christians a protected minority, they have been targeted over the years by Islamic zealots. The Christian community has greatly dwindled since Hamas took power in 2007, with large numbers emigrating to flee conflict and difficult living conditions.

[Want to discuss politics with other America readers? Join our Facebook discussion group, moderated by America’s writers and editors.]

Israel and Egypt have maintained a tight blockade over Gaza since the Hamas takeover. Residents require permits to leave the territory.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

Advertisement

The latest from america

People visit Hagia Sophia in Istanbul June 30, 2020. (CNS photo/Murad Sezer, Reuters)
Pope Francis' brief words at the Sunday Angelus are the Vatican's first public response to the Turkish president's move to turn Hagia Sophia back into a mosque.
Gerard O’ConnellJuly 12, 2020
Catholic Charities staff and volunteers in the Archdiocese of Washington distribute 500 grocery boxes and 500 family meals in the parking lot of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception July 10, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
U.S. bishops: “The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to protect the jobs of Americans from all walks of life, regardless of whether they work for for-profit or non-profit employers, faith-based or secular.”
Kevin ClarkeJuly 10, 2020
From Meatless Mondays to Black Lives Matter, old Christian truths take hold in a world that seems to have left religion behind.
André M. PeñalverJuly 10, 2020
The Unesco World Heritage site in Istanbul, founded as a Christian church in the 6th century, transformed into a mosque in the 15th century and then into a museum in 1934, will reopen as a mosque on July 24 with Friday prayers.
Gerard O’ConnellJuly 10, 2020