The Israeli ‘Grinch’: 500 Gaza’s Christians Denied Travel Permits to Celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem

Palestinian Christians dressed up as Santa Claus for Christmas have been forbidden by Israel to enter Jerusalem. (Photo: via Twitter)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

Palestinian Christians in Gaza rejected Israeli claims that they have been granted permits to visit Bethlehem and Jerusalem in the West Bank in order for them to celebrate Christmas there.

On Sunday, December 22, the Israeli military liaison (COGAT) claimed that Israel has “extended the travel facilitation for the Christian population of Gaza for the Christmas holiday.” 

The Israeli decision then made headlines around the world for it reversed an earlier decision, made on December 12, which barred all of Gaza’s Christians from celebrating the holidays in the West Bank, based on “security reasons”.

However, Palestinian Christians in Gaza told Reuters that most of those who requested Israeli permits were denied entry, thus barred from visiting holy Palestinian cities.

In fact, according to Palestinian border officials, only 316 permits had been issued to Gaza’s Christians, which means that nearly 500 requests were turned down. 

Haifa Assalfiti, a 62-year-old Christian resident of Gaza, told Reuters that Israel “issued permits for old people, not the young”.

“My son, my daughter, and my daughter-in-law didn’t get permits. They are at home angry,” she added before crossing the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing en route to Bethlehem along with her husband.

Israel’s COGAT did not offer any further comments since the Twitter announcement.

“Israel once more proved to be the Grinch that stole Christmas,” said Romana Rubeo, managing editor of The Palestine Chronicle. 

“Every year, the same thing happens: Palestinians desperately try to cling onto their religious and spiritual traditions and Israel does everything in its power to make the communal celebrations difficult if at all possible”.

Only 2 percent of Palestine’s Christians live in the besieged Gaza Strip. When Israel occupied Gaza along with the rest of historic Palestine in 1967, an estimated 2,300 Christians lived in the Strip. However, merely 1,100 Christians still live in Gaza today.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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