850 Gaza Christians receive permits to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem
The inflow of permits comes after hundreds of travel permits were revoked from Palestinians in Gaza last month, and Israel froze an agreement earlier this week that previously permitted a limited number of Gazans above the age of 60 to travel to occupied East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa for Friday worship.
The rector of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Father Jamal Khader, said the way permits were attributed in past years affected the number of Gaza Christians who could actually travel to Jerusalem for Easter: “In previous years, permits (for Gaza Christians) were given randomly, and if they don’t have them for the whole family, they cannot come,” Khader said. “Can you imagine some members of the family coming to celebrate in Jerusalem and leaving behind their family? It’s not in our traditions, we celebrate together. So we had the experience in previous years when very few came. This year I’m not sure.” There are around 200,000 Palestinian Christians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and inside Israel in total, while hundreds of thousands more live abroad.
In past years, Christian celebrations in Jerusalem during the week leading up to Easter have been subjected to stringent Israeli security measures, with increased numbers of checkpoints and military closures around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built where Jesus Christ is traditionally believed to have been crucified and buried.