Israel cancels permits for Gaza Christians ahead of Orthodox Easter

Holly Johnson

The National  /  April 11, 2023

More than 700 permits had been issued for Gaza’s tiny Christian community,

Israel has cancelled permits allowing Christians in Gaza to leave the enclave for Orthodox Easter, the Saint Porphyrios Orthodox Church said.

The church said it had been informed of the cancellations by the Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs.

“The permits for Easter have been cancelled on the Israeli side,” it said on its Facebook page.

Gaza residents require a permit from Israeli authorities to leave the enclave, which has been blockaded by Israel and Egypt since 2007.

There was no immediate announcement from Israel.

It comes amid rising violence between Israeli and Palestinians in Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Israel has in the past barred Christians from leaving Gaza during religious holidays.

About 1,000 Christians live Gaza alongside more than 2 million Muslims.

Most of them are Greek Orthodox and celebrate Easter a week after western denominations.

Gaza is home to only three churches — the Orthodox church, the Gaza Baptist Church for Evangelical and Protestant Christians and the Roman Catholic Holy Family Church.

More than 700 permits were reportedly granted for the Easter holiday before the cancellation.

The Christian community has dwindled sharply since Hamas took power in 2007, with large numbers emigrating to flee conflict and difficult living conditions.

Church leaders in Jerusalem have warned that Palestinians Christians are at risk from a rise in right-wing violence spurred by Israel’s new government.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II said Jerusalem’s Christian community was “under fire” in comments at the UN General Assembly in September.

“The rights of churches in Jerusalem are threatened. This cannot continue. Christianity is vital to the past and present of our region and the Holy Land. It must remain an integral part of our future,” the monarch said.

Church property across Jerusalem has also been attacked in recent months.

A US citizen was arrested in February after breaking a statue of Jesus at the Church of the Flagellation, one of several incidents targeting the minority.

Israelis also paraded through the Armenian quarter of the Old City, assaulting Christian tourists and writing “Death to Christians” on the walls of a monastery.

Two teenagers were arrested in January for allegedly vandalising more than two dozen Christian graves on Mount Zion, where tombstones at the Protestant Cemetery were found pushed over and pulled from their foundations.

Holly Johnston – breaking news reporter