GAZA, Saturday, December 15, 2018 (WAFA) – The Israeli authorities have refused almost all permit applications for Christians to leave Gaza to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, birthplace of Jesus Christ, to celebrate Christmas, according to the Christian organization, Middle East Concern (MEC).
“Christians in Gaza request prayer that permits will be granted for them to travel to the West Bank to visit friends and relatives over the Christmas holidays,” said MEC, which describes itself as “defending the religious freedom of Christians.”
“All inhabitants of Gaza, one of the most densely populated places on Earth, face severe travel restrictions and have difficulty obtaining permits from the Israeli authorities to enter Israel through the Erez border crossing,” it said. “In previous years, Christians living in Gaza were privileged to be able to apply through the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem to receive travel permits from Israel to visit family and friends in the West Bank over the Christmas period. This year, however, nearly all the Christmas permit applications have been refused by the Israeli authorities, with only Christians over the age of fifty-five being allowed to travel.”
The restriction means most of nearly 1000 Christians who still live in Gaza will not be able to travel as a family to the holy places in the West Bank since young people cannot join their elderly parents on this trip.