Orthodox Christians participate in the Holy Fire ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 2012. Photo courtesy of St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation

Israel to restrict entry of Gaza Christians for Easter

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli authorities said they have decided to block most of Gaza's small Christian community from entering Israel for Easter celebrations, citing security concerns.

Israel maintains a blockade over the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and restricts entry from the territory. But it often eases the restrictions during religious holidays to allow Gaza's residents to visit holy sites in Jerusalem or to visit relatives in Israel or the West Bank.

COGAT, the defense body that oversees Palestinian civilian affairs, said it will let only Christians aged 55 and older and children under age 16 enter Israel for Easter, which is celebrated by Catholics on Sunday and Orthodox Christians the following week. It said the restrictions were needed after previous cases in which Gazan visitors overstayed their permitted time in Israel.

A Christian leader in Gaza said the restrictions mean that only about one-third of the community's 1,100 members will be allowed into Israel to celebrate. He said he was disappointed because his children would not be able to see their aunts in the West Bank city of Ramallah. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to jeopardize his own entry permit.

Wadie Abunassar, a Catholic Church official, called the restrictions "very sad" because Easter is a family holiday. He said it was "not reasonable" to allow a mother and father to enter Israel, while "leaving their children back in Gaza," and urged Israel to reconsider.
"If people want to leave, they don't want to leave for a honeymoon," he said. "It is for a family trip."
Associated Press writer Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, contributed to this report.


  1. This will doubtless be a disappointment to many; by way of encouragement to those disappointed, though they will not see these words, I would pray that they would still keep their thoughts centered on the Savior this Easter season.

  2. But Israel does this all over the country. They even built a wall down the middle of Bethlehem. Tourism is way down.

  3. The trouble with Israel is that the nation is founded on the dispossession of Palestinians. I can’t see any solution to this problem other than a one state solution, where all citizens of the Holy Land are treated equally.

  4. They quote Joshua 1:4 in the Bible as their justification to eventually rule the Middle East: ” Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.”

  5. The UN had a two-state solution that was generous to the Arabs. The Arabs living in the region abandoned their land and fled while expecting the Arab coalition to defeat Israel. Bad mistake. I haven’t agreed with Israel’s policies but check out the history of Israel and the Middle East.

  6. Read the historical novel THE HAJ by Leon Uris. Excellent. Also Jimmy Carter came out with a book recently, PALESTINE: PEACE NOT APARTHEID.

  7. You comment demonstrates the point I was making. Whether people were driven off their land or they fled at the treat of violence, they were still dispossessed. Like what happened to Australian Aborigines. Like what happened to American Indians. Like what happened to Jews in Europe and the rest of the Middle East.

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