Palestine: Update – Israel reconsiders restrictions on movements of Gazan Christians during Christmas

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Christians in Israel and Palestine are grateful that the Israeli authorities have reconsidered a directive restricting Gazan Christians from visiting family and friends in the West Bank and Israel over the Christmas holiday season.

Yesterday (22 December) the coordinator of government engagement in the territories, Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon, announced that Israel will grant permits for Christian Palestinians from Gaza to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank “in accordance with security assessments”.

This overrides a statement he made on 12 December limiting permits to only 100, issued to selected Gazan Christians over 45, and restricting travel to Jordan, refusing visits to relatives in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Wadie Abunassar, an adviser to church leaders in the Holy Land, said that the Israeli military granted 55 permits yesterday and 137 this morning, but 769 Christians in the Gaza Strip are still waiting for their applications to be processed.

Approximately 1200 Christians – mainly Greek Orthodox – reside in the Gaza strip and religious holidays are a valuable opportunity to escape the confines of Gaza and enjoy fellowship with family and the wider Christian community.

Local Christians are thankful for answered prayer in that the Israeli authorities have heeded the appeals of church leaders to grant Gazan Christians permission to travel to Jerusalem and the West Bank. They request further prayer that:

a. the applications of Gazan Christians still waiting to receive permits will be processed promptly

b. the Lord will encourage the Christian community in Gaza over the Christmas season and that Christians will enjoy fellowship with family and friends in Jerusalem and the West Bank

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