'State discriminating between Christian, Muslim Gazans'

NGO claims Muslims given less access to holy sites in Israel; state says Christians allowed to cross over for diplomatic and humanitarian reasons.

March 9, 2011 05:23
3 minute read.
Erez Crossing in northern Gaza

Erez Crossing 311 (R). (photo credit: Mohammed Salem/Reuters)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


The Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement NGO on Tuesday accused the Defense Ministry of discriminating between Christians and Muslims in allowing Gazan access to holy sites in Israel.

In its response, the state said that Christians were allowed to cross over for diplomatic and humanitarian reasons.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.

'Gaza crossing changes good for security and Gaza imports'

In December, the Tel Aviv-based Gisha filed a petition to the Beersheba District Court, following the Defense Ministry’s refusal to allow seven Muslim women from the Gaza Strip to pray at the Aksa Mosque in honor of the prophet Muhammad’s birthday.

The petition said that the Defense Ministry refuses to allow Muslim women from Gaza to enter east Jerusalem, but allows Christian residents of Gaza to pray at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, thus violating the Muslims’ right to freedom of worship. It noted that no security claims were made against the women.

“The refusal to allow their exit is part of a policy that discriminates between Muslims and Christians, all residents of the Gaza Strip. Under the current policy, prayer at Al-Aksa is permitted for Palestinian Muslims from the West Bank, subject to age restrictions and an individual security check. Furthermore, Christian residents of the Gaza Strip receive permits to travel to pray in Bethlehem and Jerusalem on religious holidays, also subject to age restrictions. Muslims, however, are categorically denied permits to leave Gaza for purposes of prayer at Al-Aksa,” Gisha wrote.

“Israel's refusal to allow these women out of Gaza to pray at their holy sites, while allowing Christians to do so, raises the specter of discrimination based on religious belief. Israel’s control of sites holy to multiple religions imposes an obligation to allow worshipers to access them on an egalitarian basis, subject only to individual security checks,” Gisha’s lawyer Nomi Heger said.

The state wrote to the court that the petition should be dismissed out of hand, because it referred to a date that has already passed and therefore was no longer relevant.

The response did, however, outline the reasons for allowing the Christian devout to cross over to Bethlehem, describing it as an “ad hoc” approval and an exception to the general no-crossing policy.

“Indeed, in the past three years the entrance of Christian residents of Gaza to Nazareth and Bethlehem was approved for the purpose of prayer in the holy sites during the major holidays, subject to specified quotas.

This entrance was enabled in light of the defense minister’s decision to ease restrictions on this population,” the state’s response response.

“The main grounds for this decision were for the most part diplomatic, touching on Israel’s foreign policy, strategic and humanitarian, in light of this population [Christians] being a persecuted group with little possibility of holding religious ceremonies in the Strip, as opposed to the Muslim population, who aside from the available options within the Strip, can exit the Strip for the purpose of prayer in Mecca, through Egypt.”

The state rejected the claim that the decision infringed on the women’s right to freedom of worship, arguing that the freedom was not guaranteed to citizens of enemy entities and that allowing some people to enter did not obligate Israel to allow all to enter.

The first hearing on the petition will be held in Beersheba on Thursday.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

August 31, 2014
Rioting resumes throughout east Jerusalem Saturday night