500 Gazan Christians to celebrate Christmas in east Jerusalem, West Bank

An estimated 1,000-1,300 Christians live in Gaza among two million Muslims. 

Palestinians light Christmas tree in Manger Square outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, November 30, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS/MUSSA QAWASMA)
Palestinians light Christmas tree in Manger Square outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, November 30, 2019
(photo credit: REUTERS/MUSSA QAWASMA)

Five hundred Gazan Christians will be granted permission to enter east Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria to visit their families for the Christmas holiday, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj.-Gen. Rassan Alian said Wednesday.

In addition, some 200 Christian residents of Gaza will be allowed to travel abroad for the holiday, leaving through the Allenby Bridge Crossing.

An estimated 1,000-1,300 Christians live in Gaza among two million Muslims.

“After last year, when the Christmas celebrations were held differently due to COVID-19, this year we have successfully put forward a series of holiday measures for the benefit of the Christian residents of Judea and Samaria and of the Gaza Strip,” said Alian. “COGAT will continue its work in the cause of freedom of worship and religion among the various sectors and denominations of the region.”

Alian toured Jerusalem’s churches with the leaders of the Christian community on Wednesday along with Civil Administration head Brig.-Gen. Fares Atila, leaders of the Christian community and the Vatican’s ambassador to Israel.

 COGAT Maj.-Gen. Rassan Alian is seen with Civil Administration head Brig.-Gen. Fares Atila, the leaders of the Christian community and the Vatican’s ambassador to Israel. (credit: COGAT SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE) COGAT Maj.-Gen. Rassan Alian is seen with Civil Administration head Brig.-Gen. Fares Atila, the leaders of the Christian community and the Vatican’s ambassador to Israel. (credit: COGAT SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)

The group also met with the Latin and Greek patriarchs.

“I wish all Christians in Judea and Samaria, Gaza and the rest of the world, a year of good health and safety, filled with prosperity and success, in which we can celebrate and at the same time safeguard ourselves and our loved ones,” Alian said.

Israel has granted similar permits to Gazans in the past, but travel was completely restricted last year due to the COVID-19 crisis. Movement out of Gaza has been further restricted since the escalation between Hamas and Israel in May, although the country has begun to relax some of these measures in recent months.