Gaza's tiny Orthodox Christian minority celebrate Christmas

Gaza's tiny Orthodox Christian minority celebrate Christmas
By Euronews with AP
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With the ongoing Israeli siege on the enclave, Palestinians in Gaza are prohibited from uniting with family members and visiting Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.


Christmas celebrations are already underway in some parts of the Middle East, and in Gaza several hundred Palestinian Christians have gathered for a communal Christmas tree lighting.

The event marks the first time a communal Christmas tree has been lit in Gaza.

Israeli authorities are allowing hundreds of Christians living in the Gaza Strip to participate in Christmas celebrations in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Christians from the age of 16 to 35 years, and sometimes older are prevented from leaving the Gaza Strip and uniting with family members in other parts of the Palestinian Territories, particularly Bethlehem, where the Church of the Nativity is located.

"We all applied for permits to attend the Nativity in Bethlehem, but more than 500 people were prevented from going under the pretext of security checks," says Elias Jilda from the YMCA.

About 70 percent of Christians in the Strip follow the Greek Orthodox community, while the rest belong to the Latin Catholic community.

"Israel forbids me to travel, every year I try to get permission to go and pray in the Resurrection and the Church of the Nativity - for more than ten years I've tried - but I'm always waiting for a reply," says writer and journalist, Sohail Tarazy.

Before Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, the Christian population in the coastal enclave stood at more than 3,000 people.

According to Christian organisations in the Gaza Strip, just 1,200 Christians remain, most of them Orthodox.

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