Living under Zionist Israel

proIsrael-nonIsraeli

proIsrael-nonIsraeli

Legendary Member
BDS: Victory after victory, ...

"WATCH: BDS Fumes Over Israeli Orchestra’s Triumphant Performance in Morocco"

"Anti-Israel activists tried to stop an Israeli orchestra from participating in a festival in Morocco, but the Israelis came, performed, and brought the house down!"

 
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  • proIsrael-nonIsraeli

    proIsrael-nonIsraeli

    Legendary Member
    Apparently it is better to have Israel as a friend, then as an enemy.
    BTW, this is classic example of chickens coming home to roost - terrorism used to be by Arabs against Jews, but now it is by Arabs against Arabs.

    "How Israel Prevented ISIS Bombing of Passenger Plane from Australia"

    "The IDF played a major role in stopping two Lebanese brothers from downing an airplane heading to Abu Dabi, a crime for which the would-be terrorists received a hefty sentence in Australia this week."

     
    NewLeb

    NewLeb

    New Member
    proIsrael-nonIsraeli

    proIsrael-nonIsraeli

    Legendary Member
    Stolen and is being returned, one way or another 😉
    "is being returned" - I am not aware of that.

    I doubt it will ever be returned, but it is very good response to pro-Palestinian demagogues.
     
    Big Brother

    Big Brother

    Legendary Member
    Orange Room Supporter
    "is being returned" - I am not aware of that.

    I doubt it will ever be returned, but it is very good response to pro-Palestinian demagogues.
    I don't expect, for example, a check to be made as payment for material losses. However, Arab investments in Israel, trade, normalization, etc. are all sufficient "payments" in my opinion.
     
    proIsrael-nonIsraeli

    proIsrael-nonIsraeli

    Legendary Member
    I don't expect, for example, a check to be made as payment for material losses. However, Arab investments in Israel, trade, normalization, etc. are all sufficient "payments" in my opinion.
    OK, but even that is yet to happen.
     
    J

    Jeremy Samuel

    New Member
    Lol, so the Jews are demanding back money that they deem was stolen- the irony is strong here!
    I think by highlighting the fact that Jews were expelled from Arab countries is part of an effort to construe the displacement of Palestinians and the displacement of Jews from Arab countries as a population exchange, like other population exchanges that took place from the 1920s-1950s, of which the Turkish-Greek population exchange is only the most famous.
     
    Last edited:
    proIsrael-nonIsraeli

    proIsrael-nonIsraeli

    Legendary Member
    "IDF Nails Hamas Weapons Factories After Rocket Attack"

    "Israeli jets struck Hamas sites in the Gaza Strip on Thursday morning after several several projectiles were fired from the coastal territory at southern Israel overnight."

     
    proIsrael-nonIsraeli

    proIsrael-nonIsraeli

    Legendary Member
    There was a news few days ago that Israel does not allow Gaza Christians to visit their holy places for Christmas.
    Apparently the news was fake - Israel accepts heartfelt apologies from all of you who has readily embraced this lie.


    "IDF Helps Gazans Visit Family in Israel for Christmas"

     
    Jorje

    Jorje

    Legendary Member
    The nightmare before Christmas: Gaza’s Christians await permits to see loved ones at mercy of Israeli authorities
    On Christmas Eve, Christians in Gaza steel themselves for a holiday separated from children and relatives in the West Bank



    Christians in Gaza say they feel like 'yo-yos' as Israel keeps changing decisions on the Christmas permits

    Christians in Gaza say they feel like 'yo-yos' as Israel keeps changing decisions on the Christmas permits ( Photography by Bel Trew )
    Sitting in the shadow of the Christmas tree by Gaza’s only Catholic church, Diana, a mother-of-three, waits for news of whether or not Israel will allow her to see her children.
    She has been separated from her son Jawdat for four years. He moved to the occupied West Bank to find work, as youth unemployment in Gaza soared to 70 per cent.
    Diana has not seen her youngest daughter Sara since she began studying in Jordan two years ago.

    In fact, for the last three years, Diana herself has been barred from crossing into Israel for regular cancer remission check-ups.
    Her eldest daughter, Elaine, 19, who sits beside her fiddling with a crucifix necklace, is also waiting. She is engaged to a Christian man, who lives in the West Bank.
    The young couple met online in 2018 but have only seen each other in the flesh once, in Jordan, when Elaine was allowed to attend a girl’s scouts event.
    Christmas and Easter are the few times a year Gaza’s dwindling Christian population can apply for permits to leave the 35-mile long enclave.
    The special permissions are supposed to allow the 1,000 or so of Gaza’s Christians to worship in Bethlehem or Jerusalem, to see family in other parts of the occupied Palestinian Territories, or to briefly travel abroad.
    But the overwhelming majority of families are never granted the papers to cross.
    Mid interview, one of the church officials breaks the news that only 192 of the 950 permits submitted have been approved. Diana and her daughter were not among the lucky few.
    “I’m 45 years old but my heart feels 90,” says the breast cancer survivor, struggling to put on a brave face.
    “Our family is separated because of the occupation, but what did we do to deserve this?”
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    She adds: “They always say security reasons. But we’re Christians. We don’t have weapons we don’t have any ties to any armed group.”
    Elaine, downcast, says she fears she will never be able to marry.

    Diana, a breast cancer survivor, hasn’t seen her son in four years (Bel Trew)
    “I feel awful all the time my fiance and I can’t share moments together,” she says. “I just want to live with him. All we do is dream of permits.”
    Gaza has been closed off to the world since Israel and Egypt shuttered the borders after Hamas violently seized control of the Strip in 2007.
    It is geographically separated from the West Bank, where Bethlehem is, and so crossing from one area to the other requires hard-to-get permission from the Israelis, who accuse Hamas of abusing the permit system to plan attacks against its citizens.
    This year, the Israeli authorities have flip-flopped on the Christmas permits so much so that Christians told The Independent they felt like yo-yos.
    The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (Cogat), the body that deals with the permissions, originally said in early December they would grant no holiday permits.
    At the weekend, 192 permissions were suddenly issued. However, families said many of them were random: a husband was approved but not the wife, or the children were approved but without the parents.
    Cogat then announced on Facebook late on Sunday it would consider all permits, pending security assessments “in recognition of the Christmas holiday”, but gave no further information.
    Diana is still not hopeful.

    Christians say 192 permits have been granted on Christmas Eve (Bel Trew)
    “It feels like collective punishment. And it’s so random. Young children, sometimes babies, get permission but their mothers don’t,” she adds.
    Israeli rights groups say over the last few years it has become increasingly hard for all Gazans, whether Muslim or Christian, to secure permission to leave the Strip. They say this is a deliberate move by the Israeli authorities to divide the Palestinian territories, thereby decreasing the chance of a future independent state.
    Miriam Marmur who works for Gisha, an Israeli NGO working on Palestinian freedom of movement, says this year the Israeli authorities have been particularly last minute with the Christmas papers, calling it “confusion by design”.
    “As we’ve seen recently, Israel is increasingly cracking down on movement between Gaza and West Bank as part of a policy of separation. The goals are political in nature,” she tells The Independent.
    “Israel is trying to minimise movement and freedoms using bureaucratic violence.”
    Cogat also tried to ban permits at Easter but eventually granted 300, Marmur continues.
    “It is definitely getting worse each year,” she adds.
    Back in Gaza, the church authorities are struggling to boost morale.
    “Christmas means Bethlehem like Easter means Jerusalem and there are so many families separated between Gaza and the West Bank. The feeling here is one of sadness,” says Father Gabriel Romanelli, from Brazil, who is the parish priest of Gaza’s Catholic church.
    15 years ago, there were 3,500 Christians in Gaza, now there are barely 1,000 left. We fear they will all leave
    Father Gabriel, Gaza’s only Catholic church
    “We pray for peace and justice. We are trying to plan the church service on Christmas Day and funs things like bingo,” he adds.
    He says that the increasingly tough conditions in Gaza have sparked an exodus of young Christians.
    “Fifteen years ago, there were 3,500 Christians in Gaza, now there are barely 1,000 left,” he says. “We fear they will all leave.”
    Mina (not his real name), a young Christian youth activist from Gaza, left for the West Bank town of Jericho last Christmas.
    Like many young Gazan Christians, he used a temporary Christmas permit to leave Gaza for good.
    “I didn’t want to leave Gaza, I had no choice with the lack of work and life opportunities,” he explains.
    “The Israelis consider me to be illegally staying in the West Bank since my permit requires me to go home, but how else am I supposed to live?”
    It is tough to be Christian in Gaza, which is largely controlled by Islamist groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

    A Christmas store in Gaza city (Bel Trew)
    Although Christians in Gaza do not face persecution as communities do in countries like Egypt, openly practising Christianity can be a taboo in Gaza’s conservative society.
    One Christian girl, who asked to remain anonymous, spoke of harassment from Muslim youth for wearing a crucifix or not covering her hair with a hijab, the Islamic headscarf.
    Hanna Maher, 40, who works for Gaza’s Baptist church, says it is hard to secure work or political positions with the Hamas-dominated authorities, while options of marriage are minimal.
    “The situation for all Gazans is tough, but as a minority it can be trickier,” he adds.
    At Gaza’s Orthodox church, weathered photos plaster the wall of Santa parades and Christmas scout performances in central Gaza in 1998, which would not be possible now.
    Older Christian residents recall days where they would erect Christmas trees in Gaza City’s main square.
    On Christmas Eve, they would jump in the car and complete the hour-and-a-half drive to Bethlehem for mass.

    Photos of Christmas in Gaza in 1998 where Santa parades were permitted before Hamas ran the enclave (Bel Trew)
    These are all memories of the past.
    “My wife hasn’t received a permit in six years, she has family in Bethlehem,” says Kaamil Ayat, a spokesman for the Orthodox church.
    “Now the permit situation is worse than it has ever been in terms of the numbers granted and the delay. We genuinely don’t know why.
     
    Jorje

    Jorje

    Legendary Member
    Issawiya — the East Jerusalem neighborhood at the forefront of occupation
    News
    Miriam Deprez on December 23, 2019 1 Comments

    Israeli forces stand guard as a bulldozer demolishes a Palestinian building in Issawiya which does not have the necessary Israeli permits, December 17, 2019. (Photo: Muhammed Qarout Idkaidek/ APA Images)

    Israeli forces stand guard as a bulldozer demolishes a Palestinian building in Issawiya which does not have the necessary Israeli permits, December 17, 2019. (Photo: Muhammed Qarout Idkaidek/ APA Images)

    
    It’s been six months of unrest in Issawiya. Excessive police brutality and indiscriminate daily raids by Israeli forces with no justification have left residents of the East Jerusalem district exhausted – and there is no end in sight.
    “What’s been happening is very violent police raids, by very violent policemen who lack any values,” Ahmad Adam Masri, an Issawiya local described of the campaign that residents say is the most brutal and prolonged in living memory. “What goes on in the alleys of Issawiya is oppression, is suffering, is injustice and we’ve been tolerating it for six months.”
    Since June, dozens of heavily armed soldiers from the border and riot police units have entered Issawiya almost every evening, staking out positions around the district under the pretext of security.
    According to B’Tselem spokesperson Amit Gilutz, the harassment varies with intensity. Israeli forces have been “detaining hundreds of residents, including minors, issuing traffic tickets for spurious infractions, serving of house demolition orders, and acts of violence,” Gilutz told Mondoweiss in a statement.
    Palestinians throw stones during clashes with Israeli police in Jerusalem's neighborhood of Issawiya on June 28, 2019, a day after a Palestinian was shot and killed by police during a protest in the same neighborhood. (Hazem Bader/AFP)

    Palestinians throw stones during clashes with Israeli police in Jerusalem’s neighborhood of Issawiya on June 28, 2019, a day after a Palestinian was shot and killed by police during a protest in the same neighborhood. (Hazem Bader/AFP)
    The 18,000 residents must grit their teeth and endure the harassment, or face repercussions. At the height of clashes between June and August, nearly 350 arrests were made, resulting in just five indictments.
    Locals suggest the number of arrests is as high as 600, with child arrests in Issawiya making up 41 per cent of all child detentions recorded in East Jerusalem before September this year.
    Conservative figures of 137 injuries have been recorded, compared to four Israeli soldiers.
    On June 27 clashes piqued when 21-year-old Palestinian Mohammad ‘Abeid was fatally shot in the chest at close range with live ammunition after hurling fireworks at police officers.
    The UN concluded that ‘Abeid did not pose a threat of death or serious injury to Israeli forces and raises “concerns about excessive use of force in violation of the right to life”.
    This violent campaign does not take place in a vacuum, Gilutz explained, stating the ultimate goal is to make life unbearable for Palestinians in Issawiya. “It is an inseparable part of Israeli policy throughout East Jerusalem, which treats the Palestinian residents of the city as unwelcome guests in their own homes, and seeks to perpetuate a demographic majority for Jews.”
    The Israeli settlement of French Hill in East Jerusalem on Sept. 09, 2013 as Israeli bulldozers began constructing a dividing zone between Issawiya and the settlement. (Photo: Saeed Qaq/ APA Images)

    The Israeli settlement of French Hill in East Jerusalem on Sept. 09, 2013 as Israeli bulldozers began constructing a dividing zone between Issawiya and the settlement. (Photo: Saeed Qaq/ APA Images)
    Located just a few kilometres northeast of Jerusalems’ Old City, Issawiya lies sandwiched between French hill and Tsameret HaBira settlements, the Hebrew University campus, and Highway 1, a road which connects the settlers in the occupied West Bank to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Due to this, Issawiya’s historic land borders have shrunk dramatically since 1967 from 12,500 dunams to just 2,000 today.
    Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967, a move deemed by a vast majority of the international community as illegal under international law. The city remains a crux of the Israel-Palestine conflict, with each side claiming it for their future capital.
    Masri has felt firsthand the brunt of Israel’s discriminatory policies towards East Jerusalemites, explaining how the police “violently attacked” him after they demanded he closes his phone shop, to which he refused. “This is the reason why a week later they came back to make amends and punish me for it… they’re violent for the sake of being violent.”
    “[These] brutality violent riot and border policemen cannot accept the fact that a resident of Issawiya is demanding dignity and standing their ground, demanding the right to maintain their property.”
    “What they’re trying to do is put the residents of Issawiya to bed and, when I say ‘to bed’, I think you know what I mean,” Masri said. “I apologise for being vulgar and implying that they are going to rape us, but they taught us vulgarism, they taught us brutality.”
    Body camera footage emerged in October of border police officers stationed in Issawiya speaking amongst themselves, acknowledging the operation is used to provoke the district “for nothing”. One officer was recorded saying, “our policy [here] is screwed up from the outset,” to which a colleague replies in the affirmative, that the goal is to “cause more problems”.
    Another resident, Mohammad Abu Hommos, who has been assaulted seven times, feels the neighbourhood has turned into a ghetto. “Issawiya is now like a test lab,” he explained. “They test house arrests, child interrogations, they use us as a training field for what police should do in their work.”
    Abu Hommos believes the clashes began as a result of a smear campaign by Israeli police accusing Issawiya residents of attacking cars on the highway to the Ma’ale Adumim settlement and the nearby Hadassah hospital with stones and Molotov cocktails.
    Abu Hommos vehemently refutes the allegations. “We would never attack the hospital,” he said, explaining the attacks were in fact directed at police cameras outside the hospital. “They want to portray us in a certain way, we would never attack hospitals or doctors,” he stressed.
    Activists from left-wing Jewish-Israeli groups Free Jerusalem, All That’s Left, and Ir Amim have been sending teams each night to document the harassment. They also hope their presence reduces the level of police violence.
    One of the activists working with Ir Amim, Aviv Tatarsky, told Mondoweiss that while police brutality is nothing new in East Jerusalem, the escalation in Issawiya is unprecedented compared to other districts.
    Tatarsky speculated the start of the violence correlated with the new Jerusalem District Chief Doron Yedid coming into office in February. “The new police chief that decided he will send his soldiers day after day, night after night, to disrupt life in the neighborhood.”
    “Since he came to power, very quickly we saw the change. He’s not trying to achieve anything, he’s not trying the arrest anyone. There’s no goal that he can trace and say ‘I’m going to achieve this’ and then I’m gonna stop.”
    “There is no good answer to why this is happening,” he continued. “And you can see the psychological damage this is having, especially on children.” Israeli authorities have apprehended children as young as five years old over allegations of their stone-throwing, with parents being summoned over their actions.
    “I know for myself if such police behaviour would be in my street, then me and my neighbours we would have lost it a long time ago,” Tatarsky added.
    In an attempt to draw attention to the raids, Israeli activists have staged several protests in front of Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon’s home in West Jerusalem, demanding his intervention to end the police violence.
    “He did not only not intervene but wasn’t even willing for people to protest in front of his home as if it has nothing to do with him. So he sent the police to get rid of us,” which Tartarsky said led to the detention of himself and four other activists.
    “You know Israel calls itself a democracy,” Tatarsky derided. “But any Palestinian that would hear me saying these things would either smile bitterly or just laugh because they never have this freedom anyway. So if you now stand up in solidarity with Palestinians, you also don’t get this freedom.”
    The Jerusalem District police were contacted for comment.
     
    Dynamis

    Dynamis

    Well-Known Member
    Orange Room Supporter
    The nightmare before Christmas: Gaza’s Christians await permits to see loved ones at mercy of Israeli authorities
    On Christmas Eve, Christians in Gaza steel themselves for a holiday separated from children and relatives in the West Bank



    Christians in Gaza say they feel like 'yo-yos' as Israel keeps changing decisions on the Christmas permits'yo-yos' as Israel keeps changing decisions on the Christmas permits

    Christians in Gaza say they feel like 'yo-yos' as Israel keeps changing decisions on the Christmas permits ( Photography by Bel Trew )
    Sitting in the shadow of the Christmas tree by Gaza’s only Catholic church, Diana, a mother-of-three, waits for news of whether or not Israel will allow her to see her children.
    She has been separated from her son Jawdat for four years. He moved to the occupied West Bank to find work, as youth unemployment in Gaza soared to 70 per cent.
    Diana has not seen her youngest daughter Sara since she began studying in Jordan two years ago.

    In fact, for the last three years, Diana herself has been barred from crossing into Israel for regular cancer remission check-ups.
    Her eldest daughter, Elaine, 19, who sits beside her fiddling with a crucifix necklace, is also waiting. She is engaged to a Christian man, who lives in the West Bank.
    The young couple met online in 2018 but have only seen each other in the flesh once, in Jordan, when Elaine was allowed to attend a girl’s scouts event.
    Christmas and Easter are the few times a year Gaza’s dwindling Christian population can apply for permits to leave the 35-mile long enclave.
    The special permissions are supposed to allow the 1,000 or so of Gaza’s Christians to worship in Bethlehem or Jerusalem, to see family in other parts of the occupied Palestinian Territories, or to briefly travel abroad.
    But the overwhelming majority of families are never granted the papers to cross.
    Mid interview, one of the church officials breaks the news that only 192 of the 950 permits submitted have been approved. Diana and her daughter were not among the lucky few.
    “I’m 45 years old but my heart feels 90,” says the breast cancer survivor, struggling to put on a brave face.
    “Our family is separated because of the occupation, but what did we do to deserve this?”
    Independent news email
    Only the best news in your inbox
    Continue
    Register with your social account or click here to log in
    I would like to receive morning headlinesMonday - Friday plus breaking news alerts by email
    She adds: “They always say security reasons. But we’re Christians. We don’t have weapons we don’t have any ties to any armed group.”
    Elaine, downcast, says she fears she will never be able to marry.

    Diana, a breast cancer survivor, hasn’t seen her son in four years (Bel Trew)
    “I feel awful all the time my fiance and I can’t share moments together,” she says. “I just want to live with him. All we do is dream of permits.”
    Gaza has been closed off to the world since Israel and Egypt shuttered the borders after Hamas violently seized control of the Strip in 2007.
    It is geographically separated from the West Bank, where Bethlehem is, and so crossing from one area to the other requires hard-to-get permission from the Israelis, who accuse Hamas of abusing the permit system to plan attacks against its citizens.
    This year, the Israeli authorities have flip-flopped on the Christmas permits so much so that Christians told The Independent they felt like yo-yos.
    The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (Cogat), the body that deals with the permissions, originally said in early December they would grant no holiday permits.
    At the weekend, 192 permissions were suddenly issued. However, families said many of them were random: a husband was approved but not the wife, or the children were approved but without the parents.
    Cogat then announced on Facebook late on Sunday it would consider all permits, pending security assessments “in recognition of the Christmas holiday”, but gave no further information.
    Diana is still not hopeful.

    Christians say 192 permits have been granted on Christmas Eve (Bel Trew)
    “It feels like collective punishment. And it’s so random. Young children, sometimes babies, get permission but their mothers don’t,” she adds.
    Israeli rights groups say over the last few years it has become increasingly hard for all Gazans, whether Muslim or Christian, to secure permission to leave the Strip. They say this is a deliberate move by the Israeli authorities to divide the Palestinian territories, thereby decreasing the chance of a future independent state.
    Miriam Marmur who works for Gisha, an Israeli NGO working on Palestinian freedom of movement, says this year the Israeli authorities have been particularly last minute with the Christmas papers, calling it “confusion by design”.
    “As we’ve seen recently, Israel is increasingly cracking down on movement between Gaza and West Bank as part of a policy of separation. The goals are political in nature,” she tells The Independent.
    “Israel is trying to minimise movement and freedoms using bureaucratic violence.”
    Cogat also tried to ban permits at Easter but eventually granted 300, Marmur continues.
    “It is definitely getting worse each year,” she adds.
    Back in Gaza, the church authorities are struggling to boost morale.
    “Christmas means Bethlehem like Easter means Jerusalem and there are so many families separated between Gaza and the West Bank. The feeling here is one of sadness,” says Father Gabriel Romanelli, from Brazil, who is the parish priest of Gaza’s Catholic church.

    Father Gabriel, Gaza’s only Catholic church
    “We pray for peace and justice. We are trying to plan the church service on Christmas Day and funs things like bingo,” he adds.
    He says that the increasingly tough conditions in Gaza have sparked an exodus of young Christians.
    “Fifteen years ago, there were 3,500 Christians in Gaza, now there are barely 1,000 left,” he says. “We fear they will all leave.”
    Mina (not his real name), a young Christian youth activist from Gaza, left for the West Bank town of Jericho last Christmas.
    Like many young Gazan Christians, he used a temporary Christmas permit to leave Gaza for good.
    “I didn’t want to leave Gaza, I had no choice with the lack of work and life opportunities,” he explains.
    “The Israelis consider me to be illegally staying in the West Bank since my permit requires me to go home, but how else am I supposed to live?”
    It is tough to be Christian in Gaza, which is largely controlled by Islamist groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

    A Christmas store in Gaza city (Bel Trew)
    Although Christians in Gaza do not face persecution as communities do in countries like Egypt, openly practising Christianity can be a taboo in Gaza’s conservative society.
    One Christian girl, who asked to remain anonymous, spoke of harassment from Muslim youth for wearing a crucifix or not covering her hair with a hijab, the Islamic headscarf.
    Hanna Maher, 40, who works for Gaza’s Baptist church, says it is hard to secure work or political positions with the Hamas-dominated authorities, while options of marriage are minimal.
    “The situation for all Gazans is tough, but as a minority it can be trickier,” he adds.
    At Gaza’s Orthodox church, weathered photos plaster the wall of Santa parades and Christmas scout performances in central Gaza in 1998, which would not be possible now.
    Older Christian residents recall days where they would erect Christmas trees in Gaza City’s main square.
    On Christmas Eve, they would jump in the car and complete the hour-and-a-half drive to Bethlehem for mass.

    Photos of Christmas in Gaza in 1998 where Santa parades were permitted before Hamas ran the enclave (Bel Trew)
    These are all memories of the past.
    “My wife hasn’t received a permit in six years, she has family in Bethlehem,” says Kaamil Ayat, a spokesman for the Orthodox church.
    “Now the permit situation is worse than it has ever been in terms of the numbers granted and the delay. We genuinely don’t know why.
    Posted the same situation. We agree on Something, Jorge! Yeah!
     
    proIsrael-nonIsraeli

    proIsrael-nonIsraeli

    Legendary Member
    The nightmare before Christmas: Gaza’s Christians await permits to see loved ones at mercy of Israeli authorities
    On Christmas Eve, Christians in Gaza steel themselves for a holiday separated from children and relatives in the West Bank



    Christians in Gaza say they feel like 'yo-yos' as Israel keeps changing decisions on the Christmas permits'yo-yos' as Israel keeps changing decisions on the Christmas permits

    Christians in Gaza say they feel like 'yo-yos' as Israel keeps changing decisions on the Christmas permits ( Photography by Bel Trew )
    Sitting in the shadow of the Christmas tree by Gaza’s only Catholic church, Diana, a mother-of-three, waits for news of whether or not Israel will allow her to see her children.
    She has been separated from her son Jawdat for four years. He moved to the occupied West Bank to find work, as youth unemployment in Gaza soared to 70 per cent.
    Diana has not seen her youngest daughter Sara since she began studying in Jordan two years ago.

    In fact, for the last three years, Diana herself has been barred from crossing into Israel for regular cancer remission check-ups.
    Her eldest daughter, Elaine, 19, who sits beside her fiddling with a crucifix necklace, is also waiting. She is engaged to a Christian man, who lives in the West Bank.
    The young couple met online in 2018 but have only seen each other in the flesh once, in Jordan, when Elaine was allowed to attend a girl’s scouts event.
    Christmas and Easter are the few times a year Gaza’s dwindling Christian population can apply for permits to leave the 35-mile long enclave.
    The special permissions are supposed to allow the 1,000 or so of Gaza’s Christians to worship in Bethlehem or Jerusalem, to see family in other parts of the occupied Palestinian Territories, or to briefly travel abroad.
    But the overwhelming majority of families are never granted the papers to cross.
    Mid interview, one of the church officials breaks the news that only 192 of the 950 permits submitted have been approved. Diana and her daughter were not among the lucky few.
    “I’m 45 years old but my heart feels 90,” says the breast cancer survivor, struggling to put on a brave face.
    “Our family is separated because of the occupation, but what did we do to deserve this?”
    Independent news email
    Only the best news in your inbox
    Continue
    Register with your social account or click here to log in
    I would like to receive morning headlinesMonday - Friday plus breaking news alerts by email
    She adds: “They always say security reasons. But we’re Christians. We don’t have weapons we don’t have any ties to any armed group.”
    Elaine, downcast, says she fears she will never be able to marry.

    Diana, a breast cancer survivor, hasn’t seen her son in four years (Bel Trew)
    “I feel awful all the time my fiance and I can’t share moments together,” she says. “I just want to live with him. All we do is dream of permits.”
    Gaza has been closed off to the world since Israel and Egypt shuttered the borders after Hamas violently seized control of the Strip in 2007.
    It is geographically separated from the West Bank, where Bethlehem is, and so crossing from one area to the other requires hard-to-get permission from the Israelis, who accuse Hamas of abusing the permit system to plan attacks against its citizens.
    This year, the Israeli authorities have flip-flopped on the Christmas permits so much so that Christians told The Independent they felt like yo-yos.
    The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (Cogat), the body that deals with the permissions, originally said in early December they would grant no holiday permits.
    At the weekend, 192 permissions were suddenly issued. However, families said many of them were random: a husband was approved but not the wife, or the children were approved but without the parents.
    Cogat then announced on Facebook late on Sunday it would consider all permits, pending security assessments “in recognition of the Christmas holiday”, but gave no further information.
    Diana is still not hopeful.

    Christians say 192 permits have been granted on Christmas Eve (Bel Trew)
    “It feels like collective punishment. And it’s so random. Young children, sometimes babies, get permission but their mothers don’t,” she adds.
    Israeli rights groups say over the last few years it has become increasingly hard for all Gazans, whether Muslim or Christian, to secure permission to leave the Strip. They say this is a deliberate move by the Israeli authorities to divide the Palestinian territories, thereby decreasing the chance of a future independent state.
    Miriam Marmur who works for Gisha, an Israeli NGO working on Palestinian freedom of movement, says this year the Israeli authorities have been particularly last minute with the Christmas papers, calling it “confusion by design”.
    “As we’ve seen recently, Israel is increasingly cracking down on movement between Gaza and West Bank as part of a policy of separation. The goals are political in nature,” she tells The Independent.
    “Israel is trying to minimise movement and freedoms using bureaucratic violence.”
    Cogat also tried to ban permits at Easter but eventually granted 300, Marmur continues.
    “It is definitely getting worse each year,” she adds.
    Back in Gaza, the church authorities are struggling to boost morale.
    “Christmas means Bethlehem like Easter means Jerusalem and there are so many families separated between Gaza and the West Bank. The feeling here is one of sadness,” says Father Gabriel Romanelli, from Brazil, who is the parish priest of Gaza’s Catholic church.

    Father Gabriel, Gaza’s only Catholic church
    “We pray for peace and justice. We are trying to plan the church service on Christmas Day and funs things like bingo,” he adds.
    He says that the increasingly tough conditions in Gaza have sparked an exodus of young Christians.
    “Fifteen years ago, there were 3,500 Christians in Gaza, now there are barely 1,000 left,” he says. “We fear they will all leave.”
    Mina (not his real name), a young Christian youth activist from Gaza, left for the West Bank town of Jericho last Christmas.
    Like many young Gazan Christians, he used a temporary Christmas permit to leave Gaza for good.
    “I didn’t want to leave Gaza, I had no choice with the lack of work and life opportunities,” he explains.
    “The Israelis consider me to be illegally staying in the West Bank since my permit requires me to go home, but how else am I supposed to live?”
    It is tough to be Christian in Gaza, which is largely controlled by Islamist groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

    A Christmas store in Gaza city (Bel Trew)
    Although Christians in Gaza do not face persecution as communities do in countries like Egypt, openly practising Christianity can be a taboo in Gaza’s conservative society.
    One Christian girl, who asked to remain anonymous, spoke of harassment from Muslim youth for wearing a crucifix or not covering her hair with a hijab, the Islamic headscarf.
    Hanna Maher, 40, who works for Gaza’s Baptist church, says it is hard to secure work or political positions with the Hamas-dominated authorities, while options of marriage are minimal.
    “The situation for all Gazans is tough, but as a minority it can be trickier,” he adds.
    At Gaza’s Orthodox church, weathered photos plaster the wall of Santa parades and Christmas scout performances in central Gaza in 1998, which would not be possible now.
    Older Christian residents recall days where they would erect Christmas trees in Gaza City’s main square.
    On Christmas Eve, they would jump in the car and complete the hour-and-a-half drive to Bethlehem for mass.

    Photos of Christmas in Gaza in 1998 where Santa parades were permitted before Hamas ran the enclave (Bel Trew)
    These are all memories of the past.
    “My wife hasn’t received a permit in six years, she has family in Bethlehem,” says Kaamil Ayat, a spokesman for the Orthodox church.
    “Now the permit situation is worse than it has ever been in terms of the numbers granted and the delay. We genuinely don’t know why.
    "Israel allows Christians from Gaza to visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem"

    "Israel allows Christians from Gaza to visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem"
     
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