Israel has issued an unprecedented number of travel permits to Gaza-based Christians this Easter. This is enabling them to spend the holiday with family members in the Israeli- occupied West Bank. For some, the reunion comes after years of separation.
The Abu Daoud household is buzzing. Eleven family members received permits to leave Gaza and spend Easter in the family matriarch’s West Bank home. They haven’t seen her for eight years.
"I've just met my great-grandson for the first time.”
Israeli authorities control the flow of people entering and leaving Gaza. They issued a record eight hundred and fifty permits this season.
Compared with ten years ago, the number of permits for travel in and out of Gaza has dropped by sixty-six percent. Nowadays, those who are getting permission are mostly aid workers, humanitarian cases and merchants.
The high number of permits is being credited to stringent efforts on the part of the church. But for the church, it’s a paradoxical situation
"I am afraid that if really they give all the Christian community permits to go out from Gaza, many of them will not return to Gaza,"said Father Raed Abu Sahliya, Latin patriarch, Bethlehem.
Father Raed is probably right. With an unemployment rate of forty percent and eighty percent of the population in need of aid, Gazans are powerless against Israel’s seige and Hamas oppression.
“It’s like being in a different world here. There’s nothing like this in Gaza. The freedom, the nature. It’s beautiful. And seeing my grandmother again after eight years. It’s wonderful,” said Michel Abu Daoud, Gaza resident.
For his grandmother too, who hopes it won’t take another eight years for all the family to be together.
"It’s very hard at holidays when all I have is memories."