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Israel revokes Easter travel permits for Gaza's Christians

1,000 Christians live in the Gaza Strip, which Israel has besieged since 2007. The majority of them are Orthodox Chirstians. Churches in Jerusalem have been vandalised and Christian tourists have found themselves being assaulted by Israeli extremists

April 12, 2023 at 5:42 pm

Israeli occupation authorities have revoked about 800 travel permits given to Christians who planned to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem.

In a statement, the Jerusalem churches rejected the ban on Christians from Gaza who planned to participate in the Holy Light ceremony at the Holy Sepulcher Church in Jerusalem’s Old City on Saturday.

The ceremony is part of the orthodox churches’ Easter celebrations this week according to the Julian calendar.

In a joint statement, the Status Quo Committee of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Custody of the Holy Land, and the Armenian Patriarchate rejected what they described as the “unreasonable restrictions” by Israeli police placed on the Holy Light ceremony.

“The celebration of the Holy Light Ceremony is a great moment that ties the faithful to the light of Jesus Christ. The ceremony has been faithfully taking place in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for nearly 2000 years attracting Christians from around the world,” the statement said.

“This year, after many attempts made in goodwill, we are not able to coordinate with the Israeli authorities, as they are enforcing unreasonable and unprecedented restrictions on access to the Holy Sepulcher.”

“These heavy restrictions will limit access to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Holy Light Ceremony. Police are unfairly and inappropriately placing the burden on the churches to issue invitations while tying the churches’ hands with unreasonable restrictions that will prevent worshippers from attending particularly our local community.”

In previous years, Israeli occupation forces placed barriers throughout the Old City that made it impossible for the local Christian communities to attend the Holy Light Ceremony in the Holy Sepulcher, “impeding their freedom to worship and witness the miracle of the resurrection,” said the statement.

The churches stressed that “we shall continue to uphold the status quo customs, and the ceremony will be held as customary for two millennia and all who wish to worship with us are invited to attend. With that made clear, we will leave the authorities to act as they will. The churches will freely worship and do so in peace.”

The police insist on limiting the number of worshippers in the church to 1,800 (1,000 Orthodox, 600 Armenians and 200 police) at a time when thousands attend the Holy Light ceremony as they wait for the light to come out from the tomb of Jesus Christ.

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