There are about 1,000 Christians living in Gaza today. Twice a year, at Christmas and Easter, Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) publishes arbitrary quotas for “holiday permits” to be granted by Israel to Christians in the West Bank and Gaza, ostensibly to allow Christian families to mark the occasion together and visit holy sites. In reality, sometimes, COGAT does not issue permits at all. Often, some family members receive permits but not others, and age restrictions prevent much of the community from even applying for the permits. We recall that Israel also imposes a blanket ban on travel by Muslims from Gaza to Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

In March 2020, Israel imposed the “coronavirus closure” at Erez Crossing, a further tightening of the “ordinary” closure it has enforced since 2007. On the Easter and Christmas holidays marked since then, no travel permits were issued to Christians.

Every year, Gisha contacts COGAT to request that it publish its decision on holiday permits for the Easter and Christmas holidays ahead of time. With Christmas fast approaching, we wrote (Hebrew) to COGAT with the same request. Adv. Moria Friedman Sharir wrote: “This year, exiting Gaza to celebrate the holiday at the holy sites and to visit relatives is of particular importance given such visits have been prevented for a long time, even in patently humanitarian cases such as a severe illness, a wedding, or death of a family member.”

A few days later, COGAT announced that it has reinstated a quota of 500 permits for Christian residents of Gaza to exit the Strip and visit family in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, during the Christmas season. A further quota of 200 permits will be made available for residents wishing to travel abroad. Members of the local Christian community have begun filing applications for travel permits for the Christmas holidays. So far, about 900 applications have been submitted, much more than the arbitrary permit quota set by Israel. Following COGAT’s announcement, we sent another letter (Hebrew) requesting that the quota be expanded to enable Christian families to mark the holiday together.

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#Right_to_Movement campaign – Very last chance to buy art!

We would like to thank all who participated in the campaign and purchased art, donated by more than 100 Israeli and Palestinian artists in solidarity with residents of the Strip.

We also thank Fountain Art Collective, the Culture of Solidarity group, and the Gelada Studio, who initiated, set up, and ran the heart-warming campaign.

For those of you who missed it, this is your very last chance to buy a print: