After 8 years of waiting, young Christians get out of Gaza for Easter
GAZA – The Israeli authorities granted the necessary permits to Christians to leave the Gaza Strip in order to take part in Easter celebrations. 95% of those who had applied for an authorization received a positive answer.
It is the first time that the Catholic Church is directly involved in the process of getting exit permits. This role is usually fulfilled by the Orthodox Church. For Christmas and Easter holidays, requests to get permits should be made from the Israeli military authorities, which hold and watch over entries and exits at Erez check point. However, not everybody gets one. Young people in particular, namely those below 35 years, had never been included on the lists of people authorized to get into Israel.
The Parish Priest Fr. Mario de Silva explains the steps: “We had only one day to send our applications. On that day, February 20, 2016, 890 people showed up to register on the list of permit requests. Among them, there were many young people who didn’t have much hope. We worked the whole day with some ten persons to prepare all necessary documents”
“We had no idea of the number of permits which will be granted” says Don Mario. “To our astonishment we learnt few days ago that 822 people were approved, 25 others were added later. Altogether 95% of applicants. The most impressive thing was that the majority of young Christians got the permit. Some of them didn’t leave Gaza since 8 years. We praise the Lord for this grace”
The news raised enthusiasm among faithful of Gaza, rejoicing at the idea of having permits for 45 days. Many of them posted a picture of their permits on social media, an action expressing the level of frustration and despair which prevails since many years among people of Gaza, more particularly the youth. For Easter this year their dream comes true; to get out of prison!
Within the joy of visiting Jerusalem, logistical issues seem secondary – trip costs, accommodation, and also consequences on a pastoral level: will the Parish priest of the Holy Family in Gaza find his church empty during Easter celebrations?