We have read a lot about Israeli's treatment of the Palestinian people. But what is not being reported widely is the fact that the Israeli government is actively and systematically denying the right of Palestinian Christians the right to worship even though they have not (to my knowledge) been involved in the violent struggles by certain militant groups against Israel.
"It is not fair," said Rand Tawasha, a 21-year-old student from Birzeit University, near Ramallah, referring to Israeli restrictions on movement that often prohibit Christians' access to holy sites in nearby Jerusalem. The Holy City has been out of bounds for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967, when Israel defied international law to occupy and effectively annex East Jerusalem, home to the city’s most sacred sites. Today, Palestinians’ only means to reach the city is through a special permit issued by Israeli authorities.The regulations are written in such a way that it is very difficult to get such a permit. Many times, they don't give them out until it is too late.
This undermines the basis that Israel has to claim that it is a democratic system. Instead, it is treating its Palestinian Christian population with the same sort of discrimination that it is the rest of their Palestinian populations.
Tawasha is the only one in a family of five who received a permit this Easter season. "Having access to the Holy City or to churches there especially at this time of year is our normal right as Palestinians," she said. "It should not be associated with anything political."The end result is that it is breaking up families and shutting people out of the process. This is hardly surprising coming from a government whose foreign minister openly advocates the transfer and revocation of citizenship for its Palestinian minority within Israel.
This reality had drawn similar sentiments from official clergy. "It is very painful to see people coming from the whole world, from places [as far as] Japan, and they can easily reach the holy sites while our people and Christians from Iraq, Jordan and other [Arab] countries cannot," Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, told journalists in the lead-up to Easter celebrations.
Some of those who received permits this year still did not make it to Jerusalem to attend festivities for the holiest season in the Christian calendar since the rest of their family members were not granted them. "I feel bitter and left out," the Gaza-based mother said. "Many members of my family who are older managed to go. My husband, who is 36, received one but refused to leave me and the children behind."The policies are designed to reduce and eliminate the Christian population. The ironic thing is that:
This year, permits for Gaza's Christians were issued only to those who are younger than 16 and older than 35. Samer Shahin, also from Gaza City, said he and his 7-year-old twins received permits; his wife, didn't. "We have been denied the joys of Easter in Jerusalem," he said.
Many Christians have traditionally supported the goals and ideals of Zionism.But Israel's policies of perpetual warfare against the Palestinian people as well as its rules and regulations designed to exclude Palestinian Christians from a meaningful civil life means that they are not the democratic system of government that was first envisioned when Zionism was first through up. Instead, they are an apartheid dictatorship which is designed to confer special rights on its Jewish majority population while denying rights to Muslims and Christians.