The Gaza Strip’s small Christian minority expects a low-key celebration this year, as the tiny enclave reels from the crippling economic blockade and nears the one year anniversary of the start of the last Israeli invasion, which killed 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians.
Israel’s military has decided to allow 300 Gaza Christians out on a 24 hour pass to celebrate Christmas in the West Bank, but for the thousands left behind and for every Christian under the age of 35, which were considered a security risk, the trip isn’t an option. Nor is leaving to go any place else.
Instead these Gazans are holding religious ceremonies and exchanging what few gifts they have been able to smuggle in through the tunnel system to Egypt.
With the entire strip closed for years to all but the bare minimum of humanitarian aid Israel deigns to allow the international community to contribute, the strip’s economy has ground to a virtual halt, and the 1.5 million residents are left still struggling to pick up the pieces of the bombed out cities with an economy based entirely on tunnels which are themselves the subject of repeated attacks and Israeli outrage.
Egypt has vowed to put a stop to Gaza’s tunnel economy as well, though the exact details of this plan have not been made clear. Still, as Gaza’s Christians enjoy the chocolate Santa Clauses smuggled in through the tunnels they must wonder if even these meager treats will be available next year.