Security Divides Family on Easter

JERUSALEM (CNS) — For the fourth year in a row one Christian family in Jerusalem was unable to celebrate Easter together.

The family — whose elderly father asked not to be named in order to protect their identity — has not been able to share important holidays with their 37-year-old daughter since 2006. Although she has the proper documents to travel from Gaza, where she lives with her husband and children, the Israeli agency that issues travel permits made no promise that she could return home.

As a holder of a Jerusalem residency card, the woman is prohibited under Israeli law from entering Gaza despite the fact that she has lived there with her husband for 10 years and her four children were born there.

The Christian family’s three other adult children — two of whom live in Jerusalem and one in Ramallah — along with their grandchildren traditionally gather at the family home to celebrate Easter and Christmas. Despite a full house, there was a sense of emptiness among family members April 4 because the daughter in Gaza could not be with them.

“Her mother and I tried to visit her on Christmas in Gaza but our request for permission to enter Gaza was denied,” the father told Catholic News Service April 4.

Ironically, the daughter’s husband and her two older children were granted travel permits and were able to travel to Jerusalem for the Easter holiday. The daughter, however, remained in Gaza where she spent Easter with her two youngest children and her in-laws.

“It is a difficult life,” the father said.

The father and his wife call their daughter every evening via computer with a built-in video camera so they can see each other and get updates on how the grandchildren are growing. Every morning the daughter calls to speak with her mother as well, he said.

“We are happy to see our grandchildren (this holiday) and there are a lot of presents and hugs for them, but at the same time we are sad because we can’t see our daughter,” he said.

There are about 50 Jerusalem Christians married to Gaza spouses who cannot visit their families in Jerusalem. They cannot bring their families to live in Jerusalem permanently because Israel will not issue residency permits for their spouses and children who were born in Gaza.

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