Gazan Catholics in West Bank say inability to leave is mixed blessing

JERUSALEM – For some Gazan Catholics, it was a mixed blessing being stuck in the West Bank as Israel attacked the Gaza Strip.

Several members of Gaza’s Holy Family Parish, who asked not to be named, were given exit permits to spend the Christmas holiday in the West Bank with relatives days before the attack began Dec. 27.

For those who had permits for the entire family, it is a blessing they are all together. But for the others who had family left in Gaza, it is a troublesome time.

At least 370 Palestinians and four Israelis have been killed as homes were destroyed and hundreds were injured by the Israeli attacks in an attempt to stop Hamas rocket attacks into southern Israel. Hamas is the Palestinian paramilitary organization that runs the Gaza Strip.

A source told Catholic News Service Dec. 29 that, although he was happy his children were spared the traumatic experience, he worried about his relatives and his home in Gaza.

“I want to return to my home and my work. The situation is very difficult,” he said in a telephone interview.

Noting he was in touch with friends and relatives every hour, he said they did not talk politics but only of their personal situation.

The Israeli authorities had been in touch with the families in the West Bank to extend their permits which had originally been issued for 10 days, but the source said he did not know how long the extension would be.

Other men who went to the West Bank for the holidays with their older children while their wives remained in Gaza with the younger children said they were glued to the television and called their wives and children often to try to keep them calm.

“The situation is very bad. Hamas is all over the place and it is very dangerous,” said a source whose teenage son had remained alone in Gaza with cousins. He said Hamas institutions and installations were scattered throughout Gaza among residential and business areas.

Another source said he hopes Israel “kills” Hamas.

“I want to live in peace and Hamas is always causing problems. I want the borders to open and for things to be normal,” he said, noting that he was finally feeling the freedom of peace in the West Bank.

“I think 100 percent of the people in Gaza feel the same way but they are just afraid to say it. Hamas doesn’t like their fellow Muslims so you can imagine what it is like for Christians. Now I am worried about my family in Gaza but at the same time I am happy here,” he said.

He said Muslims harassed Christian men who visibly wore gold chains with crosses around their neck, calling them “women.”

He said he dreams of leaving the Gaza Strip and starting his business anew either in the West Bank or abroad.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.