Photo of the Week: Santa Claus spotted in the Old City

Photo credit: Ahmad Gharabli
Date taken: December 22, 2014
Location: Old City, Jerusalem, West Bank, Palestine

A Santa Claus-dressed Palestinian man distributes Christmas trees to families in Jerusalem’s Old City as Palestinian Christians prepare to join others in celebration around the world.

Approximately 8% of the West Bank population is Christian, putting estimates at around 190,000 Palestinians in the territory celebrating Christmas today. In the Gaza Strip, the numbers are a lot lower but still significant: a little over 10,000 are Christian. For them, Christmas under Israeli control is different from Christmas elsewhere.

Similar to the way Israel beefs up its “security” when Muslim holy days roll around, Israel has reportedly denied access to one of Christianity’s most sacred sites, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, to Palestinians under 35 years of age.

Palestinian Christians in Gaza are routinely denied access to the West Bank where the holy site is located and Palestinian Christians in the West Bank must spend hours at checkpoints and street closures just to meet with family and friends and share in the prayers and festivities.

One commentator who goes by Marwa made a very disturbing realization in a status she uploaded to Facebook on Christmas Eve. “If Joseph and Mary tried to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem today, they would have to cross 11 Israeli checkpoints and a 30 foot high wall. The holidays are both a time for celebration and a time for reflection.” Indeed.

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