Israel blasts claim Palestinian Christians lack Jerusalem access

Christian worshipers take part in the Holy Fire ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City last Easter. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

WASHINGTON (JWN and agencies)—Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren on Thursday condemned as “libelous” a report in The Washington Post claiming that Israel denies Palestinian Christians access to Jerusalem.

“It’s a libelous article,” Oren said. “The army and security services have created a situation where virtually any Christian in the West Bank can visit the Holy Places in Jerusalem on Good Friday and Easter.” He said that some 20,000 entry permits had been issued this year.

Stearns wrote that fewer than 3,000 permits were issued, “despite the overwhelming desire among 50,000 Palestinian Christians” to come to the city in Easter week, particularly for the annual Holy Fire ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City.

A Defense Ministry spokesman noted that only West Bank Christians suspected of posing a security risk are denied permits to enter Jerusalem at Easter. They also pointed out that Israel also issues hundreds of permits for the tiny Christian community in Gaza, which is controlled by the fundamentalist Islamist Hamas terrorist organization.

Oren stressed that “Israel is committed to enabling free access to the Holy Places and to maintaining our excellent relations with the Christian world.”