It’s Christmas in Gaza, so Wasem Abdo’s gift shop is overflowing with holiday-themed decorations.
“We’ve been doing this for 19 years,” said Abdo. “Muslim customers buy gifts to take to their Christian friends, who’ll do the same during the Muslim holidays.”
Twelve years ago, when the Israeli blockade began, an estimated 3,000 Christians lived in Gaza. That number has since dropped precipitously, with Christians emigrating due to political and economic pressures.
Those who remain can petition the Israeli government for permission to travel to the West Bank during the holidays, to visit the Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem. Israeli authorities often prevent them from going, however, citing security reasons.
For Christians and Muslims alike, Christmas is an opportunity to celebrate with charitable giving in Gaza, but it is also a time to enjoy the decorations and other traditions of the season, including for the children to have their picture taken with Santa Claus.
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