GAZA CITY: Christians of Gaza burry their dead as international media ignores raise voices for Gazan Muslims ignoring the plight of Gazan Christians.
Dr. Munir S. Kakish, Chairman Council of Local Evangelical Churches in the Holy Land, told in an email interview that “one piece of information often not known is that there are Christians in Palestine, Gaza and the West Bank. There have been Christian Arabs here since the time of Jesus,” he pointed out.
Amid blood, rubble, dead bodies and destruction; the Palestinian Christians burry their first dead. A Palestinian Christian Jalila Ayyad’s widower George still had a black eye and bloodstains on his shirt as he processed ahead of her coffin, hours after the air strike that destroyed their home. Jalila, 60, was the first Christian casualty of the bloody Gaza war. She has two sons, one of them could not attend her funeral because he is in hospital with serious wounds suffered in Sunday afternoon’s strike.
She was laid in a simple white coffin with a black cross; carried respectfully down the marble stairs of the cemetery, and into the chapel of the Saint Porphyrius Greek Orthodox church in Gaza City. Her nephew Fuad Ayyad said, “She died under the rubble. Both her legs were crushed after the house collapsed with her, her husband and son inside.” As her coffin was set down beneath a flamboyant ceiling of gold leaf images of saints with their names written in Arabic and Greek an Orthodox priest in a black gown read passages from the Bible and swung an incense receptacle.
As her funeral proceeded her relatives sang “Hallelujah” as the afternoon call to prayer rose from the minaret of an adjacent mosque while an icon of the Virgin Mary was placed upon Jalila’s coffin. This funeral was a depressing and polite affair, but affair took on a political facet when one member of the parish picked up a microphone and angrily said, “This Palestinian Arab Christian woman died in shelling. There are massacres here every day. This is what happens to the Palestinian people. Where’s the world, where’s the international community in all this? The bombs hit and kill — they don’t discriminate between civilian or militant.”
Her relative, George Ayyad, negated the idea that Jalila’s death would force more of Christian population out of Gaza. “If we leave, anyway, where are we supposed to go? This is my homeland. We Christians have been in Gaza for more than 1,000 years, and we’re staying,” he said.
Christians in Gaza have decreased in number to around 1,500, most of them Greek Orthodox, out of a predominantly Sunni Muslim population of 1.7 million in the city. The Christian community in Gaza City has been shrinking because of both conflict and unemployment although once thrived.
The latest Gaza conflict began on July 8 when Israel launched a military operation aimed at stamping out rocket fire from the Strip and also at destroying Hamas tunnels used to launch attacks inside the Jewish state. The war has killed more than 1,030 Palestinians, most of them civilians including a large number of women and children, including Christians also, 43 Israeli soldiers and three civilians inside Israel.