Many vulnerable members of the minority Christian community in Gaza need greater support to ensure food security
"As Christian families in Gaza, we live here as a minority. We have few job opportunities, especially for our grown children who cannot find work. The situation has forced most of them to emigrate outside the country," says Faten. The 65-year-old mother of four lives with her husband in Gaza City.
An estimated 50,000 Christians live in the occupied Palestinian territories, with only 1,000 to 3,000 living in Gaza.
For Christians throughout the world, Christmas is one of the most important times of year. It is a time for spreading joy, gathering with one’s loved ones, and gift-giving. But for hundreds of families in Gaza, the economic consequences of the blockade and constant threats of violence put a damper on even the cheeriest of spirits.
With the generous support of a private donor, last month Anera partnered with the Arab Orthodox Council of Churches Committee in Gaza to provide food vouchers to several hundred families. The assistance enables these Gazans to share nutritious, well-balanced meals while celebrating Christmas and the new year.
"Our living conditions are very difficult."
To help spread holiday cheer for families amid the widespread economic and livelihood challenges, Anera distributed 360 vouchers for food and basic needs to Christian families in Gaza. Valued at $50 each, the vouchers help provide food for these 360 households for one month. In previous food security interventions, Anera found that families expressed a preference for making their own choices. By distributing vouchers to grocery stores rather than food parcels, Anera is allowing families to choose what they need most with dignity and autonomy.
Faten and her family were among those who received these vouchers. "Our living conditions are very difficult,” Faten says. “Two of my children emigrated to Spain due to the lack of job opportunities."
"My husband is sick and cannot work. And the terrible economy and the blockade affects everything."
Low-income and poor Christian families must depend on foreign aid from the church, and occasionally some international institutions, to provide for their basic needs.
It is a community greatly in need of more support. According to the Arab Orthodox Council of Churches Committee in Gaza, there are 40 Christian houses in Gaza, mostly home to older residents, that urgently need renovations to make the structures safe for habitation.
Like the Muslim majority, Gaza’s Christians are mostly cut off from the world, including the Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth. Every year, the Israeli authorities grant a limited number of permits to travel to the West Bank and Israel to celebrate Christmas or Easter.
"The vouchers from Anera were excellent and allowed us to buy a variety of pantry essentials."
According to Faten, the economic conditions not only affect the livelihood of Christian families here, but also their ability to travel.
"In the past, we used to easily go to Bethlehem and Nazareth and spend the Christmas holidays. But now it is more difficult to get travel permits. And if we do get them, we can't go because of how expensive the trip has become."
"Life here barely allows us to get by — and there’s never anything extra."
Regarding her desire to continue distributing these vouchers to Christian and needy families in Gaza, Faten thanked Anera for its continuous support and hoped that it would include more people in the future.
“I thank Anera from the bottom of my heart. I hope this assistance will continue because it is very important in providing us with the groceries we need to put food on the table.”
"I hope this assistance will continue because it is very important in providing us with the groceries we need to put food on the table."
Haifa is a 65-year-old mother of five. Her two sons emigrated to Belgium and Greece years ago.
She says, "Although my sons are graduates from local universities and hold higher degrees in business administration, they decided to emigrate after years of suffering from unemployment."
Haifa tears up talking about her family's separation. "I cannot stand in the way of their future. In Gaza, there is no future. Our situation is the same as the rest of the families who live here."
Haifa's husband, Abu Tamer, 69, suffered a stroke in 2008 and remained unemployed. The family receives a pension of about 1,000 shekels per month, about $290.
Despite her difficult circumstances, Haifa keeps her situation in perspective. "It is true that the amount is small compared to our needs as elderly people for medicines, treatments for my husband and basic living expenses, but we are still better off than others."
"I hope that this assistance will continue every month for us and for many needy families. We are in dire need of it, and we wholeheartedly thank Anera for this great support."