Like other Eastern Orthodox faithful, Gaza's suffering Christians are celebrating January 7, 2009 as Christmas Day.
Gaza's Palestinian Christian roots are deep, with the area giving the Christian world the important group of philosophers and theologians called the Gaza Triad: Aeneas of Gaza (d. 518), Procopius of Gaza (d. 528) and Zacharias Scholasticus (d. circa 536), as well as Saints like St. Paul of Gaza (d. 308) and St. Vitalis of Gaza (d. 625). Yet despite the long Christian history in Gaza and Palestine as a whole going back to the time of Christ, the leadership of the powerful Evangelical Christian movement in the United States embraces Israel and the heresy of Christian Zionism, turning their backs on their Palestinian brothers and sisters. This is only one part of Israel's one sided Western support base, which not only allows Israel to act with impunity but, in the case of the United States, provides the weaponry Israel uses on civilians. This has led to the rise of Islamism and its persecution of Palestinian Christians. The Islamists of Hamas were originally supported by the Israelis as part of a strategy to undermine the secularist, pluralist Palestine Liberation Organization, which was supported by the Christian community. One effect was the ethnic cleansing of the Christians, who, in effect, were Palestine's middle class. The Islamist pressure came on top of the ethnic cleansing and institutional racism Christians have suffered, and continue to suffer, from Israel, a persecution Palestinian Christians experience along with Christians of other backgrounds, persecutions going back decades. Just before the creation of the State of Israel, Palestinian Christians, descendants of church congregations literally founded by Christ's Apostles, accounted for as much as 20% of the overall population, now down to about 8% of the non-Jewish population of Israel proper, and, at most, 2.4% in the Palestinian territories. In Gaza, a tiny Christian population of only between 2000 and 3000 souls persists out of Gaza's one and a half million Palestinians. In fact, most Palestinian Christians now live outside of Israel and Palestine. Christmas 2009 sees Gaza's remaining Christians under attack from Israel, joining together to worship in semi secret conditions similar to those of the Early Church.