Restored Byzantine church reopens in Gaza

6. (Feature) Gaza Church 1
People attend the inauguration of Mukheitim archaeological site. (Photo: AFP)
JABALIA, Palestinian Territories — The remains of a fifth century Byzantine church were unveiled in Gaza on Monday following a three-year restoration project, with Hamas touting an embrace of their "Christian brothers".اضافة اعلان

The remains of a church and monastery were first discovered in Jabalia, a city in northern Gaza, in 1997 over an area spanning roughly 800sq.m.

The church floor is adorned with what Hamas officials described as "rare" mosaics, including depictions of animals, hunting scenes, and palm trees.

Archbishop Alexios attends the inauguration of Mukheitim archaeological site, which houses the remnants of a Byzantine church, in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip on January 24, 2022.(Photo: AFP)

Visitors can now gaze at the mosaics from newly-built elevated wooden walkways.

Gaza's tourism ministry said the church's original walls were adorned with religious texts written in ancient Greek dating from the era of Emperor Theodosius II, who ruled Byzantium from the year 408 to 450.

At a ceremony marking the site's reopening, the most senior Christian cleric in Gaza, Archbishop Alexios of Tiberias, recalled Christianity's long history in the coastal territory, noting that "monasticism began in the Gaza strip in the year 280."

But the number of Christians in Gaza has been in decline for years, many of them having emigrated, particularly after Hamas seized power in 2007.

According to local church officials, there remain only about 1,000 Christians in the enclave, compared to 7,000 before 2007.

Issam Al-Daalis, who heads the government works department in Gaza, said the site's restoration was an example of Hamas's "embracing" of its "Christian brothers in Gaza".

The restoration was carried out by French organization Premiere Urgence Internationale at a cost of almost $250,000. The British Council also supported the work.

About 2.3 million people live in Gaza, which has been blockaded by Israel since 2007.

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