GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Happily jumping around, Ilaa, 3, drops a couple of Christmas ornaments on the floor of Hadayana gift shop in Gaza’s al-Wahda neighborhood. Finally, she chooses the silver ornaments. Her mother, Bissan al-Qishawi, laughs at her daughter’s clumsiness as she helps her pick up the balls and Santa’s chocolates that scattered on the floor.
“We have a Christmas tree that I bought years back. We are buying new ornaments. All I wish for is to raise my daughter to be loving and tolerant. This is why we are celebrating the occasion with Christians,” Qishawi, a Muslim, told Al-Monitor on Christmas eve.
Qishawi’s two daughters, Ilaa and Salma, wake up the following morning to their gifts under the tree. “I want them to forget the gloominess of war and its traumatic memory,” she said.
The Qishawis are not an exception. Many Muslim families in Gaza celebrate Christmas. Umm Fawzi, for example, who did not want to give her real name, bought a $90 tree. She told Al-Monitor, “I wanted to bring joy to my four kids and forget the woes of this year and the memories of war. At the end of the month I make sweets and my husband and I light up the tree. We are all very excited because the tree is big this year.” Umm Fawzi knows how important it is for children who grew up amid war and division to be raised to love all Palestinians, Muslim and Christian alike, and to celebrate all holidays.