Home » World »  Palestinian family spends Christmas together for first time in 26 years

Palestinian family spends Christmas together for first time in 26 years


  • Palestinian Christians Nadeem Aqleh, third from left, and his wife, Lilian, in white, pose for a photo with their children Dec. 23 during their 50th wedding anniversary and family reunion at the Manger Square Hotel in Bethlehem. Pictured with their parents are Maha Aqleh of Nazareth, Jane Aqleh Zelfo of Beit Jala, Faris Aqleh of San Francisco, May Aqleh of Toronto, Michael of San Francisco, and David Aqleh of Beit Jala. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)
  • Palestinian Christians Nadeem Aqleh and his wife, Lilian, pose for a photo Dec. 23 during their 50th wedding Anniversary and family reunion at the Manger Square Hotel in Bethlehem. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

Help us expand our reach! Please share this article

BETHLEHEM (CNS) -- For the first time in 26 years, Lilian and Nadeem Aqleh had all six of their children with them to celebrate Christmas.

"This is the happiest day of my life," said Lilian, 70, who is Catholic, as she celebrated the holiday with her children and grandchildren, some of who traveled from the United States and Canada. "It is hard having your children so far away. I want my children with me. At Christmas we remember the birth of Christ and the meaning of Christmas is to share it with family."

Only two of the Aqlehs' children remain in the Bethlehem area. Like many Palestinian Christians, two of the Aqleh siblings went to the United States to study more than 20 years ago and stayed because of better opportunities available to them. A third sister went to Canada with her Egyptian husband for similar reasons.

A fourth sister married an Israeli Palestinian resident of Nazareth, Israel's largest Arab city in northern Israel. Although she can visit her parents, she and her husband need a special permit to enter the West Bank.

The last time they were together as a family was in 2001.

But as the Aqlehs' 50th wedding anniversary approached, their youngest daughter, Jane Aqleh Zelfo, 36, who lives near her parents, decided it was about time the family celebrated the holiday together once again. Her parents are getting older, and her father, 76, has had several heart surgeries, she said.

Help us expand our reach! Please share this article

Submit a Letter to the Editor