- Title: Artist works to preserve Christian heritage in Hamas-run Gaza
- Date: 11th December 2016
- Summary: GAZA CITY, GAZA (DECEMBER 5, 2016) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF GAZAN ARTIST, NASER JELDHA, PAINTING A MARBLE-SCULPTURE OF A CRUCIFIED CHRIST (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) GAZAN ARTIST, NASER JELDHA, SAYING: ''This is my religion, I want to publicise it, I want to show it to people, the work, photographs, not just by words.'' VARIOUS OF JELDHA DRAWING SKETCH OF THE DOME OF THE ROCK IN JERUSALEM CLOSE OF JELDAH'S HAND SKETCHING GAZA CITY, GAZA (DECEMBER 4, 2016) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) GAZAN ARTIST, NASER JELDHA, SAYING: "I use my experience in art, which is carving in (stones) or burning wood, drawing and the different kinds of art. I would use it to make gifts for the holidays, especially at Christmas. If a loved one, friend, or a relative is getting married, I would make him a gift myself, instead of buying something from the market, I would give him a gift from my work." JELDHA USING A HAMMER AND CHISEL JELDHA USING A HAMMER AND CHISEL TO SCULPT SCULPTING TOOL MAKING GROOVE IN MARBLE JELDHA DRAWING ON SCULPTURE VARIOUS OF JELDHA SCULPTING CLOSE OF JELDHA BIBLICAL DRAWINGS DISPLAYED ON PIANO SKETCH SHOWING CHURCH BELL TOWER VARIOUS OF JELDHA'S ART WORK DISPLAYED ON THE FURNITURE DRAWING OF CHRIST
- Embargoed: 26th December 2016 10:13
- Keywords: Gaza artist Christmas season Naser Jeldha
- Location: GAZA CITY, GAZA
- City: GAZA CITY, GAZA
- Country: Palestinian Territories
- Reuters ID: LVA0015CFUJBP
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Only about 1,200 Christians remain in Gaza -- a tiny fraction of the population in a territory run by Hamas Islamists -- but artist Naser Jeldha is doing what he can to preserve its Christian heritage through art.
In his studio in the heart of old Gaza, not far from a 5th century Orthodox church, Jeldha spends his days carving religious figurines, chiselling low-relief carvings of Biblical scenes and painting portraits of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the saints.
"This is my religion, I want to publicise it,'' said the grey-bearded 57-year-old, a member of the Greek Orthodox community.
"I want to show it to people, the work, photographs, not just by words," he added.
As he works, steel-rimmed spectacles perched on his nose, Jeldha listens to Byzantine prayer music that echoes softly around the studio, creating an atmosphere from another era.
The walls are covered in his pictures, with more laid out on the arms of chairs and sofas, and others propped on a 150-year-old Russian piano in the corner. As well as painting and sculpture, Jeldha plays the accordion, piano and guitar.
In the run up to Christmas - celebrated on Jan. 7 in the Orthodox church - Jeldha is busy making pieces as gifts for friends and relatives.
While he has been an artist for 35 years, he does not display his works or offer them for sale. Instead, he presents them as gifts at weddings or events on the Christian calendar. He does, however, have plans for a public showing soon.
In the next two weeks, he is also hoping he will be one of about 800 Christians granted a permit by Israel to leave Gaza and travel to Bethlehem, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, to attend prayer services in Jesus's birthplace.
While Gaza's Christians generally enjoy good relations with their Muslim neighbours, there have been isolated attacks by hardline Salafist groups on Christian tombs and symbols.
Hamas, the Islamist movement that has ruled Gaza since 2006, is keen to ensure the Christian community feels safe and protected. Its leaders occasionally visit the heads of the three Gaza churches to build stronger relations.
Despite the departure of many Christians over the last decade in the face of rising economic hardship as a result of the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt, in a move to pressure Hamas, Jeldha is determined to remain in Gaza and the neighbourhood where he has lived for over half a century.
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