Before the visas were canceled, Arab ministers, nuns and church workers did not have to apply for an entry visa to the territories each time they returned from a visit abroad. As of last month, however, they have to apply for reentry visas at Israeli consulates, a process that normally takes months.
The new policy also means that clergy will no longer be able to move freely between their parishes within the territories as they used to in the past.
Rateb Rabi, president of the Washington-based Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation says that dozens of clergy were "locked inside" the West Bank, afraid to leave for fear of not being allowed to return.
Other clergy, like Father Fares Khleifat -- the only Greek Melkite priest in Ramallah -- were, according to Rabi, stuck outside their parishes. Khleifat, Rabi says, traveled to Jordan for several days earlier last month. When he tried to return to his parish on September 14, he was stopped at the Israeli border, and his multiple-entry visa had been canceled, Rabi says, adding, "Khleifat has been forced to remain in Jordan and his parish now has no priest."
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