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Don’t divide the Holy Land

BETHLEHEM (SE): The bishops of the Holy Land are calling for prayer and asking the international community to bring pressure to bear on Israel, as the Supreme Court begins a hearing on an appeal against a planned extension of its security wall in the Cremisan Valley, near Bethlehem, it was reported by Vatican Radio on January 28.

The group said that the proposed direction of the extension of the wall is outside the legal limit and will destroy the livelihoods of farmers and whole Christian communities.

The bishops’ Holy Land Coordination Group took part in a five-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land earlier this month to show solidarity with the local Christian community.

Among the places they visited was the Cremisan Valley, where they met Christian families who face the threat of being cut off from their ancestral lands, because of the planned route of the separation wall in the area.

Bishop Richard Pates, from Des Moines in the United States of America, was a member of this year’s Holy Land Coordination Group and told Susy Hodges from Vatican Radio that he believes it is totally unnecessary for the separation wall to take the planned route across the Cremisan Valley. 

In a statement, the bishops say, “As bishops of the Holy Land Coordination Group, we call for justice to be upheld in the Cremisan Valley, near Bethlehem. Israel’s plans to build a security wall on the land of 58 Christian families should be abandoned.”

They add that they met with many families from Beit Jala during their January visit to the Holy Land.

“We heard of their pain and anguish. They are faced with the threatened loss of their land and livelihood, and as well, the planned security wall will destroy vineyards, groves and orchards, as well as separate them from their land,” the bishops said.

“We recognise the right of the state of Israel to security and secure borders. However, the planned route of the security wall deviates sharply from the Green Line, the internationally-recognised demarcation line separating Israel and the territories captured in the six-day war of 1967,” they continue.

The bishops say that more than three quarters of the wall’s planned route falls outside the Green Line and is illegal according to the terms of a landmark advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.

On top of that they described it as a flagrant breach of the Geneva Convention, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“We urge our governments to encourage Israel to follow international law. In particular, for Israel to respect the livelihoods of these families and for the people of Beit Jala to be protected from further expropriation of their land and homes by Israel,” the bishops on the committee continued.

They called it a matter of urgency, as the hearing in the Supreme Court was beginning on the following day.


“Our deep concern, as we have repeatedly stated, is that this planned security wall is more about consolidating the settlement areas and permanently choking off Bethlehem from Jerusalem. This particular plan is a microcosm of the tragic situation in the Holy Land which incites resentment and mistrust, making the possibility of a much-needed solution less likely,” the bishops conclude.

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