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Israeli Wall to Annex Bethlehem Monastery

Bulldozers start work on Wall to annex Bethlehem's Cremisan Monastery


Contact: Leila Sansour: +44 7814 937743; Charlotte Carson: +44 7768 305897; Samia Zeit (Beit Jala District Council): +972 2 274 2601 / +972 599 253 830; www.openbethlehem.org


BETHLEHEM, Palestine, June 29 /Christian Newswire/ -- While the world's attention turns to the dramatic situation in Gaza, the Israeli Army has begun uprooting ancient olive trees in Bethlehem's Cremisan area, marking out the path of the wall to be built through one of the region's most valuable heritage sites.

The Cremisan area is of significant heritage value, home to the only winery in Palestine and two monasteries. Some of the finest examples of the regions ancient terraced landscape can be found here. The Wall will carve through these terraces destroying agricultural landscapes that have survived for centuries.

An urgent appeal has been circulated by Beit Jala district council, calling for action to stop the bulldozers. The statement reads: "This morning Tuesday 27th of June 2006, the Israeli bulldozers guarded with armed personnel started cutting and uprooting olive trees in the Cremisan area in preparation for the construction of the segregation Wall. Cremisan area has the only remaining forest in the city, and the most fertile agricultural land, which is the main source of income to many farmers in the city."

When the Wall is completed, Beit Jala district will have lost access to two-thirds of its land. The Cremisan area is one of the very few recreational sites in the city where locals used to go on weekends and holidays.

Open Bethlehem's Chief Executive, Leila Sansour says: "At a time when the US Congress is considering the plight of Palestinian Christians, we are witnessing the destruction of this community's land, heritage and livelihood. The people of Bethlehem are untied in their message to the international community: if you want to help us, stop the construction of Israel's Wall."

The last announcement of major confiscation of Beit Jala's land happened in March when world attention was focused on the Jericho Prison siege.

Open Bethlehem is a civil society initiative created to save the city of Bethlehem, as an example of mulit-faith diversity in the Middle East. The project has the support of Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury.