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Home arrow Blog arrow April 2011 arrow April 16, 2011: Holy Weeks and Apartheid Walls

April 16, 2011: Holy Weeks and Apartheid Walls
April 16, 2011: Holy Weeks and Apartheid Walls

What follows is an email sent out by FOSNA and what I wrote about another holy season for Christians from the Little Town of Bethlehem: occupied territory


 

Dear Friends,

As Easter approaches we would ask for your special prayers for the issue below, we will also be sending out the Wave of Prayer but felt that this was such a particular need for this week that we are sending it out separately.

The Palestinian Christian initiative Kairos Palestine  has issued a statement spelling out the position of the Palestinian Christian community concerning Israeli-imposed restrictions on religious rights, especially during Holy Week.

The statement notes that “for Christians, Holy Week in Jerusalem has a special spiritual connection.” It says that the various gathering points to which pilgrims from all over the world journey, namely the Old City, its gates and roads, the Mount of Olives, Via Dolorosa and The Holy Sepulchre Church, are equally important to the Palestinian Christians of the West Bank and Gaza. The statement underlines the strong desire of Christians in the West Bank and Gaza “to join their Jerusalemite Christian brothers and sisters in the liturgical events leading to the Resurrection, the holiest celebration in Christianity”.

The statement points out that “in every country that respects (and practices) freedom of worship, they do so without “restrictions from the governing authorities”. It proceeds to bemoan the fact that the occupying power has denied free access to Holy places of worship to both Christians and Muslims on several important occasions over the last decade. This discriminatory and restrictive policy by Israel allows only 8000 pilgrims and a few hundreds of locals to enter the city on Holy Fire Saturday. The Holy Sepulchre Church and other crucial religious sites are rendered “off limits for Christians through a complex network of walls, checkpoints, and security apparatuses”. 

Traditionally, Palestinian Christians welcome The Holy Light seated on the roof of the Patriarchate and at the Church of Saint Jacob, adjoining the Holy Sepulchre. This religious tradition is something they are unwilling to forfeit because it is a violation of a fundamental human right and a restriction on their right to religious freedom. It further upsets a centuries old tradition for the Palestinian Christians. Kairos Palestine decries this unjust and one-sided policy which compels Christians and Muslims to apply for permits to enter while Jews continue to have free access. At best, not more than two or three thousand Palestinian Christians will receive entry permits. The permit system instigated by Israel is in obvious violation of various Human Rights, international covenants and treaties to which Israel is a signatory.

Kairos Palestine rejects “the imposition of a permit/quota system to access our churches and shrines”. The Kairos statement points to how “the heavy presence of Israeli Police and Military forces prevents Christians from accessing the Holy Sepulchre Church and the Old City” thus disturbing the spiritual atmosphere of Easter”. The presence of Israeli commanders in and around the Tomb of Christ under the pretext of security is unacceptable.

The Kairos statement states that such actions taken against Palestinian Christians are an affront not only to them, the first and oldest Christian community in the world, but also to Christianity as a whole. The Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum urges churches around the world to support the call of Kairos Palestine which invites “all our leaders, friends, brothers and sisters around the world to continue exerting pressure on Israel, to end its military occupation on this land and to respect international law and human rights”. In terms of practical measures, Kairos Palestine urges:

Church leaders not to submit and accept the conditions that deprive indigenous and international worshippers the joy of celebrating Easter.

Letters to political representatives to pressure Israel by political means to end its restrictions on the freedom of religion in general and with regard to the Easter celebrations in particular.

Letters of protest to Israeli ambassadors in your countries complaining against such actions.

Click here for the full text of the statement from Kairos Palestine.

Thank you for your interest and prayers

Anne

 

Anne Clayton

Coordinator

Friends of Sabeel UK

 

T: 01865 787 419



A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of the Palestinian suffering

http://www.kairospalestine.ps/


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This document is the Christian Palestinians’ word to the world about what is happening in Palestine. It is written at this time when we wanted to see the Glory of the grace of God in this land and in the sufferings of its people. In this spirit the document requests the international community to stand by the Palestinian people who have faced oppression, displacement, suffering and clear apartheid for more than six decades. The suffering continues while the international community silently looks on at the occupying State, Israel. Our word is a cry of hope, with love, prayer and faith in God. We address it first of all to ourselves and then to all the churches and Christians in the world, asking them to stand against injustice and apartheid, urging them to work for a just peace in our region, calling on them to revisit theologies that justify crimes perpetrated against our people and the dispossession of the land.

In this historic document, we Palestinian Christians declare that the military occupation of our land is a sin against God and humanity, and that any theology that legitimizes the occupation is far from Christian teachings because true Christian theology is a theology of love and solidarity with the oppressed, a call to justice and equality among peoples.

This document did not come about spontaneously, and it is not the result of a coincidence. It is not a theoretical theological study or a policy paper, but is rather a document of faith and work. Its importance stems from the sincere expression of the concerns of the people and their view of this moment in history we are living through. It seeks to be  prophetic in addressing things as they are without equivocation and with boldness, in addition it puts forward ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and all forms of discrimination as the solution that will lead to a just and lasting peace. The document also demands that all peoples, political leaders and decision-makers put pressure on Israel and take legal measures in order to oblige its government to put an end to its oppression and disregard for the international law. The document also holds a clear position that non-violent resistance to this injustice is a right and duty for all Palestinians including Christians.

The initiators of this document have been working on it for more than a year, in prayer and discussion, guided by their faith in God and their love for their people, accepting advice from many friends: Palestinians, Arabs and those from the wider international community. We are grateful to our friends for their solidarity with us.

http://www.kairospalestine.ps/



December 22, 2009: Santa on Claire's street with no name, in the little town of Bethlehem 

  




'Santa' on Claire's street with no name, 2009. Photographer unknown.

Claire's Tomb

Eileen Fleming - We Are Wide Awake
eileen fleming at Claire's Tomb, 2007, photo by Meir Vanunu.



In February 2003, Claire and her family of fourteen whose three story home and first floor business, adjacent to Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem were informed by the Palestinian Authority that The Wall would soon be coming to their neighborhood.


The family had moved into their comfortable dwelling in 1967, and would spend hours in their back yard garden with a view of open green space and watch pilgrims and tourists visit Rachel's Tomb and welcome them into their gift shop. The family is now encircled on three sides by 25-30 feet high slabs of concrete which have imprisoned them from the rest of the Little Town of Bethlehem: which is Occupied Territory.


For months the family helplessly observed the preparation work all around them, and then one week before Christmas 2003, Claire's children went to school and came home to discover that every view from every window was of the concrete monster.


Palestinians like Claire are imprisoned on the Israeli side of the wall and the once economically thriving and vibrant main street in Bethlehem is now a ghost town for stores and restaurants have been abandoned.


Rachel's tomb and Claire's tomb are divided by the concrete barrier which is topped by guard towers and patrolled by soldiers in battle gear.


Claire's home is less than 500 yards inside Bethlehem, and it had been the closest shop to Rachel's Tomb. Not long ago, multitudes of pilgrims and tourists would shop there, but today only the curious venture down the concrete walled pathway.


According to the Israeli government The Wall which has been deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in The Hague is for the security of Jewish worshipers at the shrine they revere as the Tomb of Rachel. Rachel was the wife of the biblical patriarch Jacob, who was the first to be named "Israel" for having wrestled and struggled with The Divine being.


On May 14, 1948 The Declaration of the establishment of Israel affirmed:


"One the day of the termination of the British mandate and on the strength of the United Nations General Assembly declare The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion it will guarantee freedom of religion [and] conscience and will be faithful to the Charter of the United Nations."



On February 21, 2003, Raanan Gissin, Spokesmen for Ariel Sharon was interviewed regarding The Wall which imprisoned Claire and her family, and he claimed, "The main purpose here is not to annex that land, but to provide security [and to ensure] freedom of access and freedom of religion."


"Peace, Peace, Peace, they say, when there is no peace." Jeremiah 8:11


The Wall does not follow the Green Line so even the claims of security are nullified, for The Wall that imprisons Claire and her family divides Palestinians from Palestinians as it eviscerates their economy. Only Jews have freedom of access and religion, for Palestinian civilians are denied access to the holy sites.


The concrete wall and electronic fence has imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Palestinians on the Israeli side, effectively undermining one of the stated purposes which is the policy of Hafrada, which is Hebrew for separation of Israelis and Palestinians and that is: apartheid.


Dr. Jad Issac, the director general of the Applied Research Institute examined a satellite photograph of the area and stated, "Bethlehem is the Bethlehem ghetto now…rather than seeking to ensure freedom of religion, Israel was pushing Bethlehem's Christian Palestinians to pack up and leave. About 360 Palestinians would be left on the Israeli side and once they get rid of the Christians, then they will label the rest as terrorists."


Dr. Shmuel Berkovitz, an expert on Jerusalem and Jewish holy places, said The Wall effectively annexed Rachel's Tomb to Jerusalem from Bethlehem "as a matter of technical separation, without an official declaration. Right now, you can't see any romantic place there; you can see it only as a military position."



Rachel's Tomb is a small stone building with a dome, which was built during the Ottoman rule, but is now completely enclosed by the fortifications, built in 1996 and 1997.


During my first of three visits to Claire, she told me that, "Six years ago when the Israeli army blocked the main street in Bethlehem we hoped it would be temporary. We could not imagine anyone could block another human being and isolate them like they have done to us. A week before last Christmas my children went to school and when they returned they were faced with the concrete wall in front of them. They cried and cried and wanted to know how could such a thing be done to them? We are living in a tomb, we are buried alive. My children suffer and their mother and father can do nothing.


"In another ten years there will be no more Christians in Bethlehem if things do not change soon. Everyone is leaving, we need work, and we need to feed our children. Jesus was born here but we are dying. My children suffer, they are angry and shout because nobody comes to visit us anymore and the children must stay inside after school.


"We use to enjoy being out in our garden watching the people, the trees, the cars that would pass by, but now we only see concrete walls. Our lives have been stolen! Do Americans understand what happens to children when they are buried alive? We need a solution fast so that our children can live like American children! We want human rights! When Hillary Clinton visited Jerusalem and said the wall was not against the Palestinian people, she killed us too! Christians who do not care kill us too!


"My family use to go to Haifa on the weekends, we use to live a peaceful and comfortable life. But now our business is bankrupt and we are in prison for being Palestinians."


During my last trip to visit Claire, in June 2009, I purchased one of the olive wood nativity sets that she and her family created to symbolize the reality of Bethlehem today. Claire explained, "It has a removable wall; we opened a door where Jesus Christ lays to light our future with hope."


I HOPE you will visit CLAIRE:

http://www.anastas-bethlehem.com/




More FACTS ABOUT THE WALL from friends in Bethlehem


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