Totally confused about its own borders, and wildly aggressive
towards the property of Palestinians, Israel has decided to build a
huge and ugly barrier that not only encircles the Bethlehem area and
totally separates it from its twin city, Jerusalem, but divides it
into little isolated enclaves as well.
In the past 37 years, occupiers have destroyed the joyful spirit of
Bethlehem, and along with it, the life of its 170,000 inhabitants.
The 22 illegal settlements encircling Bethlehem have permanently
destroyed its indigenous landscape and much of its cultural
Most of the land reserves of Bethlehem were illegally confiscated to
build these settlements. The 70,000 dunams of land that Bethlehem
could lose to the Apartheid wall, with its 8 meter high concrete
walls, barbed wire, army patrol roads, trenches, and soldiers'
towers, will destroy what remains of village life and turn all of
Bethlehem into a huge detention camp.
If this is allowed to continue, Nahalin, the beautiful garden of
Bethlehem, together with 6 more villages, will be surrounded by the
barrier on all four sides. The 15,000 residents of the seven
villages will need security permits to pass through the wall gates
both ways, in order to reach schools, and even sleep overnight
inside their own homes.
With about 10 kilometers of the planned 50 kilometers of the length
of the Bethlehem separation wall completed, all of us feel that the
ghetto is already established and are fearful for our future and
that of our children.
The most painful occupation is a one that is structured around
barriers. Military check posts, roadblocks, and separation walls
and fences are blocking our ability to live and diminishing our
chances for a free and independent future, the only possible way for
coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis.
Our city, which used to flourish during tourism season, with the
waves of faithful pilgrims, and local and international visitors, is
sealed away. Our hotels are empty, restaurants and souvenir shops
are closed, and handicraft workshops are out of business.
To continue with the construction of the wall, Israel has already
demolished dozens of homes and enclosed a few neighborhoods inside
barbed wire. As the barrier is planned to run very close to the
residential homes in all of the Bethlehem area (cities, villages,
and refugee camps), if it is completed, no resident will have a
farm, very few would still have a little garden. Depriving our
farmers from their land, turning them into a labor force, and then
blocking them from work opportunities means a slow and torturous
death sentence issued against a whole nation.
While we understand the security needs of the civilians on both
sides of the conflict, we cannot understand why instead of building
barriers within its territories, Israel insists on turning
Palestinian territories into a big zoo, placing us inside cages.
The Holy Land cannot be divided into a vibrant joyful society to the
west, and a crowded miserable prison to the east. Palestinian lives
are by no means cheaper than those of Israelis. A barrier that
creates such a situation cannot bring security, but rather breeds
more desperate people who can see no difference between life and
death. Barriers might immediately save a few lives, but will
establish the basis for more lives to be lost and more blood to be
The barriers we face are not only inside our land, but extend to the
international level. Repeated American vetoes in the United Nations
are blocking the way for a peaceful and just solution to our problem
and firmly stand between us and our ability to regain our legitimate
rights via peaceful legitimate means.
Using security as a pretext for land grabs and collective punishment
is a painful process that we have felt on our skins for the past 37
years of occupation. Yet, the apartheid wall is an unprecedented
assault that threatens our mere ability to survive. We strongly feel
that the ones who approve it or even stay silent about it are as
guilty as the ones who impose it.
After so much effort has been invested, and so many lives wasted, we
urge you not to allow the Israeli government to destroy the
remaining basis for our future coexistence, to return the crisis to
an existential one.
We cry out to you to not stay silent as we are being placed inside a
locked cage, and to stand against and never recognize the racial
apartheid system that is being established in the Holy Land. We need
to affirm that humanity defeated Apartheid and will not allow it to
raise its head again.
We urge you not to add an extra barrier that would deny us the right
to seek justice within the International Court of Justice. Israel
should not be allowed to continue to be a country above
To stand for peace and justice we call you to help the International
Court of Justice to bring us a step closer to establishing just
peace in the holy land. Let us not allow walls to separate us.
People of Bethlehem.
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