Days after the army uprooted Palestinian-owned olive trees to pave the route of the separation barrier in Beit Jala, Christians and Muslims from the town hold a joint protest to try and put a stop to the plan.
By Oren Ziv
Hundreds of Muslim and Christian Palestinians protested Sunday morning in the West Bank town of Beit Jala against the future establishment of the separation wall that would cut them off from Jerusalem.
Protesters marched Sunday toward the work zone where the wall is route is being paved, just days after the army uprooted dozens of ancient olive trees to pave the route for the wall last week.
The demonstrators marched toward the area where the trees were uprooted, and began destroying a checkpoint that prevents farmers from reaching their land in an area that, upon its completion, will be on the “Israeli” side of the wall. Border Policemen arrived on the scene and shot stun grenades and tear gas. At least three of the demonstrators were evacuated by an ambulance. The demonstrators took pieces of the checkpoint back with them to the village.
Father Paolo from the Catholic church in Beit Jala, told +972 Magazine: “We are here because they are building a wall that will separate Beit Jala from Jerusalem. We came here to say that this is our land, and that we are against the wall and for living together in peace. All the churches in Beit Jala are opposed to the building of the wall, and we are here to tell the army — get out of here, this is not your land.”
“The goal of the wall is to close off Beit Jala from all directions,” says Salah, who arrived from the village of Ni’ilin, near Ramallah, to take part on the protest. “They took the land, the trees, and the livelihood, and have punished the residents here for no reason. We have come here to send a message, that we can defeat these walls when we, the Palestinian people, are united. Both Christians and Muslims.”
In the past, Israel’s High Court of Justice has recommended the state reconsider the planned route of the separation barrier in the area, as it seriously affects the residents of the area. The Defense Ministry, however, began its work on the wall last week, without altering its route. The ministry has promised to leave a 200-meter gap in the wall near the local monasteries, out of a total of 1,500 meters that are slated to be built in the area.
The plan is to completely enclose Bethlehem and the surrounding villages — closing all entrances to the area — by the separation wall. Entire areas of the separation wall have yet be built, including in southern Jerusalem; they are slated for completion in the coming years.