“They want to build the separation Wall in the Cremisan valley and then expropriate the lands that belong to Palestinian Christians. If that happens, the whole area will be suppressed from the grip of the wall, and the first to go will be Christians”.
This is the future scenario by the mayor of Bethlehem, the Palestinian Catholic Vera baboun, who met Pope Francis at the end of the general Audience and then was received by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, together with Nicola Khamis (Mayor of Beit Jala), Hani al-Hayek (Mayor of Beit Sahour) and Issa Kassissieh, Ambassador of Palestine to the Holy See.
The visit to Rome of the delegation of mayors of the so-called “Christian triangle” of the West Bank was intended to expose the deleterious effects that the construction of the separation Wall in the Cremisan valley would have on indigenous Christian communities in the city and in the region where Jesus was born. “We have reached a tipping point, said Vera baboun. We showed Cardinal Parolin maps and photos that we had with us. And he listened carefully, with great concern”.
The separation wall built by Israel, after crossing the territory of Bethlehem, now threatens the fertile area of the Cremisan, where there are lands with vineyards and olive groves belonging to 58 Christian families in Beit Jala, along with two monasteries and a school of the Salesians. The route of the wall, repeat the three Palestinian Christians mayors, “is only intended to separate Christian families from their land and then confiscate and enlarge the area available for new illegal Israeli settlements”. If the lands of the valley – which is the only green lung of the whole area – is confiscated, “there will be no future for Christians: the population density will rise to unsustainable levels” says the mayor of Bethlehem, “and many will eventually choose the path of the exodus, which has already reduced the Christian presence in the Holy Land”.
The Cremisan area had been visited on January 13 also by sixteen Bishops who participated in this year’s visit to Palestine and Israel organized by the Holy Land Coordination (HLC), a body that brings together Bishops and representatives of the Episcopal Conferences of Europe and North America (see Fides 14/01/2015). At the end of their visit, the Bishops had reiterated their commitment to oppose the construction of the wall in the valley and the confiscation of Palestinian lands.