First signs of losing land

Happening, May 3, 2012

As the plan to build the separation wall continues, more and more signs of this process are ravaging the lands of Cremisan and the Makhrour valley, just outside of Bethlehem and Beit Jala. Demolitions, uprooting of olive trees, and wall construction are increasing at a rapid pace, as these plans become increasingly a reality, and Bethlehem faces losing its last green space. Wall construction in this area has been going on for at least a year, and in the last month al-Makhrour valley is under threat.

The wall is ever-expanding around the village of al-Walaja, discreetly built behind trees, so that the residents in the neighborhood in Gilo cannot see what is happening on the other side.  Between the Cremisan monastery and the Salesian Sisters of Cremisan school, barbed wire is being set up, marking the line of the wall, that will soon cut off the Salesian Sisters from the monks at Cremisan winery.
(See this post for more pictures).

Map c/o BBC
Map c/o BBC

Not only will the wall cut Bethlehem from a monastery that has been part of their Christian heritage and the wine that they frequently buy, it will also cut of Bethlehem and Beit Jala's last green space.  As part of the planned wall expansion, the Makhrour valley, another green area enjoyed by Bethlehem residents and home to 57 Christian families agricultural land, will also be cut off.

On April 3, the first signs of al-Makrours fate were seen.  The Israeli military came into Makhrour and quickly demolished a residential structure as well as the electricity grid erected by the Bethlehem municipality.  (A video and article about the incident).

Today, the al-Makhrour restaurant, built by a family whose home had been demolished by the Israeli military in this area, was completely demolished.

The Israeli military claims that these structures were built without permits.  But in Area C, the area under full Israeli control, permits are nearly impossible to get.

Demolition of al-Makhrour restaurant. Photo c/o
Demolition of al-Makhrour restaurant. Photo c/o

 The Israeli military spokesman claims that the planned construction for the wall is primarily for security reasons, saying: "The rout of the security barrier is based on the specific security considerations of the area. In the Beit Jala region, it is there solely to keep terror out of Jerusalem." (See BBC's recent article).

He noted the violence occurring between Beit Jala and Gilo 10 years ago, during the 2nd Intifada.  With no acts of violence occurring, however, in the past 10 years, and with the separation barriers deep cutting into the West Bank behind the green line, security concerns are highly questionable.

I, myself, spend my weekends walking and picnicking in Cremisan and Makhrour, and ask the question: Is security a justifiable reason to cut people off from their agricultural lands, schools, monasteries, and a place of respite?

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