Demolishing the West Bank piece by piece
August saw an unprecedented level of demolition in the West Bank, leaving tens of Palestinian families homeless and others stripped of their livelihoods.
Israel began its campaign of destruction on Monday 17th August, invading Beit Jala and bulldozing areas of land for the construction of the illegal separation wall through the Cremisan Valley. The confiscation of land is taking place in Bir ‘Ona archaeological site, and the wall will split the Cremisan Monastery valley in half.
As it goes up, the wall is a threat to the survival of 58 Christian families in the Palestinian village of Beit Jala whose livelihood depends largely on 300 hectares of land that will remain on the other side of the wall.
On the same day, Israeli bulldozers, protected by the Israeli Defence Forces uprooted over 100 olive trees in the West Bethlehem area of Bir Owneh / Wad Ahmad. The trees belonged to tens of families from Beit Jala, and many of the trees were very old and well established. Some of the trees were uprooted whole, likely to be sold for huge prices in illegal settlement garden centres.
Tuesday 18th August was recorded as the day that saw more Palestinians displaced in a single day in the West Bank than any other day since 31 October 2012. Demolitions of homes took place illegally in the Jordan Valley (17 structures including 12 residential tents were demolished. 48 people including 31 minors were left homeless in +40 degree heat as a result of these demolitions.) and also in the E1 area of East Jerusalem, where 21 structures (including 11 homes) were destroyed, leaving 93 Palestinians (58 children) homeless.
The United Nations has called for an immediate demolitions freeze in the West Bank.
Church and Christian responses to the crisis:
Here are links to several statements made by Church leaders, both here in the UK and in Palestine.
- Latin Patriarchate condemns resumption of separation wall construction
- Statement from Bishop Declan Lang, Chair of the Bishops’ Conference Department for International Affairs
- Statement by Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference.
- Statement from the Society of St Yves – St. Yves Submits New Petition to the Israeli High Court.
- Statement by Sabeel-Kairos Palestine on the Cremisan Valley, 27 August.
- Words by Patriarch Michel Sabbah at Sunday Mass in Beit Jala
ACTION NEEDED TO PROTECT CREMISAN VALLEY
Bulldozers, with the support of the IDF, have begun to up-root olive trees and expropriate private properties in Beir Ona, near the Cremisan Valley, in order to continue to build the Separation Barrier. The monastery and the Salesian convent will remain on the Palestinian side, while 58 Christian families in the Valley would see their land and homes go on the Israeli side of the wall. Background piece here. And from the parish of Beit Jala:
“The bulldozers arrived this Monday at 9 am, nobody had taken the trouble to warn the inhabitants” says Fr Aktham Hijazin, parish priest of Beit Jala. The labourers and their bulldozers uprooted about fifty trees amongst the most ancient of the valley – some of 1500 years of age – under the protection of the Israeli army… Fr Aktham Hijazin described this as
“an action against the past and the future of our people, this is a operation against justice, against our presence here, against our history and our future. These trees have been here for centuries and are part of the lives of these families. Confiscate these lands and you confiscate the past in these families and the future of generations to come.”
But it is mainly the Christian presence on this land, already reduced to a wick, which is threatened. There are many who, in recent years, have chosen the way of emigration due to the lack of any prospects; other families are considering leaving, reveals Fr Hijazin. “The inhabitants of Beir Ona and Cremisan are angry, says Father Hijazin. The Israelis say ‘we uproot your olive trees, but you can replant them elsewhere’. But families do not want to hear this! These are their lands! An operation that does not serve the cause of peace”
Please WRITE NOW to protest this action. You can draw on the statements below to show breadth of concern:
- Israeli Ambassador – Daniel Taub, Israeli Embassy, 2 Palace Green, London, W8 4QB Email:
- Tobias Ellwood MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH, Email:
We ask you to write to your church leaders and heads of denominations to ensure they are aware of the situation and to ask for a statement in response.
31 international agencies, including Sabeel-Kairos partner Embrace the Middle East, have joined together to issue a statement condemning the surge in demolitions in the occupied West Bank and to call on the Uk government to take action to halt them.
This video shows the destruction taking place in the Cremisan Valley:
You can also download and use resources for the 2015 World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel which is focussed on the separation wall and include stories, testimonies and facts about the devastating effect of the wall on Palestinian communities.
We ask everyone to pray for the communities and families affected by these events, and to ask for prayers to be said in Churches and across communities this weekend.
Prayer offered by Pope Francis on his visit to the Holy Land, 2014
Open our eyes and our hearts,
and give us the courage to say:
Never again war!
With war everything is lost.
Instil in our hearts the courage to take
concrete steps to achieve peace.
Lord, God of Abraham,
God of the Prophets, God of love,
You created us and you call us to
live as brothers and sisters.
Give us the strength daily
to be instruments of peace.
Enable us to see everyone
who crosses our path as
our brother or sister.