Palestinian Catholic Vera Baboun, mayor of Bethlehem, says that if the separation wall in the Cremisan Valley is built and the lands that belong to Palestinian Christians are expropriated, “the whole area will be suppressed from the grip of the wall, and the first to go will be Christians,” reported Fides.
Built by Israel, the separation wall, 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 Salesian school.
The mayor of Bethlehem met Pope Francis at the end of the Feb. 11 General Audience and then was received by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, together with Nicola Khamism, Mayor of Beit Jala, Hani al-Hayek, Mayor of Beit Sahour, and Issa Kassissieh, Ambassador of Palestine to the Holy See.
The delegation of mayors of the so-called “Christian triangle” of the West Bank to Rome 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 Baboun. “We showed Cardinal Parolin maps and photos that we had with us. And he listened carefully, with great concern.”
The route of the wall, the three Palestinian Christians mayors reaffirmed, “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 are confiscated, Bethlehem’s mayor said, “there will be no future for Christians: the population density will rise to unsustainable levels” and “many will eventually choose the path of the exodus, which has already reduced the Christian presence in the Holy Land.”
On January 13, the Cremisan area was visited by 16 bishops who participated in this year’s visit to Palestine and Israel organized by the Holy Land Coordination.
The HLC is a body that brings together bishops and representatives of the episcopal conferences of Europe and North America. At the end of their visit, the bishops reiterated their commitment to oppose the construction of the wall in the valley and Palestinian lands being confiscated.