Christians to encounter Israel wall at Christmas

Christian visitors this week to celebrate Christmas will encounter a concrete Israel wall with watchtowers.

Christians to encounter Israel wall at Christmas

Christian visitors this week to celebrate Christmas will encounter a concrete Israel wall with watchtowers, passing through steel gates in the on their way from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation said the wall symbolises a Christmas without hope for the ancient city, where normal life is fragmented and stifled by Israel's security measures.

"We expect about 40,000 to 50,000 tourists to come to Bethlehem for the Christmas celebrations this year from all around the world," said Kholoud Daibes-Abu Dayyeh, the Palestinian Authority's minister of tourism.

"For the first time in 2,000 years of Christianity, Bethlehem and Jerusalem will be divided from one another following completion of Israel's wall in the northern part of Bethlehem City," the PLO message said.

"Israelis live in the shadow of great fear that is preventing them from taking courageous decisions to end the struggle," said Jordanian Fuad al-Tuwal, who is Latin Patriarch of the Holy Land.

"The separation wall is a physical presence that embodies that fear," he said in his annual Christmas speech.

The World Court has declared the wall, which is about 8 metres (25 ft) tall in places, illegal.

Palestinians denounce the wall as a way of stealing land as well as a tool for judaizing the nature of all Jerusalem.

"During the last four years there was significant improvement in the tourism sector, and this sector means an improvement in all economic performance," said Samir Hazboun, head of Bethlehem's Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

"But it has not cured our economic problems. How can we promote Bethlehem as a holy tourism site while it is surrounded by an ugly concrete wall?" he said.

Patriarch Fuad predicted the healthiest commercial Christmas for Bethlehem. It would be "like the year 2000, when there was a record number of visitors in pilgrimage history", he said.

But trade was not the issue.

"The best gift we strive for is greater than money or wealth, it is peace," he said. "It is the wish of all who live on this land, both Palestinians and Israelis."

Gaza sources said Israel told the church this week it would allow in only 200 out of at least 700 who sought to go.



Agencies

Last Mod: 23 Aralık 2009, 16:17
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