04/29/2013, 00.00
ISRAEL - PALESTINE

Jerusalem bishop says no to Cremisan wall, calling it a threat to peace

For Mgr Shomali, last Wednesday's decision to divide the Cremisan Valley violates Israeli law. A wall will surround a local convent and primary school on three sides, leaving them on the Palestinian side; however, most of the land owned by the Salesian nuns and by the residents of the Christian village of Beit Jala will be on the other side of the wall.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) -  The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is "surprised" and "concerned" by the ruling issued by Israel's Special Appeals Committee, which recently approved the construction of a Separation Wall in the Cremisan Valley, which creates difficulties for local residents to send their children to school.

The Cremisan Valley is home to two Salesian convents, one for monks and one for nuns. They run schools and provide agricultural training programmes for residents of the Christian village of Beit Jala, which is located in the Palestinian territories.

With the construction of the wall, the nuns' convent and the adjoining primary school will remain on the Palestinian side, but will be surrounded by a wall on three sides, leaving under Israeli control most of the land used for agricultural training programmes.

The wall will also force some 450 Palestinian pupils to attend a facility that looks more like a prison than a school, since it will be surrounded by military checkpoints.

Interviewed by AsiaNews, Mgr Shomali, auxiliary bishop of Jerusalem, said that the reasons in favour of the construction of the wall are weak and inaccurate.

"Israel's security can be guaranteed by building the wall further away or by finding alternative solutions," the prelate said. "In any event, for the authorities the location could not be changed because the wall has already been built."

In fact, as it waited for the verdict, the Israeli government continued to build the wall leaving empty the 1.5 km that pass through the Salesians property. For Mgr Shomali, in doing what it did Israel exercised a new right, violating its own laws.

"In order to get the decision overturned, the Patriarchate, the Cremisan Salesian community and the Christian residents of Beit Jala have always used moderate and non-violent means, including prayer," the bishop said. "The State of Israel ought to recognise this peaceful behaviour."

Issued on 24 April, the ruling is the culmination of a seven-year legal battle. For Israeli authorities, the alternative route represents a reasonable compromise between Israel's security needs and the principles of freedom of religion and education on which the convent's legal representatives had based their case.

On Friday, the St Yves Society, a Catholic human rights organisation that filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land, issued a statement in which it slammed again  "the injustice of the measure". (S.C.)

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