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Block the Wall through the Cremisan Valley

The new Israeli settlements in the Cremisan Valley

September 22, 2015

There's a new petition taking off to stop the wall through the Cremisan: PIEF & NCCOP have launched a petition targeting representatives of foreign governments to Israel and Palestine urging them to take action to stop the illegal Separation Barrier. We urge you to stand in solidarity with the people of the Cremisan and take a few seconds to


August 18, 2015

The Israeli high court seems to have given the go ahead for another expansion of the barrier wall through the Cremisan valley.  This is a refersal of a ruling from April asking the military to reconsider the route.  It seems the military is planning to leave a hole in the barrier around the main monastery and convent buildings for the time being, thus revealing the complete bankruptcy of the argument that the wall exists to stop bombers from entering Israeli cities.  For more information click here to see this piece in the Guardian.

We need more of you to speak out for Cremisan Valley! Write letters to your local newspapers. Post opinions to Facebook and Twitter. Learn enough to feel confident writing or speaking about it. Keep in mind that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is illegal under international law; that 138 nations have recognized Palestine as a state; that Bethlehem lies in Palestine and is now illegally surrounded by the concrete wall; that the Bethlehem District’s Cremisan Valley is in danger of irreparable damage to its ancient terraces; that the families who own the land will be stripped of their livelihoods; that children will face difficulties going to school there, as they do in so many occupied areas; that Palestinian Christians have asked us to speak out, to engage in non-violent methods of protest against a truly brutal occupation (see the Kairos Palestine Document); and that many Americans--Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and secular--have answered the call by initiating Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movements across the country.

Stop the wall from invading the beautiful Cremisan Valley.  Stop the wall from endangering the educations of the Christian and Muslim children of Beit Jala or making it difficult.  Stop the wall from encircling the convent school. Stop the wall from illegally confiscating the livelihoods of 58 Christian families.  Stop the wall from devastating lush, ancient terraces in the last green space in the Bethlehem District.

Actors to Target:

Your local community needs to be mobilized: reading about Cremisan Valley in your local paper is important. Write to the editor of your local paper.  If you get an article in your local paper, send us a copy, so we can feature your activism as a model for others: click here. U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry: The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace has objected strenuously to what’s happening in the Cremisan Valley of Bethlehem via a letter sent in May 2013 to John Kerry.  Follow their lead and crowd Kerry's inbox: click here. The Vatican, if it chooses to significantly engage, could have an enormous impact. As of now, it denies any agreement with the Israeli government regarding the route of the wall through Vatican-owned land in the Cremisan Valley. Ask the Vatican for more, by contacting:

  • The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Patriarch Fouad Boutros Ibrahim Twal (he is very sympathetic, and a request to him will no doubt eventually find ears at the Vatican: click here.
  • His Excellency, the Most Reverend Francis A. Chullikatt Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations: 
25 East 39th Street, New York, NY 10016-0903 
Tel: (212) 370-7885 - Fax: (212) 370-9622  

While Congress generally supports Israel's activity, specific members do intervene on behalf of their constituents, if enough people insist on intevention for a specific concern. Call your representatives.  

Additional Background:

The Cremisan Valley lies in the Bethlehem Governorate, whose northern edge touches the Green Line (so called for the green pen used to draw the armistice line on a map after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war). The Green Line is also the internationally recognized border between Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. It shows Israel with 78% of historic Palestine, leaving only 22% for the Palestinian Muslims and Christians who have lived there for centuries.   Yet Israel continues to send illegal settlers into what’s left of Palestine. Settlers with guns seize lands that are not theirs to take, and make the lives of legal residents a daily misery in hopes that somehow Christian and Muslim Palestinians—teachers, farmers, lawyers, engineers, students, shopkeepers, plumbers—will leave the land entirely or be herded into ghetto blocks as many already have been, largely bereft of the means of sustaining themselves.   Recently, an Israeli court ruled that Israel could proceed with plans to thrust its infamous concrete wall right through the Bethlehem District’s Cremisan Valley, where lush green terraces are cultivated with olives, almonds, apricots, lemons and figs as well as vineyards from which, since the 1800s, Christian monks in a nearby monastery have produced their own wine.   Local Palestinian families, both Christian and Muslim, tend the land on these ancient terraces, honoring the rhythms of the seasons and artfully managing rain and sunshine exposure for the benefit of all, providing restful picnic space and splendid views for families, as well as necessary food for nearby towns and villages in the Bethlehem District.

In addition, a Roman Catholic convent school serves about 400 elementary students, both Christian and Muslim, from the local population. The nuns also assist students with learning or other disabilities. Despite the fact that about a third of the Cremisan Valley is owned by the Vatican, and that the rest is privately owned—mainly by Christian families—Israel plans to plunge the wall through the Valley for the likely use of two illegal settlements situated on hillsides on either side of the mostly Christian town of Beit Jala that lies in the Valley and is within 2 miles of Bethlehem City (now itself surrounded by the wall).   The Israeli government claims security, of course, for all its land confiscations. But if it were concerned about security, it would not send settlers into so-called dangerous areas, would not subsidize the settlers, nor arm them, nor encourage them. Yet they do so, then claim security in order to use the wall to seize the best of Palestinian land and water resources.  The wall, after all, is only partially built on the Green Line. Much of it ensnares Palestinian lands, trapping legal residents or forcing them to flee. Indigenous residents are not armed and have scarce legal recourse—even though Palestine has now been recognized by 138 nations.   

If the wall is built, the monastery will be on territory designated Israeli. The nearby convent and school on the other hand, will remain in the West Bank but will be surrounded on three sides by the wall, having lost almost all its land to Israeli seizure. Children will be forced to pass Israeli soldiers in order to get to school--if they’re not too frightened to come at all—in their own land. That bears repeating—in their own land, duly recognized by 138 nations and international law.   As well, nearly 60 Christian families will lose their farms and orchards—their livelihoods--in their own, duly recognized land. Farmers will no longer be able to nurture their beloved terraces. Israel promises gates in the wall to allow those with permits to tend their orchards, but it’s well known that gates are opened either randomly or only at certain times (and sometimes not at all), and that the soldiers who check permits can be arbitrary. Further, permits are hard to come by and are often awarded to the old and infirm in a family, or to the very young, thereby eliminating family members who could actually care for the land.  When Israeli settlers can claim that no one is working the land, they get the government to declare it abandoned, and seize it entirely.

Palestinian activists hang a banner in the Cremisan Valley during the weekly protests prior to Israel's recent decision on the Apartheid Wall (Photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

Additional Information

Colonizing Christmas: Facts on Israeli Occupation and Bethlehem

April 2013 Report: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs occupied Palestinian Territory (see page 14, “Israeli Court Upholds Barrier Route in the Cremisan Valley”)

Bethlehem Nuns in West Bank Barrier Battle    

Putting Cremisan Valley on the Pope’s Agenda

Israel Rejects Palestinian petition to redirect Wall in Cremisan Valley

Former President Carter regarding the Green Line: The Unchanged Path to Mideast Peace

Vatican under Scrutiny as Nuns, Landowners Lose Land Challeng

Catholic Leaders in the Holy Land Call on Israel to Restrain from its Plan to Separate Cremisan Valley from Bethlehem  

Bishop Pates Reiterates Opposition To Israel’s Cremisan Valley Plan In Letter To Secretary Of State Kerry

Society of St. Yves Catholic Center for Human Rights

Land Expropriation and Taking Control of the Land

Abandoned Areas Ordinance

Methods of Confiscation—How does Israel justify and legalize confiscation of lands?

General Assembly votes overwhelmingly to accord Palestine ‘non-member observer state’ status

Kairos Palestine Document: A Moment of Truth

National Catholic Reporter piece about United Methodists and Others