Palestinian Chrisitians prevented from reaching Bethlehem on Palm Sunday
by Snyder, 4 April 2007
As hordes of tourists flocked to the holy sites of Jerusalem to carry Palm leaves through the Old City, hundreds of Palestinian Christians were prevented from passing through the Bethlehem terminal.
On the evening before Palm Sunday, I passed through the terminal and met a group of Palestinian women traveling to Jerusalem for the celebrations. They had expected that the soldiers would let them through out of respect for the holy day. However, restrictions on movement had been tightened for the Jewish Pesacht holiday and they were being turned away. The checkpoint had only a skeleton staff of soldiers and police due to the Jewish holiday and as a result only one aisle was open causing huge delays.
Since the construction of Israel’s illegal annexation barrier, the Bethlehem ‘terminal’ has been the only direct route between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The barrier is designed like an international border with Palestinians having to undergo searches, x-rays of baggage and fingerprint scans. The majority of West Bank Palestinians not residing in Jerusalem are not permitted to enter Jerusalem.
Other restrictions imposed on Palestinians for the Pesacht period have been the tightening of controls at the checkpoints around Nablus, with young men prevented from leaving the city, and a checkpoint set up on the road from Nablus to Tubas causing chaos and preventing pedestrian access along the road.
While Palestinian freedom to worship at holy sites has been severely limited, the army has facilitated the visit of thousands of Jewish visitors to the Palestinian city of Hebron. Last year, during Pesacht, the IDF ordered a Closed Military Zone in Hebron preventing Palestinians from walking around their neighborhood for the ‘protection’ of Jewish visitors. The army also allowed Jewish visitors to Hebron to pass through a checkpoint on Schuhada Street into the ‘Palestinian Controlled’ area to visit a holy site – this was illegal unde Israeli law.
This follows on from Israel’s severe restriction on the right of access to and worship in Jerusalem during Ramadan last year. It appears that the Israeli apartheid system protects the right of Jews to worship, even if that means suppressing the right of Palestinians and conflicts with Israeli law, and ignores the needs of Palestinians wishing to worship on their own land.