Walls around Bethlehem

Bethlehem, Palestine is completely surrounded by a 29 foot high security wall.  It once was a bustling community rich in religious history and tradition.  Now it is gradually becoming a ghost town.  Bethlehem residents are unable to journey to Jerusalem (a short six miles away) for Easter, and Palestinians cannot enter Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas.  Below are some stories of Bethlehem residents regarding life since the Wall was completed in 2006.

Claire’s family moved into an affluent Bethlehem neighborhood in 2000.  She opened a house ware store on the ground floor on their home and her husband operated a mechanic’s workshop.  Construction of the Wall around their home took 6 months.  When the concrete slabs were erected, the children cried.  Every window in the house faces a section of the Wall.  The family businesses were forced to close.  The family has no money to buy a house elsewhere.  The Israelis offered no compensation for the losses.

Khalil has a small grocery store which provided a modest income for his family.  The Israelis offered to purchase his land for less than $100 for each year of his ownership.  He refused the ridiculous offer.  Eventually the Wall came through his property.  He now may have 5 customers in his store during the day.  An Israeli flag flies from an apartment above his shop where Israeli settlers moved in.  He has been refused a permit to access his property.

A restaurant owned by Yusuf employed 10 people and provided income for his family of 9.  He was shot in the leg by an Israeli soldier on his way to the restaurant.  He was forced to reopen the restaurant before the leg was fully healed in order keep food on the family table.  A watchtower looms over the restaurant.

Bassem is an architect.  His business has dropped 80% in the past 5 years.  The Wall came down the middle of his street.  Most of the neighbors moved to Europe or America.  The Wall surrounds his home.  Soldiers throw stones and shout insults from an adjacent building which they occupy.  His daughter was arrested outside their home for not carrying an ID.

Source: The Annexation of Rachel’s Tomb: Stories from Behind the Walls                          /Mike Butkiewicz