Latest Report on Cremisan

The Catholic world has done everything in its power to try to stop the Israeli military from constructing an Annexation Wall in the Cremisan Valley on land belonging to both the Catholic Church and some 60 Palestinian families from Beit Jala. A new report published by the Society of St. Yves – Catholic Center for Human Rights: The Last Nail in Bethlehem’s Coffin: The Annexation Wall in Cremisan ( documents this long legal battle meant to bring justice to the Church and people of Beit Jala. The report also states the advocacy efforts by the governments of the European Union as well as various Catholic Bishops conferences to prevent the construction of the Wall in the area.

How We Are Helping

From our perspective, the Pontifical Mission-Jerusalem (PMP) has been quietly working on the ground to solidify one of the most important and historically significant Catholic institutions in the area, being the Salesian Sisters Laura Vicuna School. Over the past few years, PMP has provided several grants to help with the operating costs of the school such covering teachers’ salaries and school utility bills, especially the high electricity bill during the cold winter months. Over the past year or so, financial support for the school from our partner donors has intensified so as to help ready the school and ensure it continues to provide a solid education for some 420 children (60 kindergarteners and 220 elementary students in addition to 140 youth club members of the school) despite the wall’s path.

In the next few weeks, the school will have a new solar power system that will generate free electricity for the school which will help reduce costs. The school has also been academically expanded twice in the past two years. Donor contributions in 2014 supported the renovation of a classroom upgrading the school to the 7th grade level. In 2015, another grant rehabilitated an old unused annex building which was divided: a classroom was constructed for a new 8th grade class as well as a multipurpose space for catechetical activities and an indoor play area for the younger students during the winter. With financial support, the school has also been able to save a nearly collapsing retaining wall after the last few snowstorms damaged its foundation.Th e wall has now been fixed and reinforced which will allow the school to reopen the children’s newly equipped playground.

Activation is Preservation!

The underlying message of funding and implementing projects like the Salesian Sisters Laura Vicuna School and other Church-affiliated institutions is to demonstrate that the Church is alive, active and even expanding despite the difficult circumstances of the occupation. That they are still steadfast in various sectors -education, health, and social services, which continue to serve all people demonstrating Christian values of love, tolerance, forgiveness and certainly, a continued call for peace and justice. PMP is proud of its work which joins donors worldwide and the local partners in the Holy Land together to improve and enhance these services that benefit all.

We convey our sincere thanks to the donors who saw the need to support the Laura Vicuna School and believed in its sacred mission – the Archdiocese of Cologne, Polish Aid, and the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher in Holland which would not have been possible without their moral and financial support.

Since ‘Activation is Preservation’ there is still a great need for financial support to preserve and cultivate 100 dunums (25 acres) of the Salesian Sisters’ olive and almond orchards which have been untouched for decades. Working and developing this last remaining green space in Bethlehem will help deter any further confiscation by the Israeli military. Plans include constructing an agricultural road for tractors, rehabilitating the land’s old stone retaining walls as well as plough and plant more fruit-bearing trees. Not only will the land be utilized, the produce will help generate an annual income for the Sisters as well as provide employment for unemployed agricultural laborers from the surrounding villages.


Sami El-Yousef
4 September 2015