Conservation Heritage Israel

Vatican ‘satisfied and happy’ as Israeli court spares Bethlehem-area church property

Extension of separation barrier through Cremisan Valley has been blocked

Salesian monastery near bethlehem

After nine years of legal battles, the Salesian monastery and convent near Bethlehem and their neighbors have been spared their rights by an Israeli High Court ruling.

The court in early April struck down plans of the Israeli military to run its separation barrier through the Cremisan Valley, home to church properties and many families. The barrier route would have annexed monastery and convent property, affecting the daily life of the monks and nuns, and separated the Palestinian Christian community from their green spaces, agricultural lands and livelihoods. It also would have required Palestinian children to go through a checkpoint to reach classes.

Israel started planning a barrier in 2002 after a spate of terror attacks. To date, about 445 of 712 kilometers have been built. The barrier was proposed to run around the Palestinian West Bank but Israeli, Palestinian and international activists say that the route runs primarily through and not around Palestinian properties, annexing private land to Israel.

This is the second time in recent months that the court has ruled against the barrier route in the Bethlehem region. Though the routes have been struck down, the court did not specifically prevent the military from proposing a different barrier route through these areas in the future. However, it did recognize the rights of the landowners not to have their private properties seized or rights denied. The ruling specified that only “military-security consideration rather than political considerations” were relevant and that the proposed route of the barrier would have caused “injury to rights.”

“The Vatican is satisfied and happy,” with the court ruling, said the auxiliary bishop William Shomali of Jerusalem’s Latin Patriarchate. “The court ruling saves the dignity and rights of everyone— 58 families, the two monasteries, the Latin Patriarchate.”

The judges, Shomali added, found “a fair exit from this, which puts the Israeli justice in a better image—it would have been blackened by the [alternative].”

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