Some time ago, we asked you to sign a petition to support the Cremisan Valley community in the Holy Land and to oppose the route of the separation wall between Israel and the Palestinian territories. The Cremisan Valley, an agricultural area near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, is best known for its olives, fruits and grapes used in local wine production as well as a recreational area for family outings. It is also home to a Salesian monastery, vineyard, convent and school.
This week we learned that the Israeli Special Appeals Committee ruled in favor of the proposed separation barrier route, rejecting the pleas from the Salesians and the surrounding farming community to keep the valley intact. Now, more than 50 Palestinian families and the Salesian monastery and convent will lose access to their lands and possibly their livelihoods. The Salesian Sisters Convent and School that provides education to more than 400 children in the adjacent villages will be surrounded by walls and a military presence on three sides, inhibiting many children from going to school. Families will lose access to important green space, and Palestinian youth will be cut off from friends, teachers, and mentors.
The situation in the Cremisan Valley gives a glimpse of what has been happening throughout the West Bank, seriously undermining the possibility of lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace. This statement by the Catholic Bishops Conferences in Support of the Church in the Holy Land reiterates this point. As the wall encroaches on Palestinian lands and livelihoods, resentment against the State of Israel grows. Such policies ultimately put Israeli citizens at risk and undermine the prospects for peace as noted in a letter by Bishop Richard Pates, Bishop of Des Moines and Chair of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace. The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem reminded Israelis that “expropriation of lands does not serve the cause of peace.” The Catholic Bishops of the United States and Catholic Relief Services have long called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will build just and lasting peace for all people of the Holy Land. Please send a message to Secretary of State Kerry now to press for peace in this troubled region and for justice for all in the Holy Land, including the Cremisan Valley community.
Thank you for your ongoing commitment to pursue peace for our brothers and sisters living in the Holy Land!
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