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LAND OF PALESTINE / The Separation Barrier in Cremisan - Security as an excuse for land grabbing
Date of publication at Tlaxcala: 13/02/2013
Translations available: Deutsch  فارسی 

The Separation Barrier in Cremisan - Security as an excuse for land grabbing

Society of St. Yves جمعية القديس إيف


Around 450 children – girls and boys, Muslims and Christians alike - from the surrounding towns and villages (e.g. Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, Al Walajeh) enjoy the services provided by the Salesian Sisters Convent and School in Cremisan. As the convent wants to serve the needy they charge just minimal fees. Following the educational method of the Don Bosco school systems, the convent is one of 1,500 educational facilities around the world teaching values of truth, just peace and co-existence between different people and religions.

The convent lies at the outskirts of Beit Jala, next to it are a few houses belonging to Beit Jala and the Salesians Monks Convent of Cremisan which are affected by the planned wall as well. Cremisan itself is situated between two illegal Israeli settlements: Har Gilo and Gilo.

The nuns’ convent has been present since 1960 and includes a developing primary school (today until 5th grade, expanding each year), a kindergarten, a school for children with learning disabilities, as well as extracurricular activities and three summer camps for children.

The legal case

In 2006 the Israeli commander of the West Bank issued a military order[1] seizing land for the purposes of building a fragment of the separation wall around the Beit Jala area and Har Gilo settlement.

According to the order as well as to the maps and detailed plans annexed to it – the separation wall is to be built in one of two suggested routes. Both routes highly affect the Convent and the agricultural land surrounding it. During the procedures in court the army suggested a third route which is mainly identically to the 1st, where the wall will run along the first terrace of the olive grove surrounding the convent instead of on top of the school wall.

Since 2006 the Salesian nuns have been in contact with Israeli army officials to make their position clear that they reject the wall in total. In 2010, after they realized that their position was wrongly presented in court by the army, they joined their neighbors’ court appeal against the wall. Beside the nuns, also the men monastery and 54 mainly Christian families are affected by the planned course of the wall.

The suggested routes

1.    The wall is to be built on the convent land and leaves convent and school on the Palestinian side of the wall. As a consequence the convent is cut off from its land and will have access to it through an agricultural gate. This will be opened only during certain periods of the year. The six meter high wall will be built around the current fence of the educational compound, blocking the view and creating a kind of prison like atmosphere. Also, as a consequence any possibility for expanding the school and using the land for educational activities is blocked for years to come, as the nun will lose 75% of their land (blue line on the map).

2.    The wall will pass in front of the convent, leaving the educational compound on the Israeli side of the wall, while the community it serves is left on the Palestinian side. The wall would have a guarded gate at the entrance of the compound, to be opened at specific times to allow the passage of children, teachers and convent staff, who will also have to apply for permits in order to be able to cross the wall into their school and work place. The parents of the children have already made clear, that they will not send their children to the school anymore if they have to pass a military guarded gate (dotted yellow line on the map).

Map of the Cremisan valley


Cremisan is one of the last remaining recreational sides for the Bethlehem area. It is used by people from the whole surrounding area for their family outings - on the weekends children play in the olive groves and families meet to spend time in the nature. The local landowners grow olives, fruit trees and grapes for the local Cremisan whine in the valley, the land is cultivated well and the old terraces are carefully kept. Beside all practical arguments, the valley has a breath taking beauty.

After the construction of the Israeli separation wall the valley will be cut off from the community. More than 50 mainly Christian families and two Salesian convents will lose their lands. Further, the Salesian Sisters Convent and School, which is giving education to more than 450 children of the surrounding villages, will be situated in a military area.

A-According to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, the separation barrier in general is contrary to international law. Cremisan lies behind the green line of 1967 and is mainly privately owned Palestinian Christian land. According to experts from The Council for Peace and Security, an association of high-ranking Israeli security experts, the now planned route is neither necessary nor logical for serving the Israeli security needs.

Main purpose of the wall in Cremisan seems the annexation of land to give the settlements Gilo and Har Gilo the possibility to grow together.

B-The right to education is a basic human right. The planned route of the wall will set an end to the educational compound of the Salesian sisters in Cremisan. The school will be surrounded by heavy military presence, turning the school – with is serving under the motto “bridges, not walls” – into a prison. 450 Palestinian children – girls and boys, Muslims and Christians alike, mainly from needy families – will either be endangered by this military presence or will have to leave their school.

C-Seizing mainly Christian land is an attack on a religious minority which is specifically forbidden by international law. States should protect the existence of minorities and not confiscate their land and source of living as this forces them into migration, exile and displacement. Although emigration is a normal process among all nations, Christian emigration from the Holy Land is a unique one. Emigration from such a small community represents one of the major constraints, affecting population growth and threatening the future existence of Christians in the Holy Land.

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[1] Military orders #62-06 and 75-07

Courtesy of Society of St. Yves
Publication date of original article: 13/02/2013
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Tags: Apartheid WallCremisanPalestineIsraelLand grabbing

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