Soon it will be springtime in Bethlehem. The Christian heart of the Middle East will be bathed in warm sunlight, wild flowers blooming in its fertile valleys and birds singing in the Shepherds’ Field. It is a glorious time of year. But the sun shines down on a town struggling to breathe.
The markets should be bustling with international tourists, Christian pilgrims, and day-trippers from Hebron and Ramallah. Shoppers and traders should be haggling over the price of apricots, fig jam, toasted almonds and bright green olive oil. But Manger Square is quiet these days. The few tourists that do visit Bethlehem this Easter will find a town battered and bruised by the occupation, but refusing to lose hope. According to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs (OCHA) of December 2004, Bethlehem is surrounded by 78 physical obstacles, including illegal Israeli settlements, settler-only roads, checkpoints and military roadblocks, and of course the Wall.
The Wall, which snakes its way throughout the West Bank, takes the form of a nine-metre high concrete wall through Bethlehem’s northern and western sides, effectively annexing 13 per cent of the town’s fertile lands and separating Bethlehem from her sister city, Jerusalem.The rest photo