Palestinian Christians to Flag West Bank Barrier to Pope

Saturday, 24 May 2014 11:38 AM


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BETHLEHEM, Israel — A Palestinian Christian couple from the Cremisan Valley, threatened by Israel's West Bank separation barrier's proposed route, said they will alert Pope Francis to its perils when they have lunch with him Sunday.

"We will tell the Holy Pope our concerns about Israeli threats to confiscate the whole Cremisan area and to build a wall," Juliette Abu Mohor said at Friday's weekly open-air mass in the valley, near Bethlehem.

Juliette, a mother of three-year-old twins, and her husband Elias were one of two couples selected to lunch with the pontiff in Bethlehem.

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"It's a big responsibility because we are representing so many families, the responsibility to explain the problems of the Palestinians," Elias told AFP.

"We hope the pope can move the hearts of the Israelis to make them understand that the only solution is peace," Elias said of the barrier.

If built as currently planned, it will separate 58 families of the valley's town of Beit Jala from their land and split the Roman Catholic Salesian order's properties.

Father Ibrahim al-Shomali, the pastor of Beit Jala's Catholic church, noted at mass that "the pope is not a political authority, rather a moral one."

Of the 9,600 participants to attend the High Mass to be celebrated by Francis in Bethlehem on Sunday, 4,200 are Israeli Arab Christians, said Shomali, who chose the two families to have lunch with the pope afterwards.

In February, Israel's supreme court ordered the state to explain why it could not propose a different route for the Cremisan Valley.

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Israel began building its barrier in 2002 at the height of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising. It argued that its construction was crucial for security, but the Palestinians see it as a land grab aimed at stealing part of their future state.

UN figures show that Israel has already built around two-thirds of the barrier — a network of towering concrete walls, barbed-wire fences, trenches, and closed military roads will extend 442 miles when completed.


© AFP 2014

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