(Vatican Insider) The Custodian of the Holy Land spoke to Vatican Radio ahead of a protest demonstration against the resumption of construction work on the wall that aims to separate Israel and the Palestinian Territories
“The demonstration aims to oppose the construction of a wall which everyone sees as unacceptable and especially the area that divides farmers from their land; the area is inhabited predominantly by Christian farmers. Although the Supreme Court halted the construction work a short time ago, a review of the sentence led to the work starting again immediately. The situation is legally very ambiguous and has a strong impact on the lives of many families.”
Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm, Custodian of the Holy Land, spoke to Vatican Radio ahead of today’s demonstration in the Cremisan Valley, near Bethlehem. Demonstrators are opposing the resumption of building work on the separation wall between Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The area in question is home to the parish of Beit Jala, the land of many Palestinian families – most of them Christian – a monastery, a convent and an elementary school. The Israeli Supreme Court recently authorised the work, with a provision that overturns a previous sentence.
Above all, the wall poses a threat to the 58 Christian families living in the area: what is being done to support them? According to Pizzaballa “up until the wall was built, there was ordinary work. Now, new forms of support will have to be found for these families, but we do not yet know what these forms of support will be.”
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem recently condemned the Israeli operation, calling it an “insult to peace”. Did this declaration lead to any positive consequences?
The Custodian of the Holy Land affirms that “there have been many expressions of solidarity. I am thinking of US Bishops Conference but also of many others: from non-governmental organisations to various kinds of movements. But this does not resolve the problem. We must try to stop this construction work if possible, even though I think it is too late now.”
Pizzaballa also commented on the experience of Christians living in these territories: “Naturally they are very anxious. But these episodes of violence create a sense of uncertainty. This is also one of the reasons why the Israeli President’s desire to meet Patriarch Twal in the very place where the last serious attack in Tabgha took place, was important (last June a serious fire broke out at the Sanctuary of the Multiplication of the Loaves, Ed.). The aim of the meeting was to encourage dialogue above all and understanding between religious of different faiths. In addition to condemning these episodes of violence against Christians, the President also assured that Israel would do everything to prevent interreligious violence from spreading across the country.”