If the Christmas story were to happen today, Mary and Joseph would have a hard time getting to Bethlehem.
In 2002, the Israeli government decided to erect a physical barrier to separate Israel and the West Bank in order to prevent the uncontrolled entry of Palestinians into Israel. This separation barrier snakes through the occupied Palestinian territories, in effect annexing valuable Palestinian land and water resources.
The barrier now surrounds Bethlehem, located in Palestine, on three sides and cuts off the city from Jerusalem only six miles away.
In most areas, the barrier is an electronic fence with dirt paths, barbed-wire fences, and trenches on both sides. In other areas, a wall stands six to eight meters (20 – 26 ft.) high. Currently the wall separates almost twelve percent of the land on the Palestinian side of the 1967 Green Line from the rest of the occupied territories.
According to the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem, the separation wall directly affects nearly half a million Palestinian residents. Those living near the security barrier face the threat of home demolitions. Thousands have difficulty going to their fields and marketing their produce. Farming is a primary source of income in the Palestinian communities situated along the barrier’s route, which constitutes some of the most fertile land in the West Bank. The harm to the farming sector is liable to have drastic effects on the residents – whose economic situation is already very difficult – and drive many families further into poverty.
ACTION: During the seasons of Advent and Christmas, erect a wall around nativity sets in your homes and churches to raise awareness of the separation barrier the Israeli authorities are erecting in the occupied Palestinian territories. Inform local media and use this action as an opportunity to spread the word about the separation barrier.