Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem tried to recreate the journey from a different direction. Several hundred Palestinians set out for Jerusalem on foot, with a few riding donkeys, knowing they would get no further than the separation barrier Israel is building between the West Bank and Jerusalem.
The march began in Manger Square in front of the Church of the Nativity, marking the birthplace of Jesus. A large banner painted in pastels declared, They will not stop us, referring to the barrier.
As Palestinian people, we cannot move between our cities, complained Ahmed al-Aze of Bethlehem. We cannot go to pray in Jerusalem because of the barrier.
Of course, any mainstream newspaper has to give the Israeli point of view too, hence the last paragraph, (i.e. the final word) goes to the "security argument":
Israel says it needs the barrier to keep Palestinian suicide bombers out. Several have infiltrated from Bethlehem into Jerusalem, justthree milesaway, blowing up buses and a supermarket.A Christian news website also reports the news, quoting Sami, from the Holy Land Trust, who read out the statement which we printed in a previous post:
Whilst it's true that some Christians from the occupied West Bank are given permission to visit, not all of them are allowed. And besides, why should Palestinians have to apply for permission to go to their own capital?
Sami Awad, one of the organizers, said: "It is not enough for us just to be in Bethlehem and to pray in Bethlehem. We have the right to be in Jerusalem on this day to celebrate with our Christian brothers and sisters in the holy city over there."
Israel officials said, however, that 3700 Palestinian Christians from Bethlehem and other parts of the West Bank would be allowed to enter Jerusalem to take part in Easter services.
A friend of mine who was on the last demonstration against the checkpoint a few years ago, was on the news coverage of that march, and was quoted as saying "It's a disgrace..." etc. Since then, he's not been allowed the "special permission" to travel to Jerusalem again... If you keep your head down, keep quiet, and accept Israel's right to control Palestinian access to and from Jerusalem, then yes, you might be able to visit on special occasions.
So that's all right then.