Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Yom al Ard in Bethlehem
posted by: Jacob Pace, Interfaith Peace-Builders at 8:29 PM


This post is written by Juliette G. (tune in to BB soon for more from Juliette):

For the past few weeks, Israeli Machinery and bulldozers have been working at the northern entrance of Bethlehem city to construct the Segregation Wall. The path of wall is almost complete in the area, confiscating Palestinian lands and olive groves, and segregating Palestinian houses located in the vicinity.

Today, the residents of Bethlehem city were out peacefully protesting against the Israeli policies and the theft of their land for the on-going construction of the Segregation Wall. The demonstration was part of a national day of action to commemorate Yom Al Ard (Land Day) in Palestine.

Approximately 100 Palestinians together with internationals marched at noon through the town of Bethlehem heading to the checkpoint where wall constructions were taking place. The demonstrators chanted, sang songs and waved Palestinian flags and posters.

As the march neared an Israeli military base and a home occupied by the Israeli army, a line of soldiers met the marchers on the street. The soldiers pushed against the leaders but the rest of the march flooded past as the chants and cheers grew louder. The process was repeated 3 or 4 times as the soldiers, realizing they were soon left at the back of the march, ran forward to try again to head off the demonstration. Each time, the march overwhelmed the army and surged ahead.


occupiers

The march proceeded for several hundred meters in this manner before it was met by a large number of Israeli soldiers who parked military jeeps across the road to block the path. There, in the shadow of the Segregation Wall, the crowd sat in the street and sang songs for Palestine. The soldiers stood in a line and clutched their weapons which were loaded with live ammunition (instead of the rubber coated metal bullets which Israeli soldiers are supposed to use for crowd control).

Palestinians at the demonstration affirmed that their struggle against the Wall and the Israeli policies in the area would continue and condemned any unilateral action taken by Israel to kill the hope of Palestinians to establish their own state and their right to live on their own lands.



songs of freedom
Land Day
posted by: Jacob Pace, Interfaith Peace-Builders at 8:02 PM
Today's emotional march in Bethlehem was part of the commemoration of Yom al Ard. Yom al Ard (Land Day) is a national day of action in Palestine. The day commemorates the bloody confrontations between Palestinian citizens of Israel and Israeli police in 1976 when Palestinian citizens of Israel marched to protest land confiscations in the Galilee. Six Palestinians were killed and around 100 injured by Israeli police who opened fire on the demonstration. Since then, Yom al Ard has been a time for Palestinians around the world to march for their national rights.


Yom al Ard in Bethlehem

Foremost among the rights that Israel has stripped from Palestinians is land rights. Like many colonized indigenous people, Palestinians have seen the Israeli state appropriate massive quantities of land for Jewish settlements and colonization.

As Marwan Bishara explains:
In 1948 and the subsequent few years, Israel confiscated nearly 85 percent of the territory within the Green Line [what is now Israel] from Palestinians. Most of this land was taken from the 800,000 Palestinian refugees who were thrown out or fled for fear of massacres during the 1948 war. Over the five decades since then, Israel confiscated more than two-thirds of the land owned by its Palestinian citizens and on which they depended for their livelihood. Their share of land has dropped from 9 percent in 1948 to less than 3 percent in 2000.
There are many shared experiences between the Palestinians who have remained in what is now Israel and those who currently live under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip or in exile around the world. Yom al Ard, however, is one of the few national landmarks commemorated by Palestinians everywhere. In the West Bank, the occasion delivered a message against the Apartheid Wall.

The National Campaign to Resist the Apartheid Wall coordinated protest actions that were organized by local groups around the West Bank. The Campaign called for immediate implementation of the ruling of the International Court of Justice that Israel's Wall is illegal and should be immediately dismantled. The Campaign also clearly stated that any attempt to quantify the loss of Palestinian property caused by the Wall, in order to "pay" Palestinians for the Wall with humanitarian services or reparations, was unacceptable. Following is the statement released by the Campaign:

Statement:
The National Campaign to Resist The Apartheid Wall

Through popular resistance we confront the Apartheid Wall and force the implementation of the ICJ decision to dismantle the Wall

To our people, to those confronting Occupation Forces, their bulldozers and the Wall, with their bare hands!

While the implementation of the ICJ decision continues to be negated by the international community, the Occupation Forces continue to build their Apartheid Wall throughout the West Bank, confiscating our land and ruining our lives. In the meantime our people have undertaken their own implementation of the ICJ decision through their own popular resistance.

In Hebron, Yatta, Tulkarem, Qalqiliya, and Beit Surik, In Jerusalem and Bil'in, in Deir Ballut and Zawiya … our struggle against the Wall continues. The people, through its movement, demand a clear international acceptance of this Wall as a political issue, not an issue of charity that can be solved with few dollars of humanitarian assistance! We emphasize that the PA refuse to negotiate on the illegal presence of the Apartheid Wall, and insist on its dismantlement.

On Land Day we declare our will and insistence to protect our land. We do so in the knowledge that the Apartheid Wall is a project to steal Palestinian land. The Wall is the bulldozer and catalyst of the colonial Zionist project in Palestine. It is the bulldozer of Judaization and our expulsion. It is the bulldozer that creates the facts on the ground, making the ghettos which they deem will be a "viable state" for us.

Our people will not be misled! Our experience with the Occupation has been long and bloody enough. We know how the so-called "ceasefire" has always been used by the Occupation Forces for the further colonization of our lands, and construction of illegal settlements. Ghettos cannot substitute for a state, our liberation and our land!

Ghettos are being created on 54% of the West bank, turning our people into prisoners in their own country, locked behind a Wall and gates where the keys are held by the Occupation soldiers. Ghettos are turning our people into slaves in the joint industrial zones being built on our land . Stripped of land and resources the Occupation wants to control and regiment us into their industrial zone slavery systems.

Without the dismantlement of the Wall, without the liberation of our land, without the destruction of settlements, there will be no real independence, no viable state and no dignity. Neither the humanitarian aid missionaries in the UN, nor the funds offered by the World Bank and United States for the industrial zones and hi-tech gates of the Apartheid Wall, can alter our resistance to the imposition of Israeli Apartheid on our lives.

On Land Day, we will make our voice heard:
  • Land is the essence of our struggle, without liberating the land there is no solution for the liberation cause!
  • No sovereignty and no independence can be achieved with settlements on Palestinian land!
  • The United Nations has to respect and implement the ICJ decision to dismantle the Apartheid Wall!
  • No modifications to the Wall's path, no charity assistance - only the dismantlement of the Apartheid wall!
  • We will never accept that our cause be transformed into a humanitarian one!
  • No real settlement can be achieved without all of our rights. Right to Return! Right to Jerusalem. Dismantlement of all settlements!
  • All respect to the people resisting the Apartheid Wall's confiscation and the illegal settlements!
Through popular resistance we confront the Wall, and force the implementation of the ICJ decision to dismantle the Wall.
Saturday, March 26, 2005
More on Evacuation Warnings in Nahaleen and Settler Violence
posted by: Jacob Pace, Interfaith Peace-Builders at 2:48 PM
Following are photographs from Nahaleen taken after the discovery of Evacuation Warning notices, placed by Israeli soldiers on parcels of land adjacent to the village. Nahaleen (Nahalin) is not the only Palestinian village facing Israeli soldier and settler violence. Last night, the neighboring village of Husan (see map) was raided by soldiers and put under curfew. Village residents were not allowed to leave their homes on threat of being shot.


One of the Evacuation Warning notices left on Palestinian land adjacent to Nahaleen.


The Evacuation Warnings are part of a systematic campaign of harassment orchestrated by Israeli occupying forces and settlers in the area. The settlement of Betar (or Betar Illit) near Nahaleen is an extremely large, wholly religious Jewish settlement. Many religious settlers believe the entire land was granted to them by god and that the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants must be driven out, as the ancient Canaanites and Philistines supposedly were in Biblical myths.


The illegal Israeli settlement of Betar looms over the Palestinian village of Nahaleen.

In keeping with these fundamentalist beliefs, Israeli settlers often attack Palestinian civilians. Settlers from Betar throw stones at Palestinian villagers on the road to Nahaleen. Last week, in Tuwani and Qawamis villages, south of Hebron, settlers from the settlement of Ma’on and its outpost settlements poisoned a piece of grazing land used by Palestinian shepherds. The settlers have also uprooted olive trees, attacked Palestinian villagers, and assaulted international volunteers accompanying the villagers- in one instance two volunteers from the Christian Peacemakers Team ended up in the hospital after they were beaten by settlers.

In fact, settler attacks seam to be on the rise lately. The village of Asira al-Kabaliya, near Nablus, was attacked by settlers on Friday and a settler woman attacked a nine year old Palestinian child in Hebron on Thursday. Such violence is often condoned by soldiers, police and politicians. According to the Israeli Human Rights organization, B’'Tselem, “"when Israeli civilians attack Palestinians, the Israeli authorities employ an undeclared policy of leniency and compromise toward the perpetrators"” (go here for more from B’'Tselem on settler violence).

Settler violence has always been a feature of the Israeli colonization project, as it has been in colonization efforts around the world - from South Africa to the United States. Part of a settler movement's methodology in taking control of the land, is forcing the other, usually the indigenous inhabitants, to leave under threat of destruction. As WJT Mitchell points out, “"the false but efficacious etymology of '“territory”' is “'terror”', the enforcing of boundaries with violence and fear."”

Israeli colonialism, like other colonialisms before, pairs the unhinged, zealous violence of the settlers with the calculated bureaucratic violence of the modern Israeli state. The result is a combined effort to take control of ever larger portions of Palestinian land and expand illegal settlements.
Friday, March 25, 2005
A Night at the Checkpoint
posted by: salam max at 2:14 PM
Bethlehem Bloggers received this story from Hani today. It's quite long, but I want to put it all up, because it's not published anywhere else. It's symbolic of the situation for all Palestinians; all Palestinians will relate to you similar stories. Shukran iktir Hani, and Mabruk to Wasim and the whole family.

If you have a similar story you want to share, send us an email: bethlehembloggers@gmail.com

A Night at the Checkpoint

A short story by Hani Odeh
My nephew Wasim is a musician in the Sabreen music group, which performs in Bethlehem and Ramallah. His job obliges him to travel frequently to Ramallah. He sometimes stays overnight there to avoid the long, nerve-wracking trip from Bethlehem.

My nephew fell in love with a girl from Ramallah. Social norms require that the two young people must become officially engaged before undertaking plans for marriage.

That is how it came about that, one day, Wasim came to see me in my home in Beit Sahour about the situation, as I am his eldest uncle and the person he must consult when he plans to get married. He confided to me that he was in love with a girl named Arij. I was happy for him. He is 29 years old, and his parents think it is time for him to settle down. They believe that this age is suitable to take on the responsibility of starting a family.

This was our conversation:
“The engagement ceremony will take place around Christmas, and the wedding will be next summer.”
“This is wonderful news, Wasim. Mabrouk!” (“Mabrouk” means “Congratulations”.)
He whispered with a slight smile as if he were going to tease me:
“The girl is from Ramallah.”
In a loud voice full of astonishment I asked him:
“But Ramallah, why from Ramallah?”
“That’s love!”
“But why can’t you fall in love with a girl from Beit Sahour or Bethlehem?!”
I looked at him: he was sitting very still. He looked at me with surprise, and a slight smile sprang to his lips.
I smiled back, and in a calmer tone of voice, I said:
“You know I don’t mean that, I know love is like that; I am not against you or your feelings.
I continued desperately:
“But I do not want to make the trip to Ramallah.”

As Wasim’s eldest uncle, I was obliged to escort him to his fiancée’s home. This is our tradition and custom. The two families must meet formally. And this visit from the family of the future bridegroom to the family of the future bride is a must.

“Uncle, it’s only one trip for you: I go there more than once a week.”
Wasim continued on with a sly smile, describing the route we would have to take to Ramallah:
“Nowadays, the trip is easier than before: it takes only two to two and a half hours, one-way .
He added, still smiling: “That is, if we are lucky. That depends on the politeness of the soldiers at the Wadi al-Nar container.”

Many thoughts flooded my mind. I traveled with my memories back into the past when Ramallah was just next-door. We used to go there in the evening to have dinner in its beautiful restaurants. Now, Ramallah seemed very far away, as if it were on another continent. I hadn’t been there since the beginning of the Second Intifada. I had tried once, when my presence was requested at an important meeting organized by the Palestinian Ministry of Education. The 45-minute trip had taken us six and a half hours, not to mention the return trip, and of course I had missed the meeting. It had been a nightmare.

Wadi al-Nar is a dangerous road. It is beyond me how people can come and go from Bethlehem on a daily basis along this road!

I looked at him and made an attempt to smile:
“What is the plan?”
“We will hire a bus to take us there. My parents, my two brothers and two sisters and their families will come with us besides other uncles from my father’s side and some cousins. There will be a very limited number of people - only 50, just one bus load.”
(Families in Beit Sahour are big. On such occasions, at least 400 people are usually present at the engagement ceremony.)

On the 27th of December, the bus left Beit Sahour at 2 pm with 50 happy passengers enthusiastically chatting and singing. The bus drove along the winding, dangerous road of Wadi al-Nar until we came to the container checkpoint. This checkpoint consists of an iron gate which opens automatically when activated by the soldier in charge. The checkpoint is designed to hamper traffic in two directions from leaving or entering Bethlehem. It is called “the container checkpoint” because a man who owned a merchandise container set up a shop in it to sell cigarettes, chewing gum, soft drinks and other refreshments to the travellers who started using this difficult road after the Oslo agreements.

There were some cars in front of us. Vehicles must stop about 100 meters from the iron gate where the soldiers are stationed. A car can approach when the soldier in charge flicks his finger at it. The soldier looks at the passengers, in search of a suspicious face; sometimes this satisfies him; at other times, he asks to see everyone’s ID cards.

Half an hour later, it was our bus’s turn. A soldier stepped into the bus to have a look at us. Everyone was quiet while the driver explained the reason for our trip in Hebrew. The soldier nodded and said, “Saa,” which means “Go” in Hebrew.
We continued our journey through the narrow, pitted roads of the village of Abu Dis, until we reached the main road of Bethany, which leads to Jericho. After a long time, we turned left into a bypass road to Ramallah.

Five kilometers farther along, we came to a second checkpoint which blocks the passage to Ramallah. The driver of the bus turned right into a bypass road that goes to Bir Zeit, which is about 15 kilometers from Ramallah. We were thus forced to spend another hour to finally reach Ramallah, instead of the five minutes it takes from the second checkpoint. This sort of restriction exists only to humiliate Palestinians and acts as an arrogant reminder of the power of the Israeli occupation. During that last long hour, we tried to compensate for a feeling of powerlessness by joking, singing and clapping in time to the music.

It was 4:30 when we reached our destination. Our hosts were waiting for us. They gave us a warm welcome and led us into a big room prepared specially for the occasion. A Greek Orthodox priest from Ramallah performed the engagement ceremony. Soon we were sitting around tables laden with food and drink. The father of the bride-to-be had prepared a good party for his guests. We were having a wonderful time when our driver put an abrupt end to our enjoyment, announcing that the Wadi al-Nar checkpoint would close at ten. His interruption woke me up from merry and beautiful moments and brought me back to reality. I started apprehending those two and a half hours we needed to spend on the road again in order to get back home.

It was 8:30 in the evening when we all hurried to the bus in order to reach the checkpoint in time. In the bus, we tried to continue our singing as if we were still at the party.

The bus drove towards Bir Zeit. It was dark, without any streetlights or road signs, and the driver lost his way. After a while he said :
“Oh! I made a mistake! We must take the other road.”
He made his way back until he found the right road. Everyone was looking at his watch, hoping that we would arrive on time. The driver had to drive slowly because of the dark. At a quarter past ten, we arrived at the checkpoint. The gate was closed. A military vehicle was standing next to it. It was cold, so we waited in the bus for the finger of the soldier to point to us so we could advance.

More than fifteen minutes went by without any sign of a soldier. A civilian car stopped behind the bus. After a while, the driver of the car came to inquire about the situation. In a bitter tone of voice, he said:
“They don’t care. We had better return.”
We started cursing and complaining in low voices. All the happiness and the joyfulness began to evaporate.
The driver commented in a desperate tone of voice
“It’s closed. I am afraid that they will not let us go through.”
Then he decided to go see the soldiers and ask their permission to enter after explaining what had happened.

Some minutes passed - they seemed like hours – before the driver came back to the bus with a soldier. The soldier looked at us. We were all quiet. Then, he said:
“You are late. We close the gate at ten pm, and we open it at five am. You will stay in the bus till morning.
Everyone exclaimed hopelessly all together:
“Nooooo!”
I addressed him in Hebrew:
“We are from Bethlehem, and we were at a wedding in Ramallah. We are on our way home.
He looked at me and replied:
“I am sorry, but these are my orders. There is nothing I can do.”

Many thoughts came into my mind. It was only a short distance to our homes, which we were forbidden to reach. Would we have to spend the night there? Should we return to Ramallah to continue the party? Could we sleep in our seats in the bus or chat until morning? How could we wait for so long, and how could we go to work the next day?

In a pleading voice I said:
“Is there no hope for us to go to home?”
The soldier nodded his head and said:
”Give me a few minutes to ask my commander. Maybe he will allow you to go through.”
The soldier stepped out of the bus. We looked at each other waiting for someone to say something. The driver spoke first with a smile:
“Don’t worry: we will get through.”
Everybody shouted in one voice: “Inshallah!”(If God wills it.)
I turned to my nephew and shouted playfully:
“This is your punishment for loving a girl from Ramallah!”
One of his cousins said, laughing,:
“Wasim loves, and we pay the fine!”
Wasim sat there without answering, as if he felt responsible for what we were up against. I looked at him: his face was pale, his smile had disappeared, and he looked as if he were feeling badly. To make him feel better, I stood up and addressed him:
“Where is your ’oud, Wasim? Play us some music, it’s not your fault. It’s the fault of the occupation.
Wasim laughed without saying anything.

Then, everyone started making suggestions about what to do if they refused to let us by. One person suggested we return to Ramallah. Another person wanted us to sleep in the bus. Yet another wanted to try to find a hotel in Bethany. There were lots of suggestions, but nothing came of them.

Time passed ever so slowly. It was midnight, and the engine of the bus was on in order to keep us warm. Some minutes later, the soldier came to talk to us in the bus:
“I spoke to the commander, and he is doing his best to let you enter.”
The happiness on our faces was obvious, and in a single voice, we all said: “Thank you!”
Time went by, and we got off the bus to stretch our legs, but it was very cold, and we got back on quickly. An hour later, the same soldier came again to speak to us:
“I’m sorry, our commander is still trying to arrange things.”
“He is nice “ Someone exclaimed.
One lady commented:
“He seems like a good person. He is so humane. He seems genuinely concerned about our welfare.”

Her remark reminded me of a story which I had read as a child. The story goes like this: A hunter went out very early one morning to hunt. In the woods, he saw a tree full of birds. He shot at them, and many fell down. Some were dead, and some were wounded. He began to pick up the dead birds and to kill the wounded ones with his knife. While he was busy at his task, a few teardrops came to his eyes because of the cold. Two wounded birds were watching and waiting their turn. One said to the other:
‘This hunter has a good heart. Look at his eyes: he is weeping for us.’
The other bird said;
‘Forget his eyes: look at his hands.’
Israeli soldiers sometimes try to be humane. If this is their real concern, then they should refrain from serving in the occupied territories. Do they prevent us from going home for security reasons? If we were going to Israel, they might be justified, but to Bethlehem? To our own city? What excuse could they invent?

Every hour, the soldier reappeared, saying:
“Just a few more minutes, and you will be able to go…”
It was as if he were giving us an injection of hope to keep us quiet.
The game continued until exactly five o’clock in the morning, when the same soldier opened the gate and, with his powerful finger, gave us the signal to proceed.
Apartheid for All
posted by: salam max at 2:06 PM
Palestine News Network received the following letter from former Bethlehem University student, Annalissa. It is printed by way of example of the Apartheid system practiced against Palestinian holders of Israeli citizenship.
It was a grave affront to my dignity and an attack upon and a denial of my human rights. As an Arab woman, to be forced to strip, even if the offending person is female, is an offense to both my honor and my values. They are either not sensitive to that or deliberately wanted to humiliate me simply because I am an Israeli Arab.
For full article, click here.
Ghetto, Prison, Reservation... call it what you want
posted by: salam max at 1:29 PM
Often, people comment on articles that I write about the ghettoization of Bethlehem. The argument goes something like 1) the wall is for security 2) Israel is 'withdrawing' from the major cities, including Bethlehem, so what are you complaining about?

It's easy to dismiss both these arguments; below Khaled Amayreh, in Al-Ahram shows why it's false to believe in the Israeli 'withdrawals':
While much of the world community is harbouring a modicum of hope for reviving peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians, especially following Palestinian Authority (PA) success in getting resistance factions to agree to a unilateral cease-fire, the Israeli government and extremist Jewish circles have stepped up efforts to corrode all possible conditions for genuine peace in the region.

This week, Israel announced plans for the construction of as many as 3,500 settler units around East Jerusalem. The massive settlement expansion is aimed at creating a "territorial and demographic Jewish continuity" between the settlement of Maali Adomim, five kilometres east of Jerusalem, and other Jewish settlements on the northeastern outskirts of the occupied city.

In other words, the new settlement, dubbed by Israeli officials as reflective of "natural growth", would nearly completely strangle, even ghettoise, Arab East Jerusalem and eliminate remaining Arab demographic gaps between the city and the West Bank.

Earlier, Israeli officials said the gigantic "separation wall" Israel is building deep into the West Bank would flank Maali Adomim, thus cutting off the central and northern parts of the West Bank from the Bethlehem and Hebron regions.

The implication here is very clear. It means that any prospective Palestinian political state, whether to be called a state or go by any other name, will be composed of hapless and disconnected enclaves that look more like "great prisons" or "reservations" than elements of a viable and genuine political entity.
Full article can be read here.

When we discussed this website, we had a debate about the use of terms to describe Bethlehem; 'open-air prison', 'ghetto', 'reservation', or even 'bantustan' could all characterise the situation being created here. All of them are good descriptions of the reality in Occupied Palestine. But Palestine is also a unique place, resembling South African Apartheid, the US Indian reservations, and the Warsaw Ghetto, but not exactly. The Wall is not the same as the Chinese or the Berlin Walls. There are parallels and there are similarities, but no two situations are ever the same.

We agreed, in the end, to use the term Ghetto. If you don't believe it's really like this, no amount of well written newspaper articles will convince you; come and see for yourself.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
The Prisoners' March
posted by: peacerider at 6:24 PM


One month ago, on Saturday 26th Feburary 2005, I accompanied a march for the release of the prisoners. We walked along Dheisha road towards Bethlehem before stopping at the UNRWA:
"This march is very important for the prisoners' families to express themselves" confided a friend.

The friend had herself served time, as had her husband, which explains the 11 year gap between her two children. Her brother was still in prison. Khawla is not unique and the women she stands next to today and everyday, share similar stories. Husbands, uncles, brothers, sons, daughters; generation after generation Palestinian men and women are locked up for a variety of 'political' crimes. They are imprisoned often without sentence for belonging to 'illegal' political organizations, such as Hamas, or as potential 'terrorists', for the possession of weapons, or for expressing their right to freedom of travel.

Many of the 500 prisoners who were released on the previous Tuesday (22nd Feburary) had been serving time for such seemingly 'dangerous' crimes. However, they were chosen primarily because they had no 'blood on their hands', because they would be released within months or days regardless, and despite the fact that their imprisonment is in itself a human rights infringement. However, the media spin portrays it as proof that Israel is making sacrifices, that Israel is cooperating and wants peace; just as Israel is embarking upon Sharon's disengagement plan from Gaza. This, coincidently, is a disengagement plan which entails a string of economic incentives for the relocation of settlers onto the Bedouin lands in the Negev and the Palestinian populated areas in the Gaililee; from one source of tension to another; another media stunt; another public denial; another denial of justice - and as the continuing suicide bombings show, another denial of peace.

Last night four innocent Israelis died;further 'evidence' that 'the Arabs' are 'terrorists' and not partners for peace...Last week, Israeli forces shot dead two youths aged 14 and 15 in separate incidents. "One for throwing stones and the other for brandishing a knife". The Guardian reported that Palestinians questioned why it was necessary to kill rather than wound the teenagers. 'Palestinians' questioned', but which other 'peace' concerned individuals do? Which other 'democratic' countries denounce the murders; not the Israeli and not Mr Liberty and Independence.

Below are just a few thoughts which today's march provoked. Such thoughts reflect the continuing confusion of occupation amidst peace talks; amidst talks of 'solutions', 'maps', 'walls' and doubting optimism...

A sea of family photographs. You are not forgotten. Faces remembered and spoken to through these paper photographs. Displayed to strangers; "It has been many years since I have seen him... They won’t let me or his father see him". It seems as if it has been years since the flesh has spoken back. The still faces are mostly men. Men of all ages; "17...29...only a boy...for 4 years...". Some with beards, some wearing a hijab. There are some still faces of women, although not many. Here in Palestine "Women's Struggle" takes on a double meaning and their collective mothers do them proud, fighting for the return of their children. Women against the occupation? Women for their families, for their sons and for daughters, for their husbands, brothers and fathers.

The microphone is monopolized by the youth. Some on shoulders of elder brothers, who use it to vent frustration, transforming it to create an explosive energy as chants rise around them; Empowerment through disempowerment; unity through separation.

Arms land upon shoulders, little legs around necks dressed in Kaffirs. Above the 'multilayers' of youth, rise rows of painted banners and colored flags. Behind ripples the sea of still faces. Framed and clutched, raised above covered heads in wrinkled hands. With a painful mixture of pride and sorrow they are held and they move slowly forward, together. Each face, both still and in the flesh, is surrounded by another broken family; by a mirror image of other women, of all ages.

An elderly lady holds her family in her hands. She directs her family towards my camera lens. "Arba" she shouts; two sons, one daughter and her husband. A little girl is excited. Names are spoken. She misunderstands and thinks they are going to bring her brother 'Fadi' home. She marches with his photo. She marches until she cries. She is tried and today is hot.

Posted by peacerider
Ghassan Kanafani, Dheisheh Camp
posted by: salam max at 5:52 PM

This is the unmistakable mural of Ghassan Kanafani, a Palestinian left wing writer, who was assasinated July 8th, 1972, in Beirut. His 16 year old nephew, who happened to be in his car with him when the Israeli bomb went off, was also killed.

The bullet holes from the Israeli soldiers after an invasion are still visible on this mural, which stands at the main entrance to Dheisheh camp, as if they are still trying to kill him off...
In grim refugee camp, hope coexists with fear
posted by: salam max at 4:38 PM
This is By Christina Erb - The Daily Iowan
The games Palestinian children play in the narrow, garbage-strewn lanes ease the toil of daily life in the Dheisheh refugee camp, a cramped home to 11,000 refugees and a half-century of painful memories.

In this land with only one U.N.-sponsored doctor, where growing families squeeze into low-rise buildings and broken windows remind visitors of the former Israeli Occupation Force raids, optimism for the future mixes with paranoia. The barbed-wire fence that once surrounded the camp is gone, dismantled after the forces withdrew in 1995. The fence's gate remains, however, as a memory of Palestinians' past hardships.
You can find out more about Dheisheh Camp by going to the Ibdaa website. Dheisheh is just on the edge of Bethlehem, and we hope to bring you photo's soon, including of the iron gate which still stands as a testimony to the horrors of yesteryear.

We also look forward to the day when the huge concrete gate being put up as we speak will one day only be a monument to remind us of dark days gone by. The Berlin Wall still stands in places, protected as World Heritage Sites, to remind the people of the world of their history. If the people of Dheisheh camp can tear down the fence that imprisoned them ten years ago, and if the people of Berlin can smash to pieces the wall that divided them, then we will surely - one day - do the same to this Wall.
The Persistence of Misplaced Optimism
posted by: salam max at 2:04 PM
This is from the Mennonite Central Committee, Palestine:

With all of the hardships and tragedies facing the human experience today, it is quite normal for us to hold on to any glimmer of hope or optimism that comes our way. This is especially true here, under the umbrella of fear and death that casts a shadow over much of life in Palestine / Israel. Thus much has been said about the windows of opportunity and the growing optimism of "truces," "peace processes," and burgeoning "democracies."

This sense of optimism rests easily in the calm homes of the Global North. But unfortunately, that optimism suffers a very short half-life here under occupation. One needs only attempt the short journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem - a six-mile or ten-kilometer distance - to learn the misplaced nature of this optimism. For as soon as you make your way to Bethlehem, you must first face the main checkpoint guarding the entrance to the "little town," where chances are you will notice lines of Palestinian men being detained on the side of the road for trying to get to their places of employment outside of Bethlehem.

But what is most striking is the "Wall." Standing about eight meters or twenty-five feet high, the "Separation" or "Apartheid" Wall has recently grown at a considerable pace around Bethlehem, now almost complete, imprisoning this Palestinian community here.

It is difficult to communicate just how impacting this sight is when entering Bethlehem, face-to-face with this monstrosity of concrete. "Disturbing" does not quite describe it. "Sad" also falls short. "Heart-breaking" is a little more appropriate, tying to capture all of the visceral responses to this visual trauma. It is against this Wall that any semblance of optimism for many in this land has been shattered.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
More photos and report from Palm Sunday March
posted by: salam max at 11:05 AM
A report from the Palm Sunday protest in Bethlehem on the ISM website:

Despite the threat of tear gas, the crowd continued the last leg with the chanting growing louder: “we demand freedom”, “no justice no peace”, “the wall must fall,” “we come in peace”.

We walked past a gap in Israel’s ugly concrete apartheid wall which now rips the town of Bethlehem in two (that’s another story). As we moved toward the checkpoint we formed rows and linked arms.

It seemed we took the soldiers at the checkpoint by surprise because we got quite close before they realised what was going on. They were even more surprised when we continued to walk on as if they were not there. “Don’t mind us. We are going to Jerusalem to pray,” one demonstrator called out as a soldier approached the group.

...and some photos to go with.
Rachel, Full of Life
posted by: beitsahourplayer at 10:06 AM

Written by Brooks Berndt , Saturday, 12 March 2005

At the age of 23, Rachel Corrie was full of life. At the age of 23, she was a senior in college ignited by a passion for justice. At the age of 23, she traveled to the Gaza strip as an activist for peace. And, it was at the age of 23 that Rachel Corrie knelt to the ground wearing an orange fluorescent jacket as a 9-ton Caterpillar bulldozer came toward her, knocked her down, crushed her with its blade, ran her over, backed up, and ran her over again. At the age of 23, Rachel Corrie was loved by family and friends who would never see her radiant life again.

Rachel was killed trying to prevent the demolition of a civilian home by the Israeli army. Thousands of homes had been demolished, and Rachel along with her companions from the International Solidarity Movement were seeking to prevent further destruction. Through non-violence, this group of international activists was following the lead of Palestinians struggling to end the occupation of their lands.

To see the full article go to
http://www.imemc.org/opinion/2005/mar/rachel-corrie.htm

Related articles
http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article3688.shtml
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Nahaleen Residents Served with Evacuation Warnings
posted by: Jacob Pace, Interfaith Peace-Builders at 10:14 PM

Last night, Israeli occupying forces served Evacuation Warning notices to residents of the village of Nahaleen, or Nahalin, west of Bethlehem (see the map at the bottom of the page). The notices were left on a parcel of agricultural land adjacent to the village. The targeted land is uninhabited but is planted with olives, grapes and other crops and is owned by Palestinian residents of Nahaleen.

The orders cite Israel’s Absentee Property Law (#59 of 1967) which has been used repeatedly to expropriate Palestinian land in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Palestinian residents have been given 45 days to leave their land. If it is not evacuated in that that period, the land will be cleared at the owners’ expense. The notices were on a form with Hebrew and Arabic but the details were written in Hebrew only. This is a rough translation:

The Israeli Defense Forces
Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria
Office of Government Properties - Central Investigations Unit

- Evacuation Warning -

To whom it may concern:

1. Under authorization of the Law of Government Properties in Judea and Samaria #59 of 1967 and according to Section (2) of that Law and relative to the Law of Land Protection and Government Properties in Judea and Samaria #1006 of 1982, I hereby certify that you illegally hold the following lands:

[The lands in Nahaleen are here listed according to their coordinates on an Israeli military map of the area. No area measurement is specified]

2. According to this order, you are required to withdraw from the land cited and and return it in its original status within 45 days from receiving this order.

If you do not conform to this requirement, the relevant authorities will enforce your evacuation and you will be obliged to pay any expenses accrued in the process.

3. You are entitled to appeal this decision to the Military Appeals Committee based in Ofer [settlement] within 45 days of receiving this order.

Signed: Captain Kahane
The Israeli Defense Forces

The Evacuation Warning notices are the latest in a systematic campaign of intimidation orchestrated by Israeli soldiers and settlers targeting Nahaleen’s 7,000 Palestinian residents. The village is pinched between several illegal Israeli settlements, all of which are currently undergoing expansion. The large settlement of Betar sits directly west of the village. Every Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath), Israeli settlers from Betar gather on the hill above the only road to Nahaleen and throw stones at Palestinian cars as they pass to and from the village. But these settler attacks are little compared to the constant incitement of Israeli soldiers who enter Nahaleen nightly.

This morning, I interviewed a friend who lives in Nahaleen. He told me that Israeli soldiers and settlers light small brushfires along the fence between the town and the settlement every evening. The soldiers blame the Palestinians for lighting the fires and use them as a pretext to raid the village.

Every night seven to ten soldiers enter the village firing flares and concussion grenades (sound bombs). They patrol the streets of the village taunting and teasing the Palestinian children until the children start to throw stones. When the children come with the stones, the soldiers respond with more grenades and live ammunition. It is a symbolic game, but one that can end tragically for the residents of Nahaleen.

These constant Israeli attacks must be seen in the proper context. According to Israel’s published plan for the Apartheid Wall, the village will be one of four Palestinian communities isolated in a small, mini-ghetto outside the main Bethlehem ghetto. The villages are surrounded by Israeli settlements in the Gush Etzion Block, one of the largest illegal settlement blocks in the West Bank. Israel is currently expanding almost all the settlements west of the wall, and the Gush Etzion settlements are certainly no exception.

There is one access road to Nahaleen, which according to village residents, may soon be controlled by an Israeli military checkpoint. My friend is not optimistic for the future. He fears that Palestinians will soon need a special permit to enter the village. Meanwhile, Israeli occupying forces will continue to appropriate Palestinian lands (like those targeted by yesterday's Evacuation Warning) for settlement expansion. Nahaleen’s lands will shrink and the people will be unable to sustain themselves by farming, as they have for generations. The sum result may be to force the residents of Nahaleen to leave their village in order to feed their families.

Ethnic cleansing is a strong word, but readers can draw their own conclusions.

To the Shepherds...
posted by: peacerider at 9:15 PM
Aida camp
posted by: snoopy at 9:00 PM
Palestinian man wounded outside Bethlehem Checkpoint
posted by: salam max at 5:07 PM
I heard about this story from a friend, but she said to check it out in the news... and i can only find one story mentioning it, in 'Prensa Latina', from cuba:

In the other incident, soldiers shot and wounded a Palestinian man at a roadblock near the West Bank town of Bethlehem as he tried to steal a gun from a policeman, according to Israeli police reports.


My friend's account was that the young man, who was stopped outside the checkpoint, didn't like the way the Israeli soldier was pointing his gun in his face at point blank range. So he pushed the gun to the side. NOT trying to steal it, merely move its barrel away from him.

He was shot for this, but this isn't really news these days - we have peace negotiations now, after all. I've never been keen on having a gun pointed straight at me either.
Some other coverage of Palm Sunday protest
posted by: salam max at 3:36 PM
There was some international news coverage of the march from Bethlehem on Palm Sunday. From the Scotsman:

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:

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.

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?

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.
Electronic Intifada on Bethlehem Bloggers
posted by: salam max at 11:33 AM
Aren't we proud of ourselves?! Our press release got picked up by Electronic Intifada, The Website to check for news and critical coverage of events in Palestine.

Arjan El Fassed, who also has his own blog, has this to say on the importantce of Palestinian weblogs:
I always felt that Palestinians should have a means by which to narrate their own lives, hopes and history. Diaries, and in this age, weblogs, give writers a space in which to record their opinions and reflections on historic and day-to-day events. It has been a valuable asset, an alternative source, and a much needed human context to understand the realities of life under occupation. Weblogs give ordinary Palestinians the power to narrate, address issues of human rights, humane values, justice, and equality.

Bethlehem Bloggers, like thousands worldwide, are changing the terms of media and policy debates through their handmade, personalized blogs. However, these bloggers need permits to pass roadblocks and checkpoints. They need to make a detour to get into their own town. Surrounded by Israel’s Wall on two sides and with many restricted roads and roadblocks, bloggers in Bethlehem live in a prison. The illegal barrier cuts through several kilometers of Bethlehem and it is expected to stretch across more than 420 miles. With one quarter completed, the barrier has already disrupted the lives of thousands of Palestinians who have been cut off from their lands and have been prevented from reaching other villages and population centers.
The EI story also gets a shout on Ali Abunimah's site, who is a co-founder of EI and Electronic Iraq.

So far, so good.

It's important for us to be able to speak out about life here in the open air prison of Bethlehem, and found the idea of a blog the perfect tool. If you are in the Bethlehem area and want your stories, your narative told to the world, send us an email: bethlehembloggers@gmail.com
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Bethlehem Residents Protest against Occupation and Closure
posted by: salam max at 8:03 PM

Palestinians, internationals and Israelis march as one against the Wall

A few hundred Palestinians, Internationals and Israelis peacefully marched today from Bethlehem to the checkpoint which separates the city from Jerusalem, protesting enclosure of the city and the continued occupation.

Organised by a coalition of non-violent resistance groups, the residents of Bethlehem marched on Palm Sunday to bring international attention to the unjust, Israeli-imposed restrictions on access to Jerusalem and its Holy Sites.

A press release from the Holy Land Trust (HLT) and the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) stated: “Since 1990, Palestinian Christians and Muslims are prohibited from entering Jerusalem, which deprives them the basic right to worship in the Holy City.”

Marchers carried banners, flags, and olive branches to symbolize peace, and called for an end to closure of their city. They chanted in English and Arabic. One placard read: “Jerusalem is for all of us!”

Husam Jubran, of the Holy Land Trust, an organizer of the march, said:

“We’re protesting for many reasons. This is to send a message to the world to say we’re still living under occupation and still we’re living under structural violence; by-pass roads, fences, checkpoints, walls and settlements.”

“We’re sending a message to Israelis that there is a chance for a just peace; that this is the time for peace.”

“We want also to increase the non-violent resistance to the occupation in Bethlehem,” he added.


George Rishmawi, of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), also an organizer of the march, said they were marching to say one thing:

“That what is happening – the building of the Wall and the fence, which is imprisoning the Palestinian people in their own land – will not bring about peace or security. It will only increase isolation and hatred.”

“We say to the soldiers that they have a choice; to put away their guns and join us in our quest for peace.”


Anton, from Beit Jala, managed to get special permission to go to Jerusalem for Easter celebrations. But he wanted to protest against the Wall and the separation of Bethlehem and Jerusalem, “to do something!” he said, reflecting the feeling of powerlessness often expressed in Bethlehem: “In the time of Jesus we didn’t have a wall,” he added; “Today we have a wall.”

Omar, from Bethlehem, said: “It’s important for people of multi-faith backgrounds to reclaim religion in the name of non-violence in their resistance to oppression.”
Tim, from the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), in the US, said: “We’re here in Solidarity with Palestinians in their non violent resistance to the occupation. The MCC works that way around the world; by supporting local initiatives for peace.”

Ghassan, a Palestinian from Beit Sahour, said: “We’re protesting for our right to go to Jerusalem. According to international law Jerusalem is a Palestinian city and we have a right to go there to pray.”

Joseph, an Israeli from Jerusalem, said: “I’m here in solidarity with Palestinians to resist non-violently against the checkpoints and to resist confinement into enclaves.”

Bex, from the UK, also marching in solidarity, said: “It’s just not fair that people can’t walk to and from Jerusalem if they want to. It’s the spiritual, historical, and economic capital for Palestinians.”

The protesters marched through the narrow gap in the wall on the road leading to Jerusalem, and were then stopped by armed soldiers and military police at the checkpoint. A statement was read to the soldiers after the crowd sang “We Shall Overcome”, and chanted, protesting non-violently against the occupation and closure.

The statement read:

Asalaam ‘alaykum.

We in the Bethlehem community have come to you today with a message on behalf of our people. We represent the family members and friends who are imprisoned by these concrete walls and wire fences that now create the Bethlehem open-air prison. You, like the prison guards, control our freedom and ability to live as human beings with dignity in this holy land.

Our strong delegation of civilians comes to you without weapons but with great strength and commitment to deliver the message of just peace. In the name of security, you do not permit us to travel to work, to school and to worship in our holy sites in the city of Jerusalem. Your government deprives us each day of basic human rights to self-determination. Each day you keep us from being with our families at weddings, funerals, graduations, birthdays, and religious holidays. Although Al Quds [Jerusalem] is only 20 minutes from Bethlehem, we have not been allowed to pray or worship at our holy sites.

Each day as you come to our city, you serve the system of violence that keeps our people imprisoned and without the ability to live a life of normal human being. With your guns, tanks and insults, you teach our children to hate.

However, we believe each of you has the power and choice to choose a different ending to this story. We appeal to your conscious and humanity as individuals and as soldiers who may feel there is no way out of this system. Put your guns away and join us in the fight for peace and freedom.

The People of Bethlehem

This powerful statement, read with passion, raised a loud cheer and applause from the marchers, who left the checkpoint peacefully, having got their message to the soldiers and to the media who were present. The soldiers watched as slogans and messages were painted onto the wall, and the Palestinian shibaab (youth) behaved with dignity as the soldiers pointed their guns at the crowd and their jeeps followed at close distance.

There were no arrests or injuries, and the organizers agreed it was a success: the media were there and a powerful message was sent. This was also a precedent for the Bethlehem residents: the organizers are hopeful that this successful, peaceful direct action will encourage larger participation next time around: “We’ll be back!” said one protester; “tomorrow!” said another…

“Next time, insha’allah (god willing), there will be more people. This was a success because we showed the press that we can demonstrate peacefully…. Next time more people will want to join us,” said George Rishmawi.

A small but important step forward was taken for the Bethlehem non-violent resistance movement. We hope to see coverage of this demonstration on the news, so that the world can hear our voice from the Bethlehem ghetto.

Marchers pass the wall, the entrance to the Bethlehem Ghetto

The statement is read to the Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint
The Wall at Bethlehem's Northern Entrance
posted by: Jacob Pace, Interfaith Peace-Builders at 11:16 AM

Israel began to wall in the Bethlehem ghetto in 2002, constructing sections of electrified fence around the city of Beit Jala and on lands belonging to Bethlehem and Beit Sahour sprawling below the massive illegal Israeli settlement of Har Homa.

In 2003, more of the Wall was hastily erected further around Beit Jala, Bethlehem and Beit Sahour.

It wasn’t until 2004 that Israeli occupying forces brought in the massive cement panels that have come to characterize Israel’s Apartheid project and the Palestinian ghettos it is creating. In June of 2004 Israel built sections of cement wall around the northern entrance to Bethlehem, the historic road linking the city to Jerusalem, and up against the neighboring Aida Refugee Camp. They left open the section between the Bethlehem checkpoint and the Israeli fortress at the holy site of Rachel’s Tomb.

This map details the wall construction around Bethlehem's northern entrance. The yellow section was built in 2003, the blue in 2004, and the red and purple sections are currently under construction:

Map courtesy of the Applied Research Institute- Jerusalem (July 2004).


One month ago, however, Israeli bulldozers were back at work, closing the gaps in the wall around Bethlehem. The path of the wall in this area is typical. The wall presses up against Palestinian homes and a large olive grove is cut off and de-facto annexed to Israel. The wall will also cut inside a Palestinian residential area to allow Jewish worshipers access to Rachel’s Tomb. The Tomb is holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians, but Israeli occupying forces only allow Jews to visit the site which is surrounded by cement walls, sniper towers, video cameras and razor-wire.

A group of Palestinian homes, inhabited by 3 families, and a goldsmith shop will soon be surrounded by the wall and cut-off from the rest of Bethlehem. Below is a series of photos of the wall growing around Bethlehem’s northern entrance over the last month:

More Information:
Updated map of the wall in the entire West Bank (from NAD/NSU)
The Electroni Intifada's Apartheid Wall Focus Page
The Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign

Friday, March 18, 2005
Cartoon
posted by: salam max at 10:10 AM

Steve Bell on the power relationship behind the 'Road Map'...
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Who are Bethlehem Bloggers?
posted by: bethlehembloggers at 6:21 PM
“Ahlan Wa-Sahlan” (Welcome)!

So; Who are we? And what is the point of a Bethlehem Blog?

This site is a portal for us to communicate to the outside world and tell the stories of our lives in Bethlehem, occupied Palestine. It is also a window for you to look in; to see past the walls, barbed wire fences, and the media distortions; to hear from the people in Bethlehem themselves.

We are Palestinians and internationals who are living in the Bethlehem region (see Map), and who want to tell the world what it is like to be living in occupied territory, under an economic siege, encircled by a wall and military checkpoints: what it is like to live in a Palestinian Ghetto.

We invite you to come to see Bethlehem—to meet the people who live here and witness the occupied land of Palestine for yourselves. For those who cannot come, we provide you with this “weblog” so you can at least hear our stories: voices from the Bethlehem Ghetto.

Though some of us are working with organizations in the area, the Bethlehem Blog is not affiliated with any party, NGO or organization in any way (the links bar is purely for information sharing). We are simply like-minded individuals who share a need to show the world the effects of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and in particular, Bethlehem.

We welcome comments and suggestions, but we have a strict policy for our comments. Any form of racism, discrimination of any kind or abuse in general will not be tolerated.

Contact us at: bethlehembloggers@gmail.com


The Bethlehem Ghetto

Map by the Applied Research Institute- Jerusalem
The Bethlehem Bloggers Press Release
posted by: Jacob Pace, Interfaith Peace-Builders at 5:41 PM

For Immediate Release

March 20, 2005

New Website Features Voices from the Bethlehem Ghetto

OCCUPIED BETHLEHEM: The shaheed (martyr) Tupac Shakur once wondered if heaven has a ghetto. None of us can answer that question. Israeli policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, however, are turning large parts of the Holy Land into just that - walled ghettos. A new web portal launched today features voices from one of the most famous of these ghettos - Bethlehem.

The Bethlehem Bloggers website is dedicated to bringing first hand insight into life and politics inside Israeli-occupied Bethlehem. The site is managed by a diverse group of activists and professionals living and working in the area. An introductory statement posted to the website explains:

"We are Palestinians and internationals who are living in the Bethlehem region, and who want to tell the world what it is like to be living in occupied territory, under an economic siege, encircled by a wall and military checkpoints: what it is like to live in a Palestinian Ghetto."

As Israel tightens its control throughout occupied Palestine, indigenous Palestinian communities continue to suffer. Israeli occupying forces completely dominate the Bethlehem region with a network of illegal Israeli settlements, checkpoints and by-pass roads. The Apartheid Wall now pushes in close on Bethlehem and the neighboring towns and villages, segregating villages and appropriating large portions of Palestinian land.

There are seven permanent Israeli military checkpoints in the Bethlehem District which control access to the ghetto. Israeli troops also often set up an additional three temporary checkpoints to monitor movement within the area and more than 35 roadblocks make it difficult for Palestinians to move between their towns and cities. In addition, there are more than 11 illegal Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in the Bethlehem District. Most of these settlements are currently undergoing expansion, despite Israel's stated adherence to the Roadmap peace plan which demands a "settlement freeze" as part of its first phase of implementation.

Bethlehem Bloggers shows the effect of the Israeli occupation on life in Bethlehem. It is also a window for people around the world to look in; to see past the walls, barbed wire fences, and the media distortions; to hear from the people in Bethlehem themselves.