A Catholic heritage community is next on the occupation’s chopping block

Israel/Palestine
on 30 Comments
cremisan service
Outdoor service conducted by the Salesian convent in the Cremisan Valley, a Palestinian hamlet ordered to be carved up with the separation wall  by an Israeli court. (Photo: Catholic Philly)

Alcohol drinkers in the West Bank know the Cremisan Valley as the agricultural lands where sacramental wine, as well as Merlot, Chardonnay, Vermouth and Brandy are produced by nuns and monks. Since the late 1800s when the Salesian order established a monastery southwest of Jerusalem, this hidden gem of land has served the Palestinian Christian community for business, education and religion.

But last week an Israel court ruled on the route of the expanding separation wall, and it will now chop up the Cremisan Valley like so many other localities caught between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

The court’s findings come after seven years of litigation to change the route of the wall. The barrier will now “surround the Salesian Nuns Convent and Primary School from three sides and will confiscate most of the convent’s lands,” said the Society for St. Yves, a Catholic legal rights group that represented the Cremisan community, in a press release on Friday.

Originally the wall’s planned route would have barricaded the school from the city of Beit Jala, a historically Christian city adjacent to Bethlehem. But St. Yves was successful in partially re-directing the path of the wall. From the press release by the organization:

The Society of St. Yves was initially successful in changing the primary course of the wall, by which the Convent and the School will remain on the Palestinian side of the wall. Still the Society of St. Yves sees the verdict as highly problematic and unjust as it doesn’t even discuss the violation of freedom of religion, the right to education as well as the economical damage caused for a unique Christian minority in Beit Jala by the construction of the wall.

The Guardian‘s Harriet Sherwood also reports the route of the wall will usurp most of the monastery ‘s land as well as agricultural fields from 50 families:

The route of the barrier will separate a small community of elderly nuns at the Cremisan convent from 75% of their land and from a nearby monastery with which it has close ties. The playground of a nursery and a school run by the Cremisan sisters will be bordered on three sides by the wall.

More than 50 Palestinian families will lose free access to their agricultural land, causing economic hardship to the dwindling Christian community.

In particular Cremisan Cellars is caught between the Green line, “with the main building officially in Jerusalem and the storeroom on the other side of the parking lot in the West Bank. The long winding road to the monastery is just past one of the coordinating offices between Israel and the Palestinian Autonomy [Authority],” says the vineyard’s website.

Although to the outside world Cremisan is a little-heard-of agricultural and religious hamlet, it is situated in between regions of heightened settlement expansion. To the west of the valley is Har Gilo where hundreds of Israeli settlers live on territory expropriated from the Palestinian towns of Beit Jala and al-Walajah. To the east is Gilo, a Levittown-on-the-Holy Land, home to some 40,000 settlers. Together Gilo and Har Gilo form the nexus of the Gush Etzion and East Jerusalem settlement blocs. Connecting them while carving up the surrounding Palestinian villages schematically reinforces a “Greater Jerusalem” into the West Bank.

30 Responses

  1. Fritz
    April 27, 2013, 1:00 pm

    I visited Beit Jala and Bethlehem some years ago and met humble and well minded Christians. However, back in Europe I found that (mostly protestant) hasbara agents tried to smear these Christians from Beit Jala and Bethlehem as terrorists and agents of Hamas as thieves who misused the donations for terorism. A unbelievable bunch of lies was thrown on honest Palestinian Christians from pro-Israel fellow Christians. Palestinian Christians are often well educated, have family members living in different countries in Europe whose entry to their homeland were often denied by the Israel authorities. They have to fight to hold together the families since the Palestinians who left the Palestinian territories (often for higher education not available for them in Palestine) for more as seven years were not allowed to return to their homeland. It is a shame that even fellow Christians act in such a way to Palestinian Christians.

    • Mike_Konrad
      April 27, 2013, 6:05 pm

      However, back in Europe I found that (mostly protestant) hasbara agents tried to smear these Christians from Beit Jala and Bethlehem as terrorists and agents of Hamas as thieves who misused the donations for terorism.

      Most Christians from Beit Jala and Bethlehem immigrated to Chile, which is now a first world nation. The Chilean Palestinian Christian are 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation Chilean. They are rich and elite in South America.

      THEY ARE VERY HOSTILE TO ISRAEL.

      Look at one of their websites. link to fearab.cl

      Fearab Chile (Federation of Arab Societies) – their logo wipes Israel off the map.

      Most Arabs in Chile are Palestinian-Christian and they set the tone.

      This Palestinian Christian – from the Mideast – made this speech at a California meeting.

      Palestinian Christians are surprisingly anti-Israel.

      ODDLY in Argentina where half or more of the Arabs are of Lebanese Maronite descent, their website is neutral concerning Israel.
      link to fearab.org.ar

      Their FEARAB ARGENTINA top logo changes to a gaucho. The Argentine Arabs were more interested in becoming Argentine than waging war on Israel. The Lebanese, where they are close to a majority, tend to moderate the other Arabs in their countries.

      Argentine Arabs may not be in love with Israel, but you do not see the hostility that you see in Palestinian Christians in Chile, where the Palestinians are 60% of the Arabs in Chile, and very rich.

      The Palestinian-Chileans have a major league soccer club called the Palestinos and they bring their politics to the soccer games.

      It has been around since 1920. (So even I have to admit the Palestinians had a sort of national identity if they named a soccer club Palestinos in Chile in 1920).

      Now, this is where it gets odd. The national identity may have been stronger in the semi-Westernized Christians. Remember the nation state is a Western invention. Muslims thought in terms of a unified Caliphate, not a nation state.

      Both the Christians and Muslims dislike Israel, but for different reasons.

      • Annie Robbins
        April 28, 2013, 4:16 am

        Palestinian Christians are surprisingly anti-Israel.

        whoda thunk?

      • amigo
        April 28, 2013, 8:19 am

        “Palestinian Christians are surprisingly anti-Israel.” con rad

        Con rad believes all the propaganda put out by Israel that Palestinian Christians are treated with kid gloves by Israel and ergo should love Israel.

        Talk about self delusion.

      • Walid
        April 28, 2013, 1:02 pm

        Mike Konrad knows about the Christians of Palestine as much as he knows about the Christians of Lebanon and their problems in what he calls “Hezbollastan”. Truly a wealth of knowledge.

      • Mike_Konrad
        April 28, 2013, 5:28 pm

        Mike Konrad knows about the Christians of Palestine as much as he knows about the Christians of Lebanon and their problems in what he calls “Hezbollastan”. Truly a wealth of knowledge.

        I know Lebanese Maronites. I know a lot more than you give me credit for.

        Many Lebanese Maronties do not even consider themselves Arabs, but rather Phoenician. I know Lebabese Maronites who won’t call themselves Arabs. They consider the Muslims to be Arab invaders, and the Christians were descendants of Phoenicians who converted in the early days of Christians.

        If you doubt that, I can give you a link where it will be proved.

        Half of the the Maronites hate the Palestinians. The Shia Muslims and Maronite Catholics blame the Sunni Palestinians for starting the 1975 Civil War.

        Some Lebanese Christians support Israel.

        More Lebanese Christians would support Israel, but they blame Israel for dumping Palestinians in their country.

        They want the Palestinians out of their country.
        Bashir Gemeyal – 1970s.

        Wake up.

        The Palestinian-Israel fight is NOT as simple as you make it out to be.

      • Inanna
        April 28, 2013, 10:01 pm

        No surprise to me!

      • Walid
        April 30, 2013, 11:23 am

        Mike, your Maronites believe that they can trace their roots to the Canaanites, but they don’t have a clue about their history. The northern Canaanites were occupied in succession by the Hyksos, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Macedonians (that nicknamed them “Phoenicians”, the Seleucids, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Ottomans, the French, the Palestinians, the Israelis, and the Syrians. The Canaanites are very very far in this history. The closest to the original Canaanites are the Palestinians.

        You need to meet real Maronites that know the truth.

      • James Canning
        May 1, 2013, 6:30 pm

        Has anyone isolated DNA that pertains to Canaanites?

      • Fritz
        April 28, 2013, 9:12 am

        Thanks Mike_Konrad for the information about Palestinian immigrants to Chile. Your remark about a Palastinos soccer club from 1920 is very useful as argument against the “invented people” sermon. However, my thoughts were with the Christian Palestinians from today. They are well educated and very important for the Palestinian civil society. One of them Dr. Mitri Raheb wrote a book helpful to understand the situation of Christian Palestinians (M. Raheb, I am a Palestinian Christian, Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress 1995). Others are more active in their communities like the Abrahams Herberge. Dr. Raheb was heavily criticized by pro-Israel Christians for his saying: “Jesus was a Palestinian”. Christians needed some time to accept that Jesus was a Jew and now they don’t feel comfortable with the idea that also Palestinians have a claim in Jesus as one of them. It sounds bizarr but some Christians understand the “Jewishness” of Jesus as an argument for the zionistic project and opposed to the rights of the Palestinian people, including Palestinian Christians.

      • Mike_Konrad
        April 28, 2013, 5:00 pm

        Thanks Mike_Konrad for the information about Palestinian immigrants to Chile. Your remark about a Palastinos soccer club from 1920 is very useful as argument against the “invented people” sermon.

        I never denied they had a national identity.

        The Soccer Club was started in 1920 in Osorno, Chile.

        By the 1950s, it was a major soccer league clubs.

        Here is a video I translated, and put on my YouTube Channel

        Palestino Soccer Club Song – Latins sing fight songs at their games

        I translated this also, and put the translation on my YouTube Channel
        Arab immigration to Chile

        Now, what should be noticed is that MOST PALESTINIANS in CHILE have ancestors who arrived before 1930. Most are 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation Chilean. Many are intermarried with Spanish-, German-, Italian- Chileans.

        They are usually monolingual Spanish, and have to go to private Schools to learn the Arabic of their ancestors, now.

        They were NOT chased out by Zionists in 1930.

        They rose to wealth very fast; and by 1947, persuaded the pro-Zionist government of Chile to abstain in the UN vote.

        But by 1947, they were already two generations in Chile.

        So, yes, their hostility to Israel is very odd. In Chile, the Palestinians are old stock and elite. VERY WEALTHY.

        If you go to my website – Google: Latin Arabia – and you will learn more. Be Aware, I am usually pro-Israel.

        But yes, the Palestinians did have a national identity long before the oft-claimed 1964. I do NOT deny that; and it is foolish to deny the obvious.

        The Palestinians in Chile had a soccer club formed in 1920, and a social club formed in Santiago in 1938 – which by the way, was recognized by the British Mandatory Authority.

        What has to be remembered though is that nationalism is a European/Christian idea. Muslims believe in a Caliphate.

        Hence, the national identity might have been stronger among Palestinians in Chile (who are 99% Christian) that in Palestine itself where the majority was Muslim.

        From reading some Jewish sources, I am forced to conclude that the anti-Israelism of the Palestinian Christians is strongly founded in Orthodox Christianity which is common among Arab Christians in Chile and the West Bank.

        Most Palestinian-Chileans are very hostile to Israel.

        This video I translated is also on my Website.

        These Chilean kids were raised obviously hostile to Israel.
        I found the video and subtitled it. The background music is
        a Muslim war song encouraging fighters against Israel.
        How odd that Christian Palestinians should have used it
        as a background music?!

        Maybe you do not find it odd. I do.

        .

      • Fritz
        April 30, 2013, 6:07 pm

        Thanks again, I learned a lot, and now I understand why a retired Lutheran pastor from Beit Jala went to Chile. When I heard about his plans, I wondered, why Chile, but now you gave me the answer: The Palestinian Diaspora from his village lives there. However, it is also clear that the restrictions of the Israeli occupation forced him to leave his homeland.

    • Hostage
      April 28, 2013, 12:42 am

      It is a shame that even fellow Christians act in such a way to Palestinian Christians.

      There’s an old saying that goes “There was a serpent even in the Garden of Eden.”

  2. Don
    April 27, 2013, 2:13 pm

    Well…no doubt about it…I have a warped sense of humor…
    …but this strikes me as a serious “political/religious Freudian slip”…as does that little wall surrounding Bethlehem.

  3. Citizen
    April 27, 2013, 3:29 pm

    Wonder if this is Israeli backlash against that letter a bunch of Palestinians recently sent the Pope, asking for help to fight Israeli discrimination and persecution of them?

    Seems American Catholic establishment is as clueless or un-caring about how Christian natives are treated in Israel & WB as the Hagee Christian types. I don’t see them taking a stand like, increasingly, some American Protestant church’s are, as discussed here on MW often enough in the last couple of years, e.g., Methodists, Quakers, Presbies….

    • Don
      April 27, 2013, 8:58 pm

      It is neither clueless or uncaring. The American Catholic establishment is quite aware of what is happening; as is the Vatican. And the Vatican decided, it seems, that the reform of the church vis-s-vis its’ anti-semitic (or anti-Judaic) history was a necessity. What Prof Ellis has called the Ecumenical Deal partly explains the church’s behavior, but I don’t think it entirely explains it.

      The church is concerned for both parties. While that may in fact end up not being in the best interests of Jews, as Prof Ellis has suggested, in this instance at least, any harm to Jews would most certainly not be the intent.

      As a Catholic whose life was profoundly changed by a Jewish intellectual (Erich Fromm), it is depressing and bewildering to me to see the “Jewish World” expel people like Prof Ellis and Richard Falk. I end up wondering…how long before Jews don’t recognize themselves anymore? (maybe that is arrogant and condescending of me to ask?)

      • Walid
        April 28, 2013, 2:06 pm

        Agreed that American Catholics are not clueless or uncaring about Palestine. Look up Catholic involvement with the KAIROS Palestine document and you’d see that the Catholic Church is very active.

        The Vatican in 2010 convened a bishops’ synod to discuss the future of Catholics in the Middle East and especially those in the Palestine occupied territories. Among the conclusions, two in particular announced by an American archbishop, dealt with the Israeli occupation by blowing a huge hole through the concepts of the “Chosen People” and the “Promised Land” as both were being used by Israel to dispossess the Palestinians. The Catholic Church rejected both concepts.

        In Archbishop Cyril Bustros own words:

        In number eight of the Message, we say that we cannot resort to theological and Biblical assumptions as a tool to justify injustice. We want to say that the promise of God in the Old Testament, relating to the ‘promised land’ … as Christians, we’re saying that this promise was essentially nullified [in French, “abolished”] by the presence of Jesus Christ, who then brought about the Kingdom of God. As Christians, we cannot talk about a ‘promised land’ for the Jews. We talk about a ‘promised land’ which is the Kingdom of God. That’s the promised land, which encompasses the entire earth with a message of peace and justice and equality for all the children of God. There is no preferred or privileged people. All men and women from every country have become the ‘chosen people.’ This is clear for us. We cannot just refer to the ‘promised land’ to justify the return of the Jews in Israel, and [ignore] the Palestinians who were kicked out of their land. Five million Jews kicked out three or four million Palestinians from their land, and this is not justifiable. There’s no ‘chosen people’ any longer for Christians. Everybody is the ‘chosen people.’ What we say is something political. Sacred scripture should not be used to justify the occupation of Palestinian land on the part of the Israelis. link to ccjr.us

      • American
        April 28, 2013, 5:33 pm

        I end up wondering…how long before Jews don’t recognize themselves anymore? (maybe that is arrogant and condescending of me to ask?)”

        Probably not any more so than asking how long till Americans dont recongize themselves any more.

      • American
        April 28, 2013, 5:38 pm

        The days of the locust are upon us…the lunatics are running the asylum…USA,USA

        *Gun Group Raffles Off Assault Rifle Model Used In Newtown Shooting To
        ‘Resist Barack Obama’*

        By Rebecca Leber on Apr 27, 2013 at 2:06 pm

        The Tennessee Firearms Association is raffling off one AR-15 semiautomatic
        rifle, the same weapon used by Adam Lanza to kill 20 children and six
        adults in Newtown.

        According to the promotion, “TFA is giving away a BUSHMASTER AR15 to
        advance the effort to resist Barack Obama, the federal government and even
        a few in Tennessee state government who are determined to destroy your 2nd
        Amendment rights!!”

        The promotion began earlier in April to coincide with the Senate’s
        consideration of gun violence prevention legislation. And while contestants
        do not have to be a TFA member to enter, the promotion notes TFA would
        “appreciate” donations, ending with, “Our rights under the 2nd Amendment
        and even the Bill of Rights are not safe in Tennessee! We must act with
        force and determination to protect, preserve and restore our rights!!!!”

        The Tennessean reports that the raffle has already drawn more than 10,000
        entries for the Monday drawing.

        But Tennessee gun groups have little reason to fear for their
        representatives’ position on guns. Both Senators Bob Corker (R) and Lamar
        Alexander (R) voted against the Senate bill to expand background checks —
        two of 46 Senators who filibustered a safety measure that is approved by 90
        percent of Americans.

        “This may illustrate perfectly what I’ve been saying all along: They create
        these issues to raise money. That just stokes the fire to frighten folks,”
        former state Rep. Debra Maggart said of the motive for the raffle. Maggart
        herself was a target of both TFA and the National Rifle Association in her
        Republican primary last year.

        link to thinkprogress.org

  4. Philip Munger
    April 28, 2013, 12:40 am

    I had some of their Carignan back around 2009. I’d rate it around 88 or so, and had a nice aftertaste. If they were able to concentrate more on what they do there, I’m sure the wine would be better.

    However, the aftertaste of this wall extension will lead to bitter harvests.

    This decision and what happens next needs to get wide coverage.

    link to cremisan.org

  5. Ellen
    April 28, 2013, 4:34 am

    It is not just about the confiscation of the vinyards for wine production. Like many Catholic monastic communities, it was/is part of the community infrastructure, with schools, etc. The wall, built on confiscated land, will separate the school from it’s community, and destroy a community pillar.

    The route of the barrier will separate a small community of elderly nuns at the Cremisan convent from 75% of their land and from a nearby monastery with which it has close ties. The playground of a nursery and a school run by the Cremisan sisters will be bordered on three sides by the wall.

    link to guardian.co.uk

    • MHughes976
      April 29, 2013, 8:22 am

      Vineyards, Naboth, Ahab!

      • Shmuel
        April 30, 2013, 2:18 am

        Vineyards, Naboth, Ahab!

        Exactly. At the risk of mixing metaphors, I would add ewe, Nathan, David.

  6. Shmuel
    April 28, 2013, 4:51 am

    I wonder whether the pope will raise the issue of Cremisan in his upcoming meeting with Shimon Peres (30 April, at the Vatican). The subject of the meeting (as reported by the Italian press) is in fact the legal and fiscal status of Church properties in the Holy Land. Thus, even if His Holiness doesn’t want to offend his guest by talking about such pesky issues as occupation, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, torture, administrative detention, etc., he can safely broach a subject directly pertaining to Church real estate.

    • Walid
      April 28, 2013, 2:20 pm

      Shmuel, I have a feeling that Peres will be giving-in to leave the nuns alone as a goodwill gesture to the Vatican and to still come out smelling like a rose (as if possible for Israel).

      • Shmuel
        April 28, 2013, 5:03 pm

        Walid,

        What’s that old boomerang piece of wisdom about “never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity”? Israel has endless chances to do really easy things to create good will, but would rather screw things up and then spend millions on “improving their brand”. My guess is that Peres will spend most of the time lecturing Francis on anti-Semitism. His Holiness may not even bring up the situation in Cremisan (or the suffocated Bethlehem area in general) — with far bigger fish to fry regarding Church taxes, legal standing and the restoration of the Caenaculum to the Franciscan “Custodians of the Holy Land” (issues under negotiation between Israel and the Holy See for the past 15 years).

  7. amigo
    April 28, 2013, 8:12 am

    I tried to send them a message of support but got the following response.

    “The system administrator has disabled this script.”

    Is the IOF in there already???.

    • Mike_Konrad
      April 28, 2013, 5:24 pm

      I tried to send them a message of support but got the following response.

      “The system administrator has disabled this script.”

      Is the IOF in there already???.

      I seriously doubt it.

      I run websites. Scripts can be poison. It is common practice to disable scripts, just to prevent hacking.

      Stop seeing Mossad everywhere.

  8. American
    April 28, 2013, 5:27 pm

    humm……if I were a dastardly plotter and eseculator (like some zios) I might want Isr to really push the Pope/Church too far….activating 1.2 billion Catholics against the I/P occupation would certainly up the anty for Israel.

  9. James Canning
    April 28, 2013, 7:23 pm

    And how much coverage of this important story is there, in major US newspapers?

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