A nun hurries by the security barrier toward the checkpoint from Jerusalem on her way to pray by the spot where Jesus Christ is believed to have been born in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity.
(photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR)
The High Court of Justice on Thursday ordered the IDF to plan a new route for the security barrier just outside of Jerusalem, through an area known as the Cremisan Valley.
It set no time frame, other than to advise that a new plan be submitted soon.
Since 2006, the IDF has wanted to build a 1.5 km. stretch of the security barrier between Har Gilo and the Palestinian city of Beit Jala, located just outside Bethlehem, to prevent terrorists from entering Jerusalem.
The Beit Jala municipality appealed to the court against the route, which it said created hardship for its residents. It also would have placed privately owned Palestinian land on the Israeli side of the barrier. But the case has been made famous because the route also threatens to separate the 19th-century Salesian Monastery and the Salesian Sisters’ Convent.
Bethlehem’s Mayor Vera Baboun had spoken to Pope Francis about barrier’s route during a visit to Rome in February.
On Thursday the court ruled that the current route “violated the rights” of the people of Beit Jala, because it separated them from their lands. It also said that the route was harmful to the two monasteries.
Lawyer Raffoul Rofa, Director of the Society of St. Yves, a Catholic human rights group said on Thursday, “The decision of Israel’s Supreme Court regarding the Cremisan case, is a very positive decision. The decision that came out this morning is final, which prevents building the barrier in the suggested routes by the Israeli side,” Rofa said.
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“The decision also proves the importance of keeping the monasteries with their farm lands on one side of the barrier and not separated from each other,” Rofa added.
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal said the court’s decision was a good result for everyone. “This question has one answer; this is a victory for all. The second answer is, thank you to all,” Twal said.
Shaul Arieli, a member of the Council of Peace and Security and an expert on the barrier, said that the route as it had been planned was problematic from a security perspective as well. His organization had offered an alternative route to the barrier, which the court also rejected.
The initial 2006 route, he said, was politically motivated and was designed to place Har Gilo on the Israeli side of the barrier, essentially annexing it to Jerusalem.Reuters contributed to this report.
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