Friday, 1 November 2002

Sharon's Wall

by Michael S. Ladah

Many of the atrocities that are being committed by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza against the Palestinian population have had little coverage by news media around the world. Similar to the cover up that the Israeli government and its military attempted in the aftermath of the Jenin atrocities, the Israeli Ministry of Defense and the Israeli Defense Force are doing their best to cover up, and divert attention from, major crimes in the making. One of these crimes has been in progress for a while with little attention from the world.

The Israeli government, with the expressed approval of Ariel Sharon, has prepared a plan to build a wall to encircle the western perimeter of the West Bank and separate it completely from Israel, in the same style as the infamous Berlin Wall. The government has not published the details of the plan and considers it a "secret" including the specifications of the wall and its location with respect to the Green Line, the 1967 line of demarcation. While the plan seems to be more advanced in the northern part of the West Bank (the first phase), land confiscation has been in progress along the entire length of the planned wall. The confiscation of Baron Der, a church property north of Bethlehem, has been the most visible example of property confiscation in preparation for construction of the wall.

Baron Der is Armenian Church property located in the northern outskirts of Bethlehem. The 50 acre property was bought in 1641 by Grigor Baron Der (1560-1645), the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem. Over the past five centuries, Baron Der has served as an Armenian Apostolic administrative center, a location for religious retreats, a religious training center, an income producing orchard and an archaeological site. The property contains a monastic building that has served as a residence for Armenian monks who officiate in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Armenian monks from Jerusalem also use Baron Der for their annual retreat and for spiritual training. The land holds great meaning for the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Armenian Apostolic Catholicosate in Etchmiadzin, His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of all Armenians, His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, Armenian Palestinians and Armenians throughout the world. The confiscation of Baron Der has very special significance to all Palestinians, Christians and Moslems, and symbolizes the repression that the Israeli government has been practicing on all Palestinians including all minorities within them.

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