03 March 2014

March 1 in Bethlehem: hope beyond the wall

In Bethlehem, March 1 on the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the construction of the separation wall. A Mass in Beit Jala and a rosary near the checkpoint in order to continue to hope for the future.

Actuality and events

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The face of Bethlehem has changed over the last ten years. So much time has passed since March 1, 2004, when the first slab of the wall was set down, in the city of Jesus' birth. Since then, every year on that date, in Bethlehem, locals stop to reflect and pray for peace in the Holy Land and in all places in the world where there are still walls and suffering. This year, for the tenth anniversary, a mass was celebrated in Beit Jala, among the olive groves of the Cremisan Valley. Then, there was a procession to checkpoint 300, in front of the barrier that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem. Along the way, a few moments of prayer next to the wall…

Tertiary Franciscan Elizabethan Sisters
“This prayer is a silent struggle, but a peaceful one done together because we believe that the Lord is always on the side of peace and justice, solidarity and communion.”

The “Bridges, Not Walls” campaign promoted by Pax Christi, the international Catholic movement for peace, is ten years old, as old as the wall. For each anniversary, a group of people comes from Italy to the Holy Land to be a live and active presence of peace and to build bridges in order to raise awareness to the problems of this land and its people.

Pax Christi Italy
“The living stones strengthen our faith more so than the memory of those ancient stones negatively affect our faith. And then, encountering the throbbing reality of a suffering humanity, we have come together from all parts of Italy. There are 25 of us, 50 usually, and we come here, spend a week here and today for us was the height of celebration of our presence in this land that is still drenched with tears. Near the University of Alya, a student told us her story:”

International prayer, in a city where people despite hardships, still try to hope. In fact, in the past ten years many have emigrated because there has been an economic shutdown but also a social and moral one.

“We may not have any means to fight. But only through prayer do we fight injustice, war and the wall.”

A special prayer on a special day. But in the last ten years it has been insistent and constant. The local Christian community celebrates mass under the olive trees in Cremisan Valley every Friday. And every Friday, the nuns of the Caritas Baby Hospital, pray the Rosary on the wall, before the icon of “Mary who destroys walls.”

Tertiary Franciscan Elizabethan Sisters
“Praying while walking near “our” checkpoint, which is the checkpoint for all, we insistently ask Mary, the mother of all mankind, especially suffering mankind, to break any interior walls, so that then the outer wall can be reached.”

“Every Friday, we come here to the Cremisan to pray and we believe that prayer is the only solution that perhaps will remove the evil that is this wall.”

The hope for a future of peace in Bethlehem this year, takes on a special meaning.

Latin Patriarchate Jerusalem
“We look forward with confidence to the visit of Pope Francis because he is an amazing person and we believe he will have words of peace and hope for all…for these two peoples who must live together, who cannot live without each other. And then maybe Pope Francis, as we say, has remained the last hope, the only person that people still believe in.”