An Israeli court has approved the construction of the Separation Wall that will surround a convent and primary school on three sides, and confiscate most of their land. A small gate will be built to allow nuns and monks to access the Salesian Monastery on the other side of the wall, in order to "guarantee their right of freedom of religion". The gate will also allow farmers and landowners to access their lands on the other side of the wall, although they will need permits to reach them.
The Israeli Special Appeals Committee for land seizure under emergency law, released its verdict on Wednesday (24 May 2013) in the case of the Cremisan Valley against the Separation Wall.
The verdict ruled in favour of the proposed second route which leaves the convent on the Palestinian side of the wall. With this decision, the appeals submitted by Advocate Ghayyath Nasser who represented the land owners in the Cremisan Valley and the lawyer of the Society of St Yves, Advocate Manal Hazzan-Abu Sinni, who represented the nuns of the Salesian Convent, were altogether rejected.
The decision came out two months after the final hearing on 12 February and after seven years of proceedings.
The committee decided that building the Separation Wall according to the alternative route which will surround the Salesian Nuns Convent and Primary School from three sides and will confiscate most of the convent’s lands, is a reasonable solution that balances Israel’s security needs on one hand, and freedom of religion and the right to education on the other.
The Society of St Yves said the verdict was 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.
In the decision it is emphasized that the nuns were allowed to join the case at a late stage, which resulted in altering the primary suggested route of the wall and left the convent on the Israeli side. Through the new route, the school and the convent are not separated from Beit Jala. By approving the alternative route the educational mission of the school will not be affected as the street leading to the compound will remain open. The committee also declared that the claims regarding future expansion of the school and convent are weak arguments which have no legal implications as they were not backed by plans or maps approved by the authorities.
The committee considered that the agricultural gate that is planned to be established near the convent will allow passage of nuns and monks to the Salesian Monks Monastery on the other side of the wall which will guarantee their right of freedom of religion. The gate would also allow farmers and landowners to access their lands. The State has declared in front of the committee that it will be flexible in issuing permits.
The committee ignored all testimonies and claims of the landowners regarding the damage caused to their land by building the wall and the fact that it will separate them from their lands.
The committee ignored all references and arguments based on international law like the protection of religious minorities. It also rejected the expert opinion given by Professor Judy Green on the environmental damage to the valley which would be caused by building the wall.
St Yves is considering taking the case to the High Court.
For more information see: http://saintyves.org/
Every Friday, the local Catholic community has been gathering for an open-air Mass in the valley, to pray that the Israelis stop confiscating their land: See: www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uRo5IWz3_g
See also the Guardian report: www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/26/west-bank-convent-israeli-barrier