The Israeli Forces closed the West Bank, including Bethlehem, for four days, from midnight last Thursday, to midnight today, Monday, for 'security for Israeli citizens' during the Jewish holiday of Purim. In a statement, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) said: "The IDF regards the holiday period as a highly sensitive time, security wise. Due to this fact, the IDF will enhance its alertness to ensure the safety of the citizens of Israel, while preserving, to the best of its ability, the daily life of the Palestinian population." The closure means that Palestinians are not being allowed to travel to Jerusalem or Israel for any reason. Travel within the West Bank is also very restricted. At the same time the Israelis living in the illegal settlements in the West Bank are being allowed to travel as they please. The Hebron team of Christian Peacemakers, fasted on Saturday and Sunday in protest at the closure of the West Bank. The team ate a small meal of bread and grape juice each evening. In a statement the CPT said they encouraged others to join them in their Lenten fast "for a just peace and to pray for an end to the barriers, both physical and political, which divide the people of this land." Purim is a holiday that commemorates Queen Esther's deliverance of the Jewish people from Haman. It is characterized by public recitation of the Old Testament Book of Esther, giving gifts of food and drink, charity to the poor, and a celebratory meal (Esther 9:22); other customs include drinking wine, wearing of masks and costumes, games and public celebration. Christian Peacemaker Teams is an ecumenical initiative to support violence reduction efforts around the world. Fore more information see: www.cpt.org
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