The Israeli High Court yesterday rejected an appeal by Palestinians to change the route of the Apartheid Wall near the area of Rachel's Tomb, also known as Bilal's Mosque. This ancient site located in a northern district of Bethlehem is holy to Muslims,Christians, and Jews. Palestinian residents say the route of the planned wall will destroy or cut off large areas of Palestinian agricultural land from their owners, and dozens of homes will be isolated between the Bethlehem section of the Wall and the proposed Rachel's Tomb section of the Wall. Palestinians in this area will not have free access either to Jerusalem or to Bethlehem for schools, hospitals, and other services. There will be only one road, and it will be under total Israeli military control. This move will also cut the ancient commercial, cultural, and spiritual ties between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The Israeli High Court rejected the appeal, ruling that Jewish worshippers were entitled to freedom of religious observance and that the Israeli Occupation Forces were responsible for defending that freedom. The Rachel's Tomb area was once a major commercial area with many shops, restaurants, and other businesses before the Israeli closures. Due to construction of the wall in Bethlehem, 72 out of 80 Palestinian businesses in the area have already closed or moved.
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