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Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Bethlehem: justice and peace marchers see out old year
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¬†On Tuesday, the justice and peace march was held in Bethlehem. The heads of churches from Jerusalem led the marchers, together with the governor and mayor of Bethlehem and civil society leaders. At the height of the march some 2,000 Palestinians and internationals, from especially Italy but also many other countries, participated carrying hats with "Open Jerusalem" and "End occupation," and balloons to which prayers and wishes were attached. These had been collected by Pax Christi International, International Fellowship of Reconciliation and Church and Peace. The overall appearance of the march ≠ its size, atmosphere, religious and political character ≠ was comparable to the one of last year. The Israeli army erected an improvised barrier of soldiers near Rachel's Tomb to stop the marchers. There prayers were said, religious songs sung, and balloons released, turning the impromptu checkpoint into a place of prayer. Contrary to last year's march, the demonstrators were not allowed to proceed to the main Bethlehem-Jerusalem checkpoint. The march was non-violent and, given the long curfews before, there was an impressive participation from the local population, many of whom were concerned about the personal or community related consequences of joining a politically oriented demonstration. Among the demonstrators were many women, older persons, youth, and both Christians and Moslems. The demonstration was marked by a very good cooperation of a range of civil society organizations from the Bethlehem area including Arab Educational Institute, Wi'am, Rapprochment, Bethlehem Bible College, Holy Land Trust, and Arab Orthodox Society, all in coordination with the civil and religious authorities. As far as we can see at this point, media coverage was primarily in the international and local Arab media. A few hours after the demonstration, before midnight, a curfew was announced for the Bethlehem area which lasted till mid-day January 1, preventing the people from having new year celebrations.
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