Christian Peacemaker Teams supports beleaguered farmers in Bethlehem

 The Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) delegation was invited by the Holy Land Trust (HLT) in Bethlehem to join in their weekly Friday nonviolent action on Friday 1 June. The action took place on land directly beside an Israeli army base, beneath the illegal Israeli settlement of Efrat, near the Palestinian village of Umm Salamuna outside of Bethlehem. The Israeli government, through the construction of the separation barrier and the building of illegal settlements on Palestinian land, denies many farmers access to their crops. The site of the action was an orchard of olive trees and grape vines. Approximately 60 people participated in the action, including Palestinian farmers, Umm Salamuna villagers, internationals participating in the HLT summer peace program, and other groups like the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine Israel (EAPPI) from the World Council of Churches.. The nonviolent action supporters and members of the international press accompanied the farmers as they walked across the construction site of the future wall that will cut off their land entirely. Then they continued up a rocky slope to the orchard. International participants including CPT were told that they could choose to be involved at various levels of risk, since trespassing on the property ran the risk of arrest. Some participants chose to observe from outside of the vineyard, while others joined the Palestinians in harvesting grape leaves and taking photographs of the action. At least 30 Israeli soldiers and police, with seven military vehicles, were present during the action, blocking a road leading towards the settlement. Many had their guns drawn, but some were idly chatting and laughing. The Israeli military allowed the owner of the vineyard to cross the road to visit his land. He had been prevented from visiting his land for five years. The Israeli military prevented others from joining him, but Palestinians and internationals chanted his name and clapped with encouragement, as he gathered grape leaves. Some settlers came to the top of the hill above, cursing and yelling at the farmers in Hebrew. One Israeli peace activist shouted angrily but insistently in response, calling on the settlers to explain why they should have the rights to this land. An Israeli soldier made the settlers leave, but a short time later they returned to observe at a different point. The action ended with a rousing speech from the leader of HLT declaring the action a success. He spoke to the Israeli soldiers, proclaiming that the Palestinian farmers would never give up the struggle to reclaim their lands. He chastised them for what he called "their immoral engagement in the occupation by their participation in land confiscation". Christian Peacemaker Teams is an ecumenical initiative to support violence reduction efforts around the world. To learn more about CPT's peacemaking work, visit:

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