Jewish, Christian and Moslem peace campaigners walk in steps of Jesus

 On Friday 18 November hundreds of Palestinians and their Israeli supporters walked in peaceful procession from the tiny Palestinian West Bank village of Aboud, following a route where Jesus would have trod. They stopped to pray. Leading them in prayers was the Imam of the Al-Aqsa Mosque Shaikh Taysir al-Tamimi, and Archamandrite Attallah Hanna, the official spokesman of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. This dignified procession was a protest against the confiscation of Aboud land for Israel's Separation Wall. Aboud's population of 2,500 is 50 percent Christian and 50 percent Muslim. The village has existed for three thousand years and is believed to have received the faith from Christ himself. The fourth Century Church of St Mary still used by Orthodox Christians is one of the oldest in the world. Close to the village is the ancient road that Jesus would have used when travelling between the Galilee and Jerusalem. There are remains of nine Byzantine churches in and around Aboud. In December the villagers venerate St Barbara, an early Christian martyr and the patron saint of the village. On a nearby hillside are the remains of St Barbara's Monastery, including a small sixth century church which was in use until 31 May 2002, when, without warning, it was blown up by the Israeli army. Construction of the wall in Aboud started on 7 November, on the same day world media reported the discovery of early Christian mosaics in what may be the Holy Land's oldest church in Megiddo. The world enthused about the 'Dead Stones' of Megiddo while ignoring the plight of 'Living Stones' of the Holy Land, the ancient Christian community in Aboud. Construction of the wall in Aboud is about land confiscation, not the security of Israel. East of Aboud the wall has already been constructed close to 'The Green Line' (The 1967 border with Israel). The Wall at Aboud is about annexing land, water and settlement blocs to Israel. Aboud is already hemmed in by the Israeli settlements of Beit Arye and Ofarim, built on village land in defiance of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, plus a string of UN Resolutions. The wall will annex much land to the settlements, including a hill one Kilometre South of Ofarim. Construction of the wall threatens the survival of this ancient community. The wall could isolate Aboudis from 3887 Dunums (10 Dunums= One Hectare, 4 Dunums= One Acre) /of land, including 35% of their agricultural land planted with many Olive and Fruit Trees. Aboud would be cut off from Rantis and other villages to the North West. A substantial part of the water aquifer for the West Bank would be lost. On 9 July 2004 the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that construction of the separation law on Palestinian land was illegal. North of Aboud the wall may extend 22 Kilometres into the West Bank to annex to Israel the largest Illegal settlement, Ariel. This would destroy the possibility of establishing a viable Palestinian state, existing peacefully side by side with Israel. Far from bringing security the wall will perpetuate conflict. In the traditions of Martin Luther King and Gandhi Aboudies has chosen the path of non-violent protest against construction of the wall. On 18 November they refused to be provoked, walking through tear gas then sitting peacefully to obstruct construction of the wall. Not a stone was thrown. They hope to win international publicity for their plight and action to save their village, and with it the possibility of a just peace in the Holy land. We must not fail them. Steve Bonham is Chairperson of the Leicestershire Holy Land Appeal. For more information see:

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