Bethlehem (300), Visits to Villages, Walaja, Thu 2.2.12, Afternoon

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Yael I., Ilana D. (reporting)

From 2:00 till 4:30 PM

After the many reports re land confiscation and weekly demonstrations we decided to inspect the progress of the wall around Walaja yet once more.
We entered via the Ein Yael Checkpoint and saw major works on the Refaim park which is part of the circular green belt around Jerusalem. A new gate had been installed to block of the improvised exit from Wallaje. The security road from the CP straight up is now frequently used by cars. At the entrance to Har Gilo we saw many Palestinian cars of the contractors in charge of the fence and/or the construction of the huge extension of the settlement. We entered through the wall and continued driving on the other side of it along a sidewalk and much heavy equipment until we reached the house of Omar which will be completely fenced in, meanwhile a tunnel has been constructed (just for the one house), so he and his family will be able to reach the village.
We turned right instead of continuing straight down to the CP and after we had passed the rubble we entered the Toscana landscape to end up at the Cremisan monastery. There has been a decision re its fate ‘to decide not to decide’ and for the next five years the fence will not run between the buildings of the monks and the nuns. The students are still not allowed to remain at night on the premises and they sleep in the Ratisbone  Monastery in West Jerusalem. One is in charge of selling wine and  it is apparently exquisite 22-years old brandy.

There had been approved plans to add a huge building, but of course these are now shelved. A contractor from Nazareth is doing some renovations. We were told re the access to Beit Jalla from there which we had considered off-limits to Israelis, but is not. One can continue through the grounds of the monastery along the road past the convent and a rehabilitation hospital towards the old checkpoint of the DCL (next to the Everest Hotel) from where we descended to the Tunnel Checkpoint of which we had an excellent overview – it is even more monstrous from above. We entered the lane of Palestinians but ours was the only car not checked.
There was no checking at Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300 and the workers ran through the building to get home fast. On the eastern side of the CP we entered a strange site which we had assumed would become the tourist passage point, but it looks like a quarry – we were immediately spotted by an Arab security guard with a car who chases after us to inform us that we were trespassers and should leave immediately.