Tonight is not just a quiet walk down to the parish church



A handful of Palestinian Christians stand on a ridge under grey skies at an open-air mass, praying for protection for the sweeping valley that descends from their feet. For decades, the dwindling Christian community of Beit Jala and Bethlehem has joined its Muslim neighbours to work the land of the Cremisan Valley during the week, and picnic here with their families at the weekend. But the route of Israel’s controversial separation barrier will soon cut them off from the valley, placing it on the Israeli side and out of their reach — a route that residents say was designed to grab their land.The barrier is part of a long-standing Israeli attempt to annex territory belonging to the southern West Bank town of Bethlehem, effectively separating it from Jerusalem, which is five kilometres (three miles) away.




A Palestinian dressed as Santa Claus decorates a cement tree depicting Israel’s controversial separation barrier with barbed wire and tear gas canisters at Mangar Square outside the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Palestinians say the barrier is part of attempts by Israel to annex territory belonging to Bethlehem, effectively separating it from Jerusalem