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3 Jan, 2014

Church protest reveals realities of life in modern Bethlehem – The Guardian

by Giles Fraser

The Rev Lucy Winkett is having trouble sleeping. This is because her church on Piccadilly has decided to erect a full-size copy of the Israeli separation barrier to block off her Christopher Wren church. And because she lives above the shop, the grim presence of this temporary structure is with her all the time. “Politics aside, living beside the 26ft wall is having a curious effect on those who are here. It dominates our imagination and has colonised our minds – and ours is only an art installation up for the 12 days of Christmas,” she told me and my 11-year-old son on a tour of the project.

The online reaction to this installation has also been predictably binary. For some it is a powerful testament to Israeli government brutality; for others it’s another example of Christian antisemitism seeping into the liberal church. And some of the graffiti on the Piccadilly wall reflects this same for-us-or-against-us division. Some have written about its illegality under international law; others have written that this wall saves lives.

Personally, I think the separation barrier is a monstrosity that creates the feel of an open prison in places like Bethlehem and is sometimes more about a land grab by the Israeli authorities than it is about protection from Palestinian bombers. The idea, for instance, that the fence incorporates Jewish settlements such as Ariel, 12 miles into the West Bank, is evidence of its wider political role. But the line that says “this wall saves lives” cannot be dismissed out of hand.

Read the rest: Church protest reveals realities of life in modern Bethlehem | The Guardian.