Approaching the Millenium, a New Israeli Military Checkpoint (Erez 2) at the Northern Entrance of Bethlehem City

Approaching the Millenium, a New Israeli Military Checkpoint  (Erez 2) at the Northern Entrance of Bethlehem City


Bethlehem is historically an area of religious importance, especially to the Christian  faith. It is most famously known as the birthplace of Jesus Christ. The rich history  has attracted pilgrims from around  the world throughout the millennia. It is estimated that during the upcoming Bethlehem  2000 celebrations, the city will be host to 3-4 million pilgrims and tourists.

The Bethlehem District is located eight kilometers south of Jerusalem City, in  the southern part of the West Bank. It is bounded by the Hebron District to the  south and southwest, the Dead Sea to the  east, and Israel to the west (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Location map showing the location of Bethlehem District.

The Bethlehem District has a total area of 605 square kilometers,  and includes the major municipalities  of Bethlehem, Beit Jala, and Beit Sahur, and 27 Jewish colonies. According to  the 1997 Palestinian census, the district's total population is 136,517, including  4,905 refugees, as well as around 50,000 Jewish colonists.

Approaching the millenium, the Jerusalem Municipality has committed  itself to finishing construction on a military checkpoint between Bethlehem and  Jerusalem despite the fact that the new checkpoint  admittedly does not have the proper permits. The plan includes the construction  of a checkpoint parallel to the existing one, and is meant to be used by Palestinians  only so that tourists will be able to  use the existing checkpoint without ever encountering the indigenous population.


The new checkpoint is modeled to resemble the Erez checkpoint  in Gaza, with a 650 meter fenced  walking path and a lateral road that will be used to transport Palestinians with  valid permits to Jerusalem (Figure 2 —map). Palestinians have to park their  cars in a parking lot on the Bethlehem  side (Figure 3,4,5-parking), walk the 650 meter distance (Figure 6,7 —–650),  and then undergo inspection by Israeli officers before getting on commuter vans  taking them to Jerusalem.

Figure 2: The new Israeli scheme for the northern entrance of Bethlehem.



Figure 3,4,5: Scenes from the new Palestinian parking lot



Figure 6,7 The 650 meters walking path.

On October 12, 1999, several Israeli bulldozers prepared the foundation  for the new checkpoint and  fresh cement was being poured to build a wall around the existing checkpoint (Figure  8). The 650-meter walking path from the parking lot to the new checking point  was also opened.


Figure 8: The new wall around the existing checkpoint  


In fact, the Bethlehem Municipality owns 27 dunums of property  adjacent to the existing checkpoint.  Some of the property has already been leveled to make way for the new checkpoint.

It is also of important weight to mention that the construction  on Rachel's Tomb, located at the  northern entrance of Bethlehem City, is also rapidly continuing. According to  the Israeli Civil Administration, the construction on Rachel's Tomb will include  a reinforced concrete wall around the  holy site (Figure 9, 10) as well as a bridge (Figure 11)  to connect the guarded parking lot  and  military outpost with Rachel's Tomb.


Figure 9, 10  Rachel's Tomb, past & present.


Figure 11: Location of the proposed bridge


This new construction is in addition to the existing military  installments (Figure 12) including a  security wall and seven guard towers. Once the plan is implemented, the Jerusalem  boundary will expand to reach Rachel's Tomb under the auspices of a security zone.  The Israeli designs will  suffocate Bethlehem and harass the 4000 Palestinians living in the one-kilometer  area to be confiscated by Israel. These acts contradict the spirit of agreements  acknowledging the Site's special  status and the need to maintain special arrangements for the area around it in  the final status settlement.


Figure 12: New security wall around Rachel's Tomb

Furthermore, the Israeli violations perpetrated against the  nearby Muslim cemetery desecrated the sanctity of that Muslim holy site (Figure  13). On July 19, 1999 Jewish contractors demolished the  northern part of the cemetery and its wall near Rachel's Tomb military installation.  On August 28, 1999, the Israeli authorities narrowed the entrance of Bethlehem  City, through erecting cement  constructions beside the wall of the cemetery adjacent to Bilal Ibn Rabah mosque  (Figure 14).


Figure 13: Muslim Cemetry


Figure 14: Israeli construction next to the cemetry  


To cut the long short, the execution of the new Israeli plan  is provocative and a violation of Palestinian rights. The new checkpoint will  incite the confiscation of more Palestinian land and strengthen the  policy of Israeli military closure around Jerusalem, which has besieged the Palestinian  community. Moreover, the military closure undermines Palestinian national rights  to Jerusalem by creating de facto  borders before a final status settlement is reached.



Prepared by:
The Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem

Categories: Checkpoints