Bishops visiting the construction site of the separation wall in the Cremisan Valley have been stopped and forced to turn back by Israeli authorities.
A delegation from the Holy Land Coordination was travelling to the area for the third year running when they were confronted by security forces and instructed to leave.
In 2015 the Israeli High Court ruled that the route of the wall must avoid the Cremisan’s Salesian monastery and convent but allowed construction through Palestinian farmland to continue. Already local farmers have seen their land confiscated and their olive trees uprooted by the Israeli military.
Having heard from those affected by the construction, the bishops headed to the valley to witness the scene for themselves. However, immediately upon their arrival in the area they were approached by the authorities and prevented from progressing any further. Before being escorted away they prayed together for peace and justice in the Holy Land.
Bishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town told journalists at the scene: “It breaks my heart to see what has happened here… we had been here for about five minutes just to have a look and compare with last year before the police came and it just reminded me so much of apartheid times, the type of intimidation, the exhibition of power.
“We can’t blame these particular soldiers, they are part of a system and it’s not the individuals who must be seen as enemies. It’s the policy that we must see as something that needs to be changed.
“It’s the same with apartheid where individuals involved in the oppression were caught up in the system, and when the system changed there was the chance to build a more just and open society.”