The film, “Our Land of Olives and Vines,” features Al Makhrour in Beit Jala, the last green area—rich in olive trees, fruits, and apricots—left in Bethlehem, and very connected to the heritage and future of Palestinian Christians.
Before the screening, Dalia Qumsieh, lawyer and founder of the Balasan Initiative for Human Rights-Palestine, explained how daily lives are disrupted for Palestinians in Al Makhrour, and how fundamental human rights are violated in the process as a result of Israeli policies in the area.
She said that Israel exploits its military control over the occupied areas classified as (C) to confiscate the land under various pretexts. In Al Makhrour, the main method used by the Israeli occupation is land confiscation for so-called public needs. “What ‘public needs’ basically mean is confiscating the land for the needs of illegal Israeli settlements and their infrastructure.”
“Now, there is a direct connection between building roads and infrastructure for the settlements and the increase in settlement population in these areas,” said Qumsieh. She also explained that “For Palestinians living in their lands in Area C, even the basic services like water and electricity are unavailable due to the Israeli policies, while settlements enjoy the best services and infrastructure and continue to expand unchallenged.”
Al Makhrour is very rich in biodiversity, she explained. “It has massive tourist potential, green tourism, hiking trails,” she said. “It has a huge economic potential.”
Agriculture in the area remains an important source for the Palestinian economy—but it very restricted and farmers cannot make proper use of their fertile lands in Area C.
“lands in Palestine represent hope, if they are lost and annexed, it would cause loss of hope, a loss of reason to stay, basically,” said Qumsieh. “This has a direct impact on our tradition, our memories, our heritage in Palestine.”
The film, produced by the Balasan Initiative for Human Rights-Palestine, brings strong messages on the importance of Al Makhrour in the history, heritage, biodiversity, and future development for Palestinians. The movie also highlights the current dangers as a result of Israeli confiscation policies.
Currently, the World Council of Churches is also hosting the exhibit “Bethlehem Reborn – Palestine – The Wonders of the Nativity,” on the renovation and restoration of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The exhibit is open till 5 October 2023.