Israel’s barrier fences off tourism

BETHLEHEM – Just in time for Christmas, the birthplace of Christ has been sealed off from Jerusalem by a 25-foot wall and huge iron gate resembling a nuclear shelter, reports the UK Times. The wall and sentry posts are the latest addition to the controversial 423-mile barrier that Israel is constructing through Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Israel‘s government sees the wall as the key to separating itself from the Palestinians, and points to its recent success in stemming the flow of suicide bombers and gunmen. But it also means that Bethlehem‘s 30,000 Palestinians are walled off from Jerusalem, two of the most popular destinations for visitors to the Holy Land.

"Bethlehem has become a big prison for its citizens," said Mayor Victor Batarseh, who has been forced to borrow from banks to pay municipal workers’ salaries for the past two months. He said the barrier will further damage the tourist and pilgrim industry, which accounts for 80 per cent of the town’s income.

Maria Dubiel, one of the first tourists to pass through the barrier, compared it to the Berlin wall. "We are from Eastern Europe and we know this kind of wall,” said Dubiel, who lived in Poland. “We had such a wall between capitalism and communism. It is not necessary. It introduces misery.