From Oxford student Bex Tyrer
OCCUPIED BETHLEHEM: The shaheed (martyr) Tupac Shakur once wondered if heaven has a ghetto. None of us can answer that question. Israeli policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, however, are turning large parts of the Holy Land into just that – walled ghettos. A new web portal launched today features voices from one of the most famous
of these ghettos – Bethlehem.
The Bethlehem Bloggers website is dedicated to bringing first hand insight into life and politics inside Israeli-occupied Bethlehem. The site is managed by a diverse group of activists and professionals living and working in the area. An introductory statement posted to the website explains:
"We are Palestinians and internationals who are living in the Bethlehem region, and who want to tell the world what it is like to be living in occupied territory, under an economic siege, encircled by a wall and military checkpoints: what it is like to live in a Palestinian Ghetto."
As Israel tightens its control throughout occupied Palestine, indigenous Palestinian communities continue to suffer. Israeli occupying forces completely dominate the Bethlehem region with a network of illegal Israeli settlements, checkpoints and by-pass roads. The Apartheid Wall now pushes in close on Bethlehem and the neighboring towns and villages, segregating villages and appropriating
large portions of Palestinian land.
There are seven permanent Israeli military checkpoints in the Bethlehem District which control access to the ghetto. Israeli troops also often set up an additional three temporary checkpoints to monitor movement within the area and more than 35 roadblocks make it difficult for Palestinians to move between their towns and cities. In addition, there are more than 11 illegal Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in the Bethlehem District. Most of these settlements are currently undergoing expansion, despite Israel's stated adherence
to the Roadmap peace plan which demands a "settlement freeze" as part of its first phase of implementation.
Bethlehem Bloggers shows the effect of the Israeli occupation on life in Bethlehem. It is also a window for people around the world to look in; to see past the walls, barbed wire fences, and the media distortions; to hear from the people in Bethlehem themselves.