he High Court of Justice noted that the actions of the State at present do not negatively affect contiguity between the Monastery and the Convent, nor their access to their vineyards and farmlands. Moreover, access to the town of Beit Jala is also not affected.

 The Security Fence in the Cremisan Valley

 

Copyright: Ministry of Defense

Background:

Geography: The Cremisan valley runs four kilometers south of central Jerusalem, and demarcates between the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo and the West Bank town of Beit Jala, near Bethlehem. Two Catholic institutions, the Cremisan Silesian Monastery and the Silesian Sisters Convent, reside on the southern edge of Cremisan valley. The monastery produces wine and olive oil, and works the adjacent fields; the convent maintains and runs a school for approximately 200 Palestinian children from Beit Jala.

Rationale for the Security Fence: Between 2000-2006, in the course of the Second Intifadah, more than 1100 Israeli citizens were killed, and thousands more wounded, by suicide bombers and terror attacks emanating from the West Bank. Many of these attacks originated in the Bethlehem – Beit Jala region, and entered Israel by way of Cremisan valley or in its immediate vicinity.

As a result, in 2002 Israel began the construction of land barrier between Israel and the West Bank as an act of self-defense. The security fence has been highly effective in preventing terror attacks into Israel, causing a sharp decrease since 2006 in fatalities and maimed. The length of the security fence when completed will be 525 kilometers of which 460 kilometers have been constructed to date. The barrier is primarily a fence with electronic sensors, while ten percent is concrete wall.

Security Fence Route: The barrier route is not a political designation, and was designed to provide Israel with protection from terror, while at the same time minimizing hardship to Palestinian life, commerce and agriculture. The security fence includes 32 passage points for Palestinians entering Israel, and approximately 70 agricultural gates to service Palestinian farmers separated from their lands. Israeli courts adjudicating Palestinian complaints regarding the security fence route are required by law to seek a considered balance between topographical security needs and minimization of hardship to Palestinians in the area. 

The areas of the security fence which remain incomplete, such as the 1500 meters of the Cremisan valley, are among the most sensitive areas between Israel and the West Bank from a security standpoint, and are currently being exploited for infiltration by terrorist cells and criminal elements.

The Route of the Security Fence in Cremisan Valley: The security fence in Cremisan valley, approximately 1500 meters long, is essential in order to complete the defense of Jerusalem’s Jewish and Arab citizens from terror attacks from the south. This area is currently exposed to relatively easy infiltration due to the lack of a permanent security fence.

Israel entered into a protracted negotiation with the clergy in the Cremisan Monastery and Convent in order to reach a mutually acceptable barrier route which would provide security to Israel’s citizens, while minimizing damage to the fabric of monastery and convent life, and the residents of Beit Jala. In the course of the negotiation, a petition was filed by 37 residents of the town of Beit Jala before the Israel Supreme Court sitting as the High Court of Justice. At a later stage, the Cremisan Monastery and Convent joined the opinion of the petitioners.

Current Legal Status:

On April 2, 2015, the High Court of Justice upheld the need for the construction of the security fence in the area on security grounds. That said, the Court found in favor of the petitioners regarding the proposed route of the security fence, and ruled that it may not separate between the Monastery and Convent and that the route must be crafted in consultation with the clergy, allowing both bodies to remain on the Palestinian side, preserving their territorial contiguity and their physical connection to the communities that they serve in the nearby villages.

Following and in line with this ruling, the Israeli authorities began work to construct 1200 meters of the security fence, excluding a 225 meter area in the vicinity of the Monastery and Convent in which no barrier will be constructed at this time. This gap enables the territorial contiguity of the monastery and convent, free approach by and to the local Palestinian population, and maintains for the Monastery unfettered access to their agricultural lands, thus respecting the High Court of Justice decision.     

Following the initiation of this construction, the 37 Beit Jala residents petitioned the High Court and requested a contempt of court order against the State in the Cremisan Valley Case (HCJ 5163/13).

On July 6, 2015, the High Court of Justice dismissed the contempt of court petition. The High Court of Justice noted that the actions of the State at present do not negatively affect contiguity between the Monastery and the Convent, nor their access to their vineyards and farmlands. Moreover, access to the town of Beit Jala is also not affected, nor is the daily routine of the population in the area. Accordingly, the current construction of the barrier in the area which excludes the 225 meter gap, are in full compliance with the April 2, 2015 High Court of Justice decision on this matter.