The Cremisan Valley, characterized by an abundance of agricultural terraces planted with grapevines and olive and almond trees, can be considered as one of the last green areas located nearby Bethlehem. The land is owned and cultivated by people of Beit Jala. The area is also famous for three buildings that are located there: the Salesian Monastery, Cremisan Cellars and the Salesian Sisters Convent and School.
The Salesian Monastery was built in 1885 on ruins of a 7th-century Byzantine church. Its main building consists of thick walls, stone floors, and high arched ceilings. Cremisan is famous for its wine cellars and first class production of olive oil – the same as the rest of Beit Jala. A bottle of one of these specialties makes a nice souvenir from a visit in Palestine.
Cremisan, also rich in unique flora and fauna, is a perfect place for a walk, picnic or a retreat. Many newlyweds decided to have their outdoor wedding ceremonies in the premises of the Salesian Monastery.
However, the Cremisan Valley is also situated between the Israeli settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo, that were constructed on lands belonging to people from Beit Jala. In 2006, the Israeli military authorities announced an order for the construction of a separation barrier in the area. In June 2015, after 9 long years of prayers and legal battles, the two monasteries and the 58 Palestinian landowners highly threatened with losing parts of their lands were shocked to learn that Israeli High Court approved construction of the barrier. The Salesian monastery would be cut off behind the wall and be separated from its sister convent and school and be inaccessible to the community of Beit Jala and Bethlehem.
Last week, Israeli forces started uprooting olive trees belonging to Palestinians of Beit Jala’s Bir Onah area as part of its plans to proceed with the construction of the wall. Many people and organizations, both local and international, gather every morning to resist in a daily protest-mass against the illegal confiscation and closure of this important for many rich agricultural land.
*According to the decision taken in 2004 by the International Court of Justice and the United Nations General Assembly, the construction of the wall, which had begun in 2002, was illegal and was claimed to be demolished.*
For more information visit the official website of the Society of St. Yves, Catholic Center for Human Rights (http://www.saintyves.org), the legal representative of the Salesian Convent in Israeli High Court.