Bethlehem Unwrapped: Visit The Wall At St James’s Piccadilly


If you find yourself anywhere near Piccadilly in the next week, stop by St James’s Church and look through the gate. In place of the usual market in the courtyard there’s an 8 metre high concrete wall, a replica of the Separation Wall surrounding Bethlehem today.

The installation of the wall is part of Bethlehem Unwrapped, a “festival of hope” and celebration of the real “little town of Bethlehem”. It’s free to visit the wall and you are encouraged to leave a message on it, whether that’s a poem, a reflection, an image or prayer from any faith. We were there on Christmas Day and found it incredibly moving.

Inside the church a programme of cultural activities takes place, including a slam poetry night on Sunday, a comedy night headlined by Mark Steel and Jeremy Hardy called Stand up Against the Wall on Monday, plus a screening of the film Jeremy Hardy vs the Israeli Army on 2 January,. Partake of Bethlehem Feast on 3 January or a panel discussion on 4 January. It all comes to a close on Sunday 5 January with The Bridge, a concert featuring Nigel Kennedy and renowned Palestinian singer, Reem Kelani and more. Find full listings and book tickets here.

Bethlehem Unwrapped is at St James’s Piccadilly now until Sunday 5 January 2014. 

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  • jennifer_ashcroft1967

    There is an even more impressive replica along the same theme at a church nearby to St James. See:

    • Carol

      There’s NOTHING impressive about a racist wall that’s destroying the lives of MILLIONS of Palestinians, stealing land and resources, cutting them off the human race.

      Life next to the wall | Voice of the Youth | Palestine

      • London Bella

        Egypt is building a wall too (you know, in place of their heavily armed patrolled fences).

        I wonder what it is about the lovely, sweet, cuddly Palestinians, nobody seems to want them….

    • Brenda Landes


    • Debby K

      As someone who’s entire family was killed by Nazis I find it incredible that you could possibly condone the link between a swastika and Israel as seen in the pictures you proudly show in your link. I’d question whether you actually have a form of Nazi sentiment yourself as you’d no doubt like to see the extermination of Israel – and the Jews within in.

      Nazi Germany killed, tortured and intended to exterminate an entire people. They experimented on people with a cruelty that questions the heart of humanity. There is absolutely no parallel of this type with Israel. In Israel itself, 20% of the population is Moslem. These people study alongside Israelis, work with Israelis, are friendly with Israelis…and are represented in the Knesset – the Israeli parliament. Other faiths (including Christians) live peacefully within Israel and are not threatened as they are in surrounding arab nations. And liberal, open minded Israelis (of whom there are many) would gladly live side by side with a Palestinian state if there was clear acceptance of Israel’s right to exist. Similarly, liberal open minded Palestinians wish for the same and are sick of living in this state of cold war.

      Equating zionism with swastikas is a nonsense born of ignorance and range. It will do NOTHING to promote peace and understanding. Indeed, it does the very opposite.

      You clearly have a lot of anger in your heart that was probably there long before you’d even heard of Israel and the Palestinians… how lucky for you that this cause gives you a place to project it rather than looking at your own life and the real source of your rage.

    • Michael Smith


  • ChilliKwok

    I might drop by and write “long live Israel” on the wall. I wonder if Hardy and Steel would like to live with the continual threat of Pali snipers of suicide bombers, or if they’d prefer a wall to keep the terrorists out.

  • Bryan

    It is not a “separation barrier” but a security fence (only about 10% of it is actually a wall) erected to prevent Israeli citizens including women and children from being murdered by Palestinian terrorists

    • Carol

      It’s 90% built, twice the height of Berlin wall zigzagging 700 km on 200 green line, cutting of Palestinians from the human race and each other.

      • Bryan

        Carol, That is a ridiculous exaggeration. Only about 65 miles of it is a wall. If the Palestinians didn’t do the terrorism then there would not be the need for any security barrier. Israel wants to live in peace and wants a two state solution

      • simi K.

        It is 90% a fence – go and take a look before sounding off on matters about which you clearly know very little. Or maybe you don’t really WANT to know…

      • simi K.

        Carol, sweetie – either you haven’t bothered to read the document on the link to which you refer us, or else you’re simply a barefaced liar. Nowhere in that report does it say the “wall” is 90% built. In fact, less than 10% is the wall and the rest is a chain link fence.

        • Fernie

          Simi is correct in saying 10% wall and rest is various forms of chain linked fences. But what leaders of St James are trying to imply that whole of Bethleham is enclosed by this tall wall, which is disgraceful for a Christian Church. On the other hand, St James leadership are disciples of the Devil and would do anything to attack Jewish people.

  • jonathan rowe

    How about a replica peace line from Belfast? why is Israel always the baddie?

    • Parissa

      Because Israel right now is getting away with being convicted with genocide and war crimes, yet are actively killing 1.8 MILLION Gazans,

      • simi K.


      • London Bella

        1.8 million?????
        nice made-up number.
        Considering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been going on for over 65 years, I’d say that the Israelis are pretty rubbish at genocide.
        The official numbers of victims (from both Israel and Palestinian sides) are approximately 17,000 casualties in over 65 years on both sides (everything else you see, read or hear are propagandistic lies).
        Please take a second to compare that to the 120,000 people killed in Syria in less than 3 years, amongst them thousands of Palestinans, that don;t seem worthy of the usual Palestinian worriers….
        if I was surrounded by psychotic nutter who kill, gas and eat their own people, my wall would be twice as high and three times as wide!
        Long live Israel.

        • Parissa

          Israel is already charged with WAR CRIMES and GENOCIDE , the only propaganda is what you’re peddling as usual, hence this year is finally going to focus on supporting the Palestinians, not sure why do you have a problem with that???

          • London Bella

            worst genocide ever
            there are more Palestinans in the PA territories today, than 70 years ago
            you surf far too many jihadi websites, but that’s okay
            truth isn’t something Muslims are known for….
            go on killing each other, while pointing your dirty hysterical fingers at Israel – the only country where Christian population is rising!
            Long Live Israel!

      • Brenda Landes

        Who is telling you these lies.?
        Goebells, HItler’s propoganda man wrote, “The bigger the lie the more it will be believed”
        Israel is not present in Gaza. Humanitarian aid enters Gaza every day FROM iSRAEL!!However, when Israel is shelled by rockets as we were last week, 2 kibbutsim were targeted, and has been shelled thousands of times since Israel left Gaza,the passes were closed for 2 days temporarily. It is Egypt who has a complete blockade on Gaza!!
        How can you write that Israel is commiting genocide/? GO TO GAZA AND SEE THAT THIS IS A COMPLETE LIE.
        Hammas is using UN money to make arms , dig tunnels and trains terrorists, instead of giving it to the people of Gaza to buld up industry for education etc. Come to Israel you are welcome.

        • Parissa

          You’re right, Israel pulled it’s people out of Gaza, then started the 7 year siege, controlling air, sea and land access, right now they’re in the dark with NO fuel, no power, no medicine flooded by sewers.

          Israel bombed Gaza before each and every election, yet never allowed any chance of rebuild, 60% of the population are CHILDREN

          • Brenda Landes

            I can post films of Israeli children being killed, and they were not used as Human Shields as the palestinians used women and children. Even the BBC reportesd that!!!
            There would be no blockade if Hammas stops attacking Israel from Gaza as it has done for 7 years. You are not right about no food or medicine! when rAid is allowed to pass through Israel every day, unless being attacked. Wake up to the truth!! Hammas will not give money to the Palestinians to work all the Power Stations
            Check your facts!!!!

          • London Bella

            brenda Landes, just humour this jihadi nut job. obviously only surfing islamist websites, who cares
            Muslims are killing each other every single day in every single corner of the world, let’s just sit back and watch

          • Brenda Landes

            Hello Bella, You are right, and I must be naive thinking this woman would even listen to anyone from Israel. Is the Jewish community in London protesting? I even rang the church but they are closed til 2.01 2014. A church not open on Sundays? Wierd. Best wishes and SHALOM

          • London Bella

            no protest needed.
            only hardcore nutters are supporting this nonsense
            the rest is ignoring them

          • Matt Pryor

            This is untrue. I guess chronology isn’t your strong point.

            Hamas used to fire rockets at Jewish communities within Gaza. This was a popular sport. Apparently the presence of tiny Jewish community in Gush Katif was an affront to their religious sensibilities.

            So Israel forcibly evacuated those Jewish communities on the understanding that the rocket attacks would cease, since there would be no more Jews in Gaza to attack.

            Instead Hamas then started firing rockets into Jewish communities outside Gaza.

            Then the blockade started.

      • Matt Pryor

        More people have died in Syria in the last two years (including Palestinians you claim to support) than in the entire Arab-Israel conflict since 1948. So I guess you’re either a liar or extremely gullible.

        • London Bella

          including over a thousand Palestinians – but dead Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon, aren;t as important as the ones neighbouring jews…..
          hey Parissa, where were you when Syrians shelled Palestinians camps and executed hundreds of Palestinian men in the summer 2011?
          Probably in front of the Israeli embassy, protesting their defence systems…. LOL

  • Stella

    If you want to know more visit

    • simi K.

      Stella, that would be like telling someone to read PRAVDA if they wanted the real truth, back in the bad old Soviet days.

  • Peter

    I suggest that these sanctimonious Christians at St James address their heartfelt concerns to the Palestinian community, which likes to unleash its murdering terrorists on the civilian population of Israel. Like they did when bombing a commuter bus just this past week, where only a miracle prevented a massacre.
    It is to reduce such incidents, that the security barrier (wall in some places, fence in others) became an absolute necessity.
    But, of course, these so-called men of God(sic!) at St James do not give a flying damn about the lives of Israelis. After all, most of them are only Jews. Aren’t they?

    • simi K.

      It’s a pity they don’t give a flying damn about their fellow Christians, suffering persecution and even murder, throughout the Muslim world. I wonder if they are aware of the drastic drop in the Christian population of Bethlehem since Israel handed over power there to the Palestinian Authority, thanks to harassment of Christians by the Muslim dominated PA.

  • The PrangWizard of England

    Does the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby approve?

  • Huma Ahmed

    These comments are hilarious. Poor, poor Israel!

    • London Bella

      considering what psychos Israel is surrounded by, I’d concur. But i understand your comment is sarcastic.
      Nothing sarcastic about Muslims killing Muslims and CHristians, while everybody just focuses about Israel.
      But that’s okay; while we win Nobel Prizes in science, sell start ups for billions and are at the forefront of technology, medicine and agriculture, and have the strongest economy in the entire ME without a single drop of oil, you guys go on gassing each other and eating each other’s organs, while your brothers sit on gold plated toilets.
      LOL, savages!

  • freeyourmind

    can’t believe people are so blinded in to believing that such a thing as a palestinian ‘terrorist’ exists – FREE your mind! Israel is the real perpatrator of terrorism here!

    • Brenda Landes


    • AreaMan
  • jeff

    One needs to mention the Army of Occupation, and the effect it is having on the Palestinian people, including harassment, imprisonment and killing.
    What is needed is mutual understanding, trust and hope, as indeed it is by so many both Israelis and Palestinians.

    • Brenda Landes

      Last week I was in Bethlehem with volunteers from my Kibbuts. Jews Muslems and Christians enjoyed the Christmas celebrations together. On the same day Christians were massacered in Irak, as the are regularly in Egypt. Yemen and Nigeria , and of course every day in Syria,
      IN Nazareth which I visit regularly thr Christian pooulation has decreasd by 50%, because most of the Muslim population make life difficult for the Christian population I as an Israeli I believe in a peaceful Palestinian State, but the Hammas in Gaza and the West Bank deny Israel’s right to exist. We don’t want walls either, but it is the only way to stop terrorost arracks which are planned almost daily. I have lost too many friends and family because of attacks by terrorists! There will be a Palistinian state one day, I am sure. In my Kibbuts Arabs and Jews work together, our local hospital is run by Arabs and Jews, and Palestinians are treated also. Please try and see the situation ina more balanced way.

  • zchug

    This site should denounce, not support, this antisemitic stunt by white middle class “liberals”.

  • tommo2

    Christmas services at this church will be an orgy of Jew hate and pro-Palestinian propaganda. Their
    prayers over Christmas won’t be the demonstration of Christian love for ALL
    human beings as preached by Justin Wellby, Archbishop of Canterbury. Neither
    will it be for Christians being slaughtered in Islamic countries across the
    world. That act of love would be to offend their Muslim visitors and supporters.

  • simi K.

    The thing I find most impressive about the real wall, is that is preventing “Palestinian” terrorist murderers from entering Israel and murdering innocent Israeli civilians. The real pity about the “wall” is that, for well over 90% of its length, it is not really a wall but a chain link fence.

  • simi K.

    If Jesus were to try and gain entry to Bethlehem nowadays, he would not be allowed in, because Jews are denied entrance to the city by the Palestinian Authority.

  • John Smith

    If they want to make it authentic, it should include Palestinian suicide bombers and the mutilated corpses of Israeli civilians (all fake, of course)

  • AreaMan

    They hate the wall because it protects Jews.

  • Stafford Fernando

    I have visited Israel few times, last being in October 2013. You appears to give the impression to Londoners and visitors to London that this ‘tall wall’ encircle Bethlehem and prevent movement of peoples.
    The truth is only the east side of Bethlehem has a wall, and tall section is only where tall buildings are (to prevent snipers). The security barrier is composed of shorter concrete walls, electrified fences, chain link fences and some fences are akin to garden fences in England. Thses barriers/fences are to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers (presumely your friends!) and others who are dedicated to the distruction of the State of Israel and the Jewish people (St James Christians ought to learn the true words in the Bible and not from the Devil’s disciples who seem to preach at St James Church)

    There are at least nine such security barriers in the world eg Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kashmir, USA . . . Egypt is building one at the moment. Why are you quiet? Where is your big mouth????
    The truth is pure antisemitism. No doubt, so called Christians at St James will put up their arms and say ‘we are not anti semitic’. Do you think you are going to fool people other than yourselves? Remember, If you believe in Christ, HE know what’s in your mind and thoghts. You Devil’s disciples will be punished in the end. Woe to you false christians at St James.

    If you are so concerned about the Holyland, go to Palestinian control areas and Gaza and protect Palestinian Christians. They are been prosecuted right left and centre and they are scared to the core to say anything against Islamists. Why don’t you shout with your big mouths for them. Why don’t you critisise Islamic Palestinians instead of paying lip service and shreading crocodile tears. You people arel cowards and right royal Hypocrites.

    Fight for the prosecuted Christians in Palestine. Bring to the attention of Londoners the crimes of Palestinian Islamists. If you are Christians , that what you ought to be doing instead of stunts appealing to the enemies of Christ.

    I can give you names of Palestinian Christians who live in fear in PA areas. Whather you like it or not, Christians can practise their faith in Israel. Christians in Israel finding difficulties at times because of you ignorant, politically and Devil motivated so called Christians, mostly Anglicans. As some Catholics say, CoE is not a proper church anyway. Yes its is true, Anglicans are the Devil’s disciples.!!

    • London Bella

      Dear Fernando, thank you for your honest and factual post.
      Don’t worry though, here in London most people are just as disgusted as you are by this hostile symbol of utter ignorance.
      Besides, Israelis just swat off this type of ‘political’ message, like bored horses swat off dirty flies.
      Happy Holidays

  • Ben

    I will definitely be going, feeling more motivated by all the mendacious zionist trolls who have commented on the piece. Thanks for that.

    • London Bella

      say hello to the other 3 jew-haters while you;re there and don’t forget to throw your computer and mobile phone in the trash – you know ‘zionists’ inventions that the jewish state of israel is profiting very well from…
      hope you never get seriously sick either – you know, ‘zionist’ medical discoveries, medical technologies and medical breakthroughs – yep, they all go through the ‘zionist’ land of Israel and are all discoveries by ‘zionist’ doctors..

      So what have the Palestinians done for the world lately??

      Long Live Israel!!!

      • Ben

        Careful now, you are conflating my opposition to an apartheid militarised
        theocracy with antisemitism. Oops, my mistake, that was intentional on your part.

        • London Bella

          no terrorists, no wall!
          it’s very simple, no need for big buzzwords

          thanks for helping the zionist cause with the purchase of your pc

          Long Live Israel!

        • Bryan

          Ben, You really do write such nonsense. Israel is the ONLY free country in the Middle East. Palestinians actually have more freedom in Israel than they do in the Arab countries. I have visited Israel many times and it certainly is not militarized and certainly not apartheid. If you go into a hospital you see Arabs and Jews working together and also as patients next to each other.

        • Pelo Nord

          “apartheid militarised theocracy” You’re not an anti-Semite – you didn’t use the J word so I think you got away with it. Prick.

    • Pelo Nord

      You can wear a keffiyeh while you’re at it and pretend you’re not a twat

  • Debby K

    This type of activity will do NOTHING to forge trust, peace and understanding between Israelis and Palestinians. It will not lead build bridges. Instead it is an childish, partisan and blinkered attempt to play the game of they’re the goodies, they’re the baddies. Black and white. This is ridiculous. There is right on both sides of this wall. And the wall’s establishment is a result of wrongs on both sides of this wall. Nothing but recognition of BOTH SIDES of the very, very complex Middle Eastern situation will lead to trust, acceptance, negotiation and peace. Nor has this got anything at all to do with Xmas and Christianity and the forging of peace and understand between between different faiths – Christian, Jewish, Moslem. This whole St James Church structure is actually separatist – and the people who’ve created it are disowning their own separatist, bigoted, black and white thinking and projecting it onto others.

  • inkandpen

    i saw this and I thought that they should be raising funds to build more walls to protect Christian communities in Pakistan, Syria, Iraq etc etc. Many Christian communities in those countries would welcome such a wall to protect them from the ‘religion of peace’.

  • Matt Pryor

    Hmm, this replica wall cost £30,000 to build. Who donated that money I wonder?

    £30,000 to promote the radical Islamist cause of destroying the world’s only Jewish state – codenamed “Palestine”.

    How many blankets for freezing Syrian Christian children would that money buy?

    How many churches across the UK are crying out for funds to repair dilapidated buildings?

    No wonder the church of England is seen as increasingly irrelevant.

    • Fernie

      Quite true, Matt. CoE or Anglicans at St James doesn’t care a hoot for Palestinian and Syrian Christians are who being prosecuted by Islamists, except for some crocodile tears. They are in league with the devil to attack the God’s chosen people, whenever they can. Still blind and ignorant about happenings to Christians in Egypt, Syria and rest of M.E. Not to worry, the God himself will destroy the CoE and it’s false preachers as in Biblical times.

      • Matt Pryor

        “God himself will destroy the CoE and it’s false preachers”

        I’m a practicing Anglican so I hope not, with respect.

  • Michael Smith

    I’m delighted to see this warm celebration of the Peace Wall.

  • Alex

    Why the double standard?!

  • Alex
  • Alex

    St James’s Church, I hate your hatred

    A true story…

    “And it came to pass that in December 2010, two Palestinian shepherds left their little town near Bethlehem and set out to walk ten miles across the Judean Hills. There in the forest, they kept watch by night. The following day, at about the 6th hour (3pm) the shepherds saw two women walking along the Israel National Trail. With great fervour they took out their knives and attacked the women. Their serrated blades glinted int he sun, shining all around as the shepherds held the girls and pinned them to the ground. With knives to their throats, the women dare not move.

    “‘Fear not,’ said the men – for mighty dread had seized the women’s troubled minds – ’we bring you good news that will cause great joy for our people.’ What could these glad tidings be? Rape, a robbery, a beating? Anything was better than death the women pondered in their hearts. And so it came to pass that near the seventh hour, the shepherds said, ‘behold, let us go forth and kill these Jews like Allah has told us to do.’

    “The shepherds gagged the women, removed their shoes and bound their hands. They forced one woman to her knees, covered her head and pushed her neck forward. The woman knelt, and prepared herself to be beheaded. Suddenly she saw a great light – the blade of his knife glinting in the sun. The Jewish woman whispered, ‘Hear Oh Israel.’ The Islamic host cried, ‘Allah HuAkbar,’ and the Christian screamed ‘Jesus,’ the name of a Jew born in David’s town.

    “Thirteen times the shepherds thrust their knives into the women, breaking bones, tearing flesh, even impaling one to the ground. As the Jew played dead, she watched her Christian friend hacked to death before her very eyes. The shepherds returned home glorifying and praising Allah for all that they had seen and spread the word of what had they had done. ‘Today near the town of David two Jews have been slaughtered,’ they declared. They plotted and schemed, boasting to their neighbours, ‘this will be a sign, they will find two of their own, all meanly wrapped in bloody clothes and in the bushes laid.’”

    I have given much thought to the events of that terrible day, that culminated in my near murder and the execution of my friend. I believe that I of all people could be forgiven for hating Palestinians. I believe too that I could be forgiven for thinking all Palestinians are terrorists. I do not. On the contrary I have maintained relationships with my Palestinian friends, so that my ignorance will not give me reason to hate. I hate hatred. It is your hatred, in the form of a Christmas stunt, that has compelled me to write.

    I would like to think that as Christians, you would never condone Kristine Luken’s heinous murder or the attack on myself. I suspect, however, that you may rationalise this savagery as an inevitable result of the “Israeli occupation.” You would probably suggest that the Palestinians who murdered my friend were themselves victims who grew up in depravity. I would concur but would point out that if poverty was the case, the aristocrats who flew into the twin towers had no reason to commit their crimes.

    The Palestinian terrorists were indeed victims, victims of a radical and primitive Islamic regime that force feeds its people a morally malnourished diet of hatred of Jews and hatred of any life – including their own. They were also deprived: deprived of an education that cherishes culture, history, literature, art and the dignity of difference. Their impoverished morality coupled with ignorant generalisations is what enabled two men to butcher defenceless women without so much as blinking an eye.

    Your “wall” that you have erected outside your church, is hopefully just a result of your own ignorance and generalisations concerning the complex situation here in the Middle East. Nevertheless, like all walls, it serves as a facade and a barrier. If your wall was scrutinised, one would see that underneath the whitewashed surface that concerns itself with Israeli policies, there are blocks of anti-Semitism. These bricks stand high. They raise expectations from an entire people group. This wall precedes to separate the nation of Israel as non-desirable. Your wall is cemented together by a superior theology that tells it’s people that G-d gave up on the Jews. This is the same theology that lies behind radical Islam. G-d tried the Jews, then the Christians, but ultimately it was the Muslims who He decided to choose.

    Your wall serves as just one brick in a global wall of an Islamic agenda, an agenda that will stop at nothing until the destruction of the Jewish State. To your own cultural detriment, it is a wall that obstructs truth and ultimately seeks not only to destroy Israel but every Judeo-Christian society.Your wall inflames an ancient conflict that for those like myself, who live in this region, long not for an exacerbation in hatred but for a quenching of hostilities. Your wall is an affront to Kristine Luken’s memory and the memories of other victims of terror who may well have been alive today had there have been a wall erected on the other 90 percent of land that separates us from our Palestinian neighbours.

    Your wall is an injustice to Christians living under Muslim despotism. Ironically it is the State of Israel, that you deem pariah and unjust, that is unique in the Middle East because unlike all of our neighbours, our Christian population is flourishing and our Christians have full religious rights.

    Please write on your wall, under the cross now obscured by the crescent, “R.I.P Kristine Luken.”


    Kay Wilson

  • Alex

    Dr. Denis MacEoin’s letter to St. James Church

    St. James’s Church in Piccadilly, London is hosting a Christmas festival with a giant replica of the separation barrier in Israel, which it incorrectly claims surrounds Bethlehem. (While portion of the barrier is close to Bethlehem it is misleading to claim that it even approximately surrounds Bethlehem).

    Dr. Denis MacEoin is a scholar and editor of the Middle East Quarterly, a journal dealing with politics, religion, and society in the region. A former lecturer in Islamic studies, his academic specializations are Shi‘ism, Shaykhism, Bábism, and the Bahá’í Faith, on all of which he has written extensively.

    Below is the cogent letter he wrote to three priests serving at St. James Church. (Reproduced with his permission)

    Dear Revs. Meader, Winkett and Valentine, The last time I was in your beautiful church was for a memorial service for my dear friend Patricia Parkin, a leading literary editor and my own editor for a great many years. The service was a thing of great beauty, with some wonderful music, as one might expect from your church. My attention was drawn by the magnificent Grinling Gibbons carvings on the font and reredos. Having recently read David Esterly’s lyrical account of his restoration of Gibbon’s carvings, my appreciation of the quality of your specimens has much increased. You are very welcome to visit my parish church, St. George’s in Jesmond, which is widely thought to be the most beautiful church in the North of England.

    The welcomes you extend to LGBT people, the homeless, refugees, and innovative approaches to the liturgy and beyond (as in your Zen group) have always interested. My own background is in Persian, Arabic and Islamic Studies (especially Shi’ite Islam), on all of which I have written extensively. The bulk of my academic work has centered on the Baha’i religion and its precursors. I am very conscious of the plight of the Baha’is still living in Iran, where they have been and are being persecuted with great severity. I don’t know if you include them in your prayers, but perhaps I can ask you to.

    Compassion for those who suffer is necessarily an automatic response of Christians, given the emphasis Christ placed on love for one’s fellow man.

    For myself, my earliest encounter with true suffering came through a teacher at my drama school in Belfast, Helen Lewis (née Katz). I had heard that she had been imprisoned in a concentration camp, but it wasn’t till one day when she rolled her sleeve up and I saw numbers tattooed on her arm that her plight came home to me. She had spent a long time in Theresianstadt (Terezin), where she saved her life because she was a professional ballet dancer: the Nazis used Terezin as a Potemkin village with dancers, musicians, actors, painters and writers to impress the Red Cross and others with their kindly treatment of inmates (while thousands died behind the scenes). Helen’s husband died in Auschwitz.

    Helen’s legacy to me, an Irish teenager baptized in the Church of Ireland, was a growing concern for the Jewish people and, from that, a deep love for the state of Israel and the enormous good it has done and does in the world. In all the Middle East and far beyond, no other country but Israel gives refuge to the Baha’is. They have built a famous world centre there, with gardens and shrines and white marble buildings for their administrative needs.

    Throughout the Middle East, Christians are dwindling rapidly in numbers, mainly because extremist Islamic groups drive them out. Israel is the only country in the region where Christian numbers have been growing steadily since 1948. It goes without saying that Israel is the only country across the Islamic world where Jews can live safely, after almost a million were killed or driven out of Arab lands in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Those few Jews who live in Iran live on a knife-edge.

    Why do I mention all this? Because your church has constructed a mendacious wall on its premises in order to make an ignominious political point, something I would not have believed your church capable of. It is mendacious because it pretends the entire separation is a wall, when the wall covers about 1%. It is mendacious because it does not mention the 30 or so security walls and fences that have been built by other countries, many much longer than Israel’s.

    It is mendacious because it carries no message to explain why it is there, when it is explicitly there to deter violent attacks from the West Bank into Israel. It is mendacious because it carries no statement alerting onlookers to the fact that the barrier has already saved thousands of live. Or does saving lives really not matter to Christians. Or are Jewish lives not as important as the lives of suicide bombers and other terrorists? If you seek fairness ­ and I suspect you do in a muddled way ­why did you not contact the Israeli embassy, who could have loaned you something apposite: a bus, on board which passengers died when a suicide bomber detonated himself?

    From the moment Israel was established, the Palestinians and their neighbours tried again and again to fight wars and to inflict wounds on Israeli civilians. The Palestinians were offered a state of their own but rejected it and turned to 65 years of violence. Why is this not made clear?

    Sadly, large numbers of people on the far political left, aided and abetted by a surprising and disappointing force of Christians, have become fiercely one-sided. I have attended a Christian conference where much of the discourse verged on anti-Semitism. These people will not engage in open debate, they stamp their feet and shout, to drown out pro-Israel speakers, they lumber into a controversy about which they know little or nothing.

    An Anglican priest, Stephen Sizer, who was responsible for your wall, is a fanatic whom all Jews I know consider to be an anti-Semite, bringing back to modern churches a theology that we thought had been discarded. Supercessionism is just another way of saying that Christians are superior to Jews, that Jews have denied God and are destined to go to Hell. It is not a pleasant doctrine, and it shocks me that you make room for it.

    In an age when anti-Semitism is growing daily, when Jews are fleeing European countries, when calls to exterminate the Jews are easily found on the Internet, what on earth are you thinking, to dice so freely with the very forces you might otherwise despise. Why do terrorists win your sympathy more readily than Jewish children murdered in their beds? The Palestinians still freely quote the words of the 1967 Khartoum Declaration, ‘No peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel (as a Jewish state)’. Doesn’t that tell you how hard it has been for Israel to make a peace agreement? Why don’t you publicize that? It is Palestinian refusal that has blocked peace, not Israeli aggression. Why don’t you say so? Surely you believe in the truth and the virtue of speaking the truth. Why should well-meaning Christians let themselves be guided by hardline communists and anti-Semites? It seems altogether confused to me.

    When I recognized Helen Lewis’s suffering and saw how she had survived a terrible ordeal through great inner strength, and when I saw how well she used her talents to teach and to create her own modern dance troupe in Northern Ireland, I also understood that when it came to a real choice, then I would opt for the Jews and I would lend what little help I could to Israel. I have never been disappointed in it. There have been mistakes, but no more than for any other country I know, and a great deal less than many other nations. Why on earth do you criticize the building of a fence to keep out terrorists when you make no tableau of Syria or Egypt or South Sudan or Iran or Saudi Arabia or North Korea, all places that make Israel stand out as a cloister for human rights, decency, and tolerance?

    The wall your church so wantonly displays is often called an ‘apartheid wall’. This resonates with the frequent accusation that Israel is an ‘apartheid state’. It has become commonplace to demonize the state of Israel and the seven and a half million people who llve there. But the slightest investigation will show that Israel is one of the least apartheid states in the world. It is simply a lie to say so, and it is a lie to speak of the wall as an apartheid walls. It is a security barrier, just like dozens of others round the world, none of which is ever called an ‘apartheid wall’. I should have thought that you would have carried out some kind of inquiry into this before constructing a fake wall that is so frequently characterized as apartheid-based. A short trip to Israel might have helped, a long trip even more.

    We know very well that the wall and fence have saved countless lives, lives of Israeli Jews, lives of Israeli Arabs. Its purpose is to keep out terrorists, but the long barrier is not designed to keep out all Palestinians. At frequent intervals along its route, the fence has controlled openings through which Palestinians working in Israel may pass.

    Let me illustrate the importance of the fence with a single example. In 2005, a young Palestinian woman called Wafa al-Biss was badly burned in a domestic fire, taken to Israel’s SorokaHospital, and treated there for months. When discharged, she was given a permit to return as an out-patient. Some time later she headed for the hospital wearing a suicide belt with the aim of exploding it among the doctors and nurses who had treated her, as well as however many children she could find. She was caught at a checkpoint and imprisoned. Earlier this year she was released as part of a prisoner release agreement. Within hours she was speaking to Palestinian children, urging them to put on suicide vests and kill as many Jews as possible. And some people wonder why the Israelis need a security barrier.

    It is simply wrong, I believe ­ and, I am sure, all Christians believe ­ to flaunt one people’s suffering as righteous while condemning another people for simply seeking to secure themselves and their children from vicious attack. Wafa al-Biss was not a mentally disturbed lone killer manquée, but someone who had every reason to be grateful to the men and women who had saved her life. She was part of a killing system, a system that has taken the lives of thousands of Israel down the years.

    The Palestinians have made hatred their raison d’être. It defines their radio and television broadcasts, the lessons they are taught in school, their mosque sermons, their political speeches, their publications, their newspapers, and the actions of terrorist outfits who truly do not care whom they kill, not even if their victims are four-month old babies in their cots. I repine against all this hatred and unnecessary death, and I wish there were no need for a barrier of any kind. I have just re-read a letter from a Palestinian doctor from Gaza, who speaks emotionally about the evil Wafa al-Biss came close to doing. Men like him and the Israelis at Soroka and other hospitals where Palestinians receive the most advanced treatment in the world offer a way forward. It might have been the Christian thing to invite men and women without hatred to speak at St. James’s. But to build a wall and use it to condemn the one side that has made the most efforts for peace and partnership is a dereliction of your Christian duty. I wish I could see something positive, but I can’t.

    I do think I understand your motivation, and with that I have no argument. Like so many, you have bought the narrative that portrays Palestinians as suffering victims and Israelis as people without conscience, aggressors, bloated by pride and prejudice. My conscience pricks me to say that my experience has been quite the opposite. It would take too long to explain that, though I’d be happy to try if any of you were willing to enter into correspondence on the subject. In lieu of that, there are some very fine books that could take you a long way into a better understanding of the wider situation. I’d be happy to recommend some of those if it would help.

    I hope my criticisms have not seemed excessive. This is a field where emotions do run fast. And it is also a debate on which human lives may depend. The final outcome of the Israel/Palestine issue brings with it a bright or dark future for the region, for the rest of the world, and for the continuity or destruction of the Jewish people. It is my fear that your ‘wall’ may contribute to that destruction, that I write to you so forcefully. I hope you understand that.

    Dr. Denis MacEoin

    Newcastle upon Tyne

    See also

  • shaul rind

    wall was built as a defense wall from savage attacks from barbarian Arabs how bombed
    our cities and slaughter our children. This wall is in the heart of our
    homeland. Other Countries shoed have rub
    out these people if one can be called like that. Arabs unforchantly will never
    stop trying to brush us to the sea if they can-so we must be the tough guys in
    the neighborhood

    shaul rind- Israel

  • Pelon Nord

    Did you go to the celebration on the night they dismantled the wall Lindsey and if so did you don a Kifiyeh and feel just a little bit of a hard-core rebel standing up to oppression?
    Ah, how they cheered and danced on that night with some authentic arab music and dancers – aren’t the natives quaint! And dear old Nige played violin and all folk felt warm inside that they were amongst the righteous in the world.
    Meanwhile Christians in Africa and the middle-east are being macheted and massacred but who cares? It’s been done by brown and black folk so it’s a cae of ‘forgive them father for they know not what they do’.. and the babies are cute!