Jerusalem: Holy Land Roadblocks

Christian pilgrims learn about Palestinians' everyday indignities
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The tour bus full of Christian pilgrims came to a halt. Unlike the usual Holy Land circuit, this group wasn't visiting a historic church or ancient site. Instead, they had come to the east Jerusalem branch of the Israeli Ministry of Interior, where a cluster of Palestinians huddled in the rain.

Douglas Dicks, a Virginia-born outreach worker for Catholic Relief Services, stood in the front of the bus, pointed to the building, and began reading from Matthew, describing Jesus' trial before Pontius Pilate. "And when Pilate saw a riot was gathering, he took some water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. 'I am innocent of this man's blood. It is your responsibility,'" Dicks read.

The tour, billed as a trip along a modern-day Via Dolorosa, illustrated the everyday indignities Jerusalem's Palestinian residents suffer at the hands of Israeli authorities in the city of their birth. It was part of an ecumenical Christian conference on the Palestinian issue that took place here in late February. The conference, "Speaking Truth, Seeking Justice," was sponsored by Sabeel, a Jerusalem-based center for Christian theology. It brought together several hundred Christians from 17 countries to consider anew the Palestinian plight, particularly in the wake of failed Middle East peace talks.

"Palestinians come to the Ministry of Interior building to renew their Jerusalem residency permits, to get permits for their children, to get permission to leave the country and to reenter," Dicks said. Many Israeli practices make it extremely difficult for Palestinians to obtain, or hold on to, Jerusalem residency rights.

On another occasion, about 200 members of the group stood for 90 minutes at an Israeli roadblock at the entrance to Ramallah, waiting ...

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