Bethlehem is an iconic, historic Palestinian town. It has a great deal of importance to Christians as the birthplace of Jesus. This town is now hemmed in by an enormous Apartheid wall more than 700kms long and 8 meters high that crosses the countryside of Palestine cutting Palestinians off from their land, Families and most dangerous of all their water.
- Bethlehem today has a population of more than 220,000 people, including more than 20,000 living in three refugee camps
- There are 100,000 Israeli settlerssurrounding the town, including within the Israeli-expanded and annexed "Jerusalem municipality"
- Settlements breach international law (e.g., Art. 49(6) as stipulated by the Fourth Geneva Convention: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”
- Bethlehem has now been reduced to less than 13% of its original territory.
The Bethlehem resident and filmmaker, Leila Sansour, has approached this project with one simple request: “Help us open Bethlehem.”
“We are desperately working to ensure the Christian community of Bethlehem are able to remain in their homeland but our task will be impossible if the U.S. refuses to assume the role of a firm and honest broker. Peace between Israelis and Palestinians today is an urgency and it cannot be achieved without a shared Jerusalem which is key if the Palestinians are to have a future.
CAPITOL HILL SCREENING - 12 DECEMBER 2017 - Open Bethlehem the powerful film by Leila Sansour
On December 12th, ‘Open Bethlehem,’ will be screened on Capitol Hill. Open Bethlehem is a film that aims to bring the story of Bethlehem to millions around the world, including the reality of Bethlehem's Christian Community and the challenges they face to stay in their hometown.
Senators and congress should be made aware of the grave danger that Bethlehem and Jerusalem face today, and that the latest decision will only serve to further separate the two cities whose lives are inextricably linked to each other. Decisions by US politicians will have a determining effect on the chances of the survival of Christianity as a living faith in the land of its birth. We want to make sure that these policies and positions are shaped with the insight and wisdom needed to help us all through a very difficult terrain. Bethlehem and Jerusalem are part of Palestine, and their aspirations and future are inextricably linked with that of all Palestinians. This is why I am so keen to share my film on Capitol Hill.”
During this momentous week for Palestinians and Israelis the critically acclaimed feature documentary ‘Open Bethlehem,’ will be screened to members of Congress on Capitol Hill. The screening, hosted by the Arab American Institute and Churches for Middle East Peace, will take place in the Rayburn Gold Room on Tuesday, December 12, at 2:00pm.
This screening and briefing will provide an opportunity to examine the ramifications of President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. By failing to accord similar status to Palestine, Palestinians feel the USA has abandoned them and their role as a broker of peace. US Congress will be considering how they respond to Palestinian calls for recognition of their national and human rights. Political engagement over the next few days and weeks will be crucial.
All members of Congress have been invited and presented with a ‘Bethlehem passport’ making them all honorary citizens of Bethlehem. The symbolic passports are given as a 'reminder that Bethlehem’s heritage belongs to us all'. It is an appeal to all those who care about the message of Bethlehem to act as good citizens and ambassadors to secure the city’s future.
The film “Open Bethlehem” allows a different perspective on the conflict. It is a film that allows viewers to experience, in a vivid and intimate way, the city of the bible and the Bethlehem of today with the real challenges faced by its Christian community.
The screening will be followed by a discussion with the filmmaker, Leila Sansour, who comes from one of the oldest Christian families in Bethlehem and who has been documenting the events unfolding in her city over the past decade