London church blocks its facade with replica of Israeli wall around Bethlehem

St. James’ Church in central London unveiled an eight-meter-high replica of the Israeli-built concrete wall that entirely surrounds the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

It is an effort to bring to London some of the reality of what it is like to live in Bethlehem in 2013.

The wall deliberately obscures the facade of the historic St. James’ Church “because that is what has happened to Bethlehem’s holy sites and historic places.”

“This Christmas we’ve built a huge wall across the front of our church. We’d really like you to come and see it because it’s what the people of Bethlehem are experiencing today,” explains Reverend Lucy Winkett, rector of the church, in the brief video above.

The wall is part of the “Bethlehem Unwrapped” festival, which features a week of events, starting on 29 December, including music by Reem Kelani and Nigel Kennedy, comedy with Jeremy Hardy and Mark Steel, as well as films and panels.

“Unwrapping” traditional images

“We’re unwrapping the traditional, Victorian, sentimental images of Christmas and showing this is what Bethlehem today looks like – an eight-meter high concrete separation wall surrounding it,” explains Justin Butcher, the festival’s director.

Butcher said that the replica took eight months to plan and eight days to build before it was unveiled on 23 December.

During the time it is up, people are invited to write their own messages on it.

In what appears to be a concession to apartheid supporters, however, one of the panels features Israeli embassy spokesperson Yiftah Curiel and Alan Johnson of the Israel lobby group Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), in what is likely to be a spirited debate with Jeff Halper, founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and Leila Sansour, Bethlehem resident, filmaker and founder of Open Bethlehem

“This wall is symbolic of walls all over the world that divide and confine peoples, restricting free movement and dominating the imagination of those who live behind them,” the festival website explains.

“We believe that bridges not walls are the only lasting foundation for peace. On Sunday 5th January at the end of the festival, the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany, the Wall itself will be transformed into a symbol of peace and hope.”

“O Little Town of Bethlehem”

This short film, posted last Christmas, is “the story of the birth of Jesus told by the people of Bethlehem” themselves.

The video, made by St Paul’s Church, Auckland, New Zealand, shows what the real wall looks like as citizens of Bethlehem talk about its devastating impact.




What a great and imaginative protest. This graphically illustrates how apartheid is used to dispossess and oppress Palestinians.


The copy wall that was built in front of the London church is the least that the British can do to apologize to the Palestinian and Arabs for their involvement in creating the so called isreal and the continuous support. They should be ashamed and should live at least one week under a self imposed siege so that they have a taste of the Palestinians subjected to on daily basis for more than sixty years


More important, this information should be imparted to children in British schools, part of their history curriculum. It would change perspectives, including those of individuals who carry the colonial smugness, superiority and racism to this day.

But let's rejoice today that such a brilliant work has been achieved, that the rector of the church and all those involved have the courage, integrity and solidarity displayed in this Bethlehem Unwrapped festival!


It should be noted that the guilty parties are long gone. Why slag off those of us who had nothing whatsoever to do with stealing the Land and giving it to the Jews. I was three year old.
Much better to say "those running the departments responsible" should make the wrongs right. People seem to overlook that not all Brits agree with the situation just like not all Jews are evil.


I should no more have to apologize for my government than Israelis for theirs. the crimes committed against Palestine are not my crimes and it is important to understand that.


OK, so no one apologizes... so, Israel's leaders - elected by its own unapologetic citizens - continue to keep Palestinians far beyond arms length as they Bantustan-ize not only the less favorable stretches of "free" Palestine, but even the, uh... sexier real estate which is lauded as well by the Zionists' fundi-Christian enablers. Most of whom don't seem to give a rat's ass about growing imparity between Jew and Gentile in the "Holy Land". And as some Brits prefer to shrug off any sense of responsibility for their complicit past, BBC only perpetuates this blatant ethnic cleansing-disguised-as-security with as much fervour as US news outlets and Congress, who fear for their professional lives in the wake of Zionist manipulations.

Tossing off options that are available to us in ending the Judaisation of Palestine just because our forbearers started the kettle boiling and we chose to walk away, is inexcusable. We cannot remain blameless for continued carnage, Apartheid and disenfranchisement.


Thanks for that Ren. That is an excellent reply to someone who hasn't much of a social conscience or who doesn't think too deeply about the issues.


It's people like you that obstruct the way truth can reach the world. Most of the people I know in Palestine have been complaining so such ignorance like yours. I cannot even be civil with you. What do you "British" and apologize and whatnot!!!! Why don't we apologize for Hamas and Al Qaeda then if everyone is apologizing for the history before they were born. I'm a Palestinian and I'm repulsed by people like you. Seriously! I think the people who signed on that contract should apologize instead! Stop blaming people like those in the video and around the world for things you cannot accomplish! They're defending a cause by civil and artistic, not hateful and irrational. What a shame.


An aside.. but don't forget, the British also still continue to build 'peace' walls in the north of Ireland!


Brilliant really . I'd like to see this catch on with other churches and organizations in the Country and beyond. With feeling but no hate.


Many thanks to the members of St. James Church in London for their passionate
commitment and brave statement.

About a half century ago as a young "liberal idealist" from New York City I went to
Mississippi to help. I am proud of my actions still. Despite my youthful belief
in so many of the fashionable liberal/progressive myths and illusions, I was always intensely aware that I could leave at a time of my own choosing. I could return to my
apartment in NYC. Those I worked with on the black side of the line may
have left in the intervening 50 years. They could not leave then. They were
mired in hate and poverty. Many still are although speaking for blacks
today is their perogative. ("plus se change, plus le meme chose" ! )

As members of St. James Church show the horrors of reality today for thousands in
Palestine, they should always remember that they can "leave". The Palestinians
themselves are by definition unable to end their horror. Members of St. James
have assumed the "risk" of showing the realities. Imagine that this can even be considered a "risk".


Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA


As a Christian Palestinian who was born and raised in the small city of Bethlehem and once lived there, I want to extend my sincere gratitude to each and every one of you who helped to show the world our prison. The city of Bethlehem needs now the most, and needs your support to the Christian community. Trust me, if this trend keeps on going like this, there will be no Christian community in Bethlehem. Please tell the story more and more, and maybe someone will hear it and stop this madness.

Thank you all.


Very insightful way of showing the situation surrounding Bethlehem - friends and acquaintances can't comprehend what I have seen! This includes guards on the gates, keeping people in And out when no set times of access are given, dividing homes, friends, neighbours, cultures that have sat together in the past. Beyond the walls further afield mines appear to have been laid according to warning signs. We All need to support this profound imagery in action. Carol