Bethlehem communion wine stopped at checkpoint

How ABSURD can it get??

Archbishop of Paris Andre Vingt-
Trois, Tel Aviv [Ma’anImages]

Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers at the Hebron checkpoint are refusing entry to trucks carrying Bethlehem Cremsian holy altar wine and communion wine to be shipped domestically and internationally for Christmas religious ceremonies.

In justifying the embargo, which has been going on for the last five weeks, Israeli soldiers said the wine constitutes “a security risk.”

The wine, made by the Salesians of Don Bosco, a Roman Catholic religious order, for the past 125 years at the Cremisan winery in a suburb of Bethlehem, is certified for Mass celebrations by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

The Salesians have been producing wines for the past 125 years as a means of supporting their pastoral and educational work among the poor of Bethlehem.

Because the wine is shipped from the Israeli port of Haifa, the sudden embargo has made it impossible for the wine to be exported to Europe. Additionally, Christian churches, pilgrim houses, hotels and restaurants in Jerusalem, Nazareth and other parts of Israel will be deprived of Cremisan wine this Christmas.

Bethlehem’s economy could also be affected as purchases offset the drop in pilgrims caused from recent political troubles; around 30 families depend on the winery, as do hundreds of Christian and Muslim Palestinians who receive assistance through the Salesians’ many projects in Bethlehem.

The embargo is the latest development in a series of increasing difficulties faced by the winery this year. Glass bottles have been held up, as well as truckloads of freshly-harvested grapes which were rendered useless afterward.

Lorries and vans to and from Cremisan have also been forced to travel south to Hebron instead of going through Jerusalem, thus turning a ten-minute journey into a six-hour trip, with no guarantee of permission to cross.

During 2008, the path of the Israeli separation wall was extended to include the Cremisan vineyards. Once completed, it will separate the Cremisan vineyards from the Bethlehem villages where the workers live, allowing workers entry only through a new checkpoint and only if they manage to attain the necessary work permits.

Priests have asked 5th Gospel Retreats, the wine’s United Kingdom (UK) importer, to appeal to the senior hierarchy of the Catholic and Anglican Churches in the UK and Jerusalem, as well as the British government, to ask Israeli authorities to permit wine through the checkpoint as they have in the past. 5th Gospel Retreats has also informed the Archbishops of Westminster and Canterbury, as well as the Apostolic Nuncio to the UK, of the issue.

“It is sad that this Christmas’ Christians are being denied the opportunity to be at one with the people of Bethlehem by drinking its wine. The wine has always until now flowed across the borders of mistrust in this troubled land,” Della Shenton of 5th Gospel Retreats said.

“There are many of us hoping and praying that church authorities, as well as the British government, will ask Israeli authorities to end this unjustified embargo,” Shenton added.

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