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Friday Dec. 24, 2010 10:18 AM (EST+7)
Bethlehem shepherds unable to watch their flocks

Read more: Bethlehem, Christmas, shepherd, checkpoint, barrier, wall, livelyhood

RAMALLAH, December 24 (JMCC) - In Bethlehem, shepherds watching their flock by night are an increasing rarity. Israeli settlements, checkpoints and barriers are making the traditional nomadic lifestyle, formerly so common in the area, all but impossible.

If an angel of the Lord were to appear in the sky over Bethlehem today, there would be scarcely any shepherds keeping watch over their flocks to witness the scene.

Spending nights and days in the fields herding sheep has become an almost impossible task for the fast-diminishing community of shepherds in this biblical Palestinian town.

Jewish settlements, Israeli army checkpoints, closed military zones and the West Bank separation barrier have reduced the grazing area to such an extent that a growing number of Bethlehem shepherds have been forced to give up their traditional livelihoods. I miss the freedom of the wilderness. Everything is different now. We can barely move, says Adel Alsir, a 35-year-old Palestinian who herds his flock less than 100 metres from a biblical site known as the shepherds' fields.

While Alsir speaks, his 40 sheep scrutinise this small plot of land surrounded by houses in a desperate search for a blade of grass.

The change has been huge, he says. Before the [Israeli separation] wall was built, I had 300 heads. I remember how we used to start our way down to the Dead Sea early in the morning. On that hill, we used to stop to take a nap under the trees when the sun got too hot.

The hill he points to is Har Homa, a Jewish settlement built in the 1990s where 20,000 people live.

Read more at The Guardian…






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