RAMALLAH, Feb. 23 (JMCC) – Palestinians in the city of Bethlehem went on strike Tuesday in response to Israel’s decision to include two West Bank shrines as national ‘heritage’ sites.
The Palestinian Authority called for a three day strike of businesses, universities, and schools, with a rally to be held in the city on Friday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu announced over the weekend that Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron would be included in a plan to restore places of Israeli national heritage.
The inclusion of the West Bank sites has created an international stir with condemnation from the UN’s Mideast Envoy Robert Serry and protests in the Palestinian city of Hebron on Monday.
Rachel’s Tomb has been a major point of contention as Israel built its separation wall encompassing the shrine to prevent access from Palestinians, even though the site is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.
The Tomb of the Patriarchs, known to Muslims as al-Ibrahimi Mosque (The Mosque of Abraham), has also become a spot of daily strife. A few hundred illegal Israeli settlers, protected by the Israeli military, live in the center of Hebron amongst nearly 170,000 Palestinians. The situation has made Hebron the most volatile city in the West Bank.