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Israel builds wall when it needs to build bridges

Palestinians tell Steve Bonham that their future peace relies on him and us raising our voices against the wall

I recently visited the Palestinian West Bank village of Aboud, a beautiful and ancient village set among terraced olive groves. The church in which Orthodox Christians still worship dates from the fourth century. There are remains of seven other early churches in and around the village.

Aboud used to be a thriving centre, providing a secondary school, shops and services for neighbouring villages. Then the Israeli army blocked most roads into the village. Now it is a quiet cul-de-sac with shutters closed on most businesses.

The villagers need permits to travel outside the Ramallah district. Suhaila el Khoury the head teacher of the Protestant primary school, has not been able to get to Bethlehem since 1999.

She has occasionally obtained a permit to travel into Palestinian East Jerusalem. She told me: "When I cross the checkpoint into Jerusalem, suddenly I feel free, like a bird released from a cage."

With restrictions crippling the Palestinian economy and no longer able to work in Israel, most men are unemployed. Farming is a! n important source of food and a supplement to income. Olive oil is re fined in the village and families make olive-oil soap. Wheat is grown and flour ground. Sheep graze on uncultivated land.

Daniel Sumrain told me he owned 300 olive trees, of which 80 were at least 1,000 years old. This may be the last year that the family will have their own olives. Now, Israel is building its separation wall on Aboud land and his trees are to be bulldozed or confiscated. The village will lose 1,100 acres of land and more than 5,000 trees.

The wall in Aboud is not for the security of Israel. Six kilometres away, they have already built the wall on the pre-1967 border between Israel and the West Bank. Nor is the wall solely to protect the illegal Israeli settlements Ofarim and Beit Arye built on Aboud land. The wall extends far beyond existing settlements boundaries.

The purpose of the wall in Aboud is to confiscate land and the aquifer that provides 20 per cent of the West Bank's water.