Monastery loses court battle on Israeli security fence

(JTA) — A Catholic monastery and convent near Bethlehem lost a seven-year legal battle against the building of Israel’s West Bank security fence on its land.

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The Society of St. Yves, a Catholic group that argued the case on the monastery’s behalf, said an Israeli appeals court had endorsed a plan to expand the barrier Israel had built in the area, Reuters reported Friday. The wall would surround the convent on three sides and cut it off from most of its land, St. Yves said in a statement.

Salesian monks and nuns tend lush vineyards and olive trees on terraced hillsides adjacent to Israeli settlements in the area. A convent school teaches 400 local children.

In 2002, Israel started building the West Bank security fence — a mix of metal fencing, barbed wire and concrete walls — in response to a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings. Israel says the barrier keeps its citizens safe from terrorists; Palestinians charge the fence constitutes a land grab.

Anica Heinlein, St. Yves’s advocacy officer, said the plan to build on the monastery’s property “would violate international law and conventions protecting religious minorities and the right to education and freedom of religion.”

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