The message of peace was given to the shepherds, long ago. Since then, a lot took place and today, the country of Israel is divided into the Israeli state and the Palestinian state, all of it still under governance of the Israeli Knesset. The largest part of the Palestinian state is also known as the West Bank (west bank of the river Jordan). The West Bank includes the larger part of Bethlehem. The West Bank is fenced in with formidable fences. Where Bethlehem borders the small Israeli part of Bethlehem and Jerusalem, the fence has been upgraded to a very high wall. See the first picture, where the wall dwarfs a truck.
In the area where I took these pictures, a lot of petrol bombs got chucked at the Jews living lower down the slope. The height of the walls, makes it impossible to throw Molotov's anymore. The wall is also handy for grafitti artists on the Palestinian side, while there is a glaring absence of grafitti on the other side of the wall. When we left in the bus, we drove past a Banksy in a side steet, about 100m from where I took the top left picture. I later confirmed it as a Banksy - a Peace Dove sporting a chain mail vest.
The Israeli government argues that it protects civilians from suicide bombings and other terror attacks that increased significantly during the second Intifada. The barrier contributed to decrease in suicide bombings from 73 (killing 293 and injuring 1,900) in the three years leading up to July 2003 to 12 in the next 3 years.
Apart from decreasing the incidence of suicide bombings and other attacks, the walls also have the impact of making life very difficult for Palestinians. People living on the Palestinian side of the wall, have to pass through one of various check points (different from the fences, the wall check points are staffed), to gain access to the economy of Jerusalem in this case. In the bottom right picture, we are queueing to pass through the check point, up ahead, under the white barrier that cross the road.
Too many groupings claim the land of 'milk and honey' and it has been going on for a couple of thousand years. It would take a modern day miracle to sort that out. There is quite a number of influences interfering (or 'trying' to help) - the West is just one of them. I found the people on the ground to be aggressive and obstinate (Palestinians) and obstinate and arrogant (Israeli). Each have their own supporting groups from outside. Then there are many other smaller groupings that are neither Palestinian, nor Israeli, who get marginalised in some way. Palestinians are not necessarily Muslims and Israeli's are not necessarily Jews. Necessity sometimes make strange bedfellows.
The main issue remaining is a very messy entanglement of groupings, each with their own agenda and support influences.