BEIT JALA, West Bank — A West Bank community plants olive trees, even though many residents don’t think they will ever see them harvested. Any day, construction of Israel’s security wall could slice through this valley.
"We are trying in a way to keep this land … especially for the children of Beit Jala to feel a little bit of freedom," said Maher Matar, a resident of the mostly Christian Palestinian community of 58 families.
Appeals to Israel’s courts have failed to stop the project, which Israel says is vital to protect it from terrorist attacks.
The impending decision has prompted both Christians and Muslims in the area to gather for weekly prayers they hope will stop Israel from building the separation wall.
While the International Criminal Court has said the wall is "illegal" under international law, Israel maintains the structure is essential.
"It is important to remember that before the waves of Palestinian terror took 1,000 Israeli lives, there was no need for a fence. There was no need for a security barrier," said Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman Josh Hantman. "This barrier, it saves lives. And every inch of the barrier is open to judicial review and up for appeal."
Israel has already completed 65 percent of the planned 435-mile barrier. Human rights organization B’Tselem says that if the wall is finished, 85 percent will fall on Palestinian land.
"People abroad they think we are terrorists," said Elaine, a Beit Jala resident who would give only her first name. "We are not terrorists. We are fighting for our own rights. We are fighting for our own homes for our own land."