As a Christian who has traveled to the Holy Land several times, I'd like to comment on Neil Blumenfeld's intemperate letter of March 30 ("What Do the Palestinians Offer for Peace?").
Mr. Blumenfeld asks if Jews will be allowed to visit holy sites in Jerusalem if parts of the city are returned to the Palestinians. Access to Jerusalem is a matter of concern for Christians as well, although we are not mentioned in his letter. Israel's separation barrier cuts across church-owned land, dividing the Christian town of Bethany on the Mount of Olives and encircling Bethlehem on three sides, strangling its economy. Travel restrictions imposed by the Israeli government have prevented Christians from these towns from visiting Jerusalem for several years.
These restrictions also affect Christians living in Jerusalem during this Holy Week in our Christian calendar. Last week an official with the Public Witness Program of the World Council of Churches, said in a statement: "Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Holy Fire Saturday, and Easter Sunday are the holiest days celebrated in Jerusalem for Christians. Christians are denied their fundamental right [to] freely exercise their religion because of road blocks in the Old City, police presence with machine guns, as well as rude and hostile attitudes from police and Army officers. The curfews and forced closures make these movements almost impossible."
Palestinian Christian organizations in occupied East Jerusalem have mounted a legal battle in the Israeli courts "to preserve the right to freely access our churches and shrines." Let us hope that Israel's democratic government will grant them that right.
LEILA J. RICHARDS