Israeli Embassy Responds to Baron Der Seizure Concerns

ANCA WebMail Campaign Expands to Increase Media Awareness

WASHINGTON–DC–In response to a nationwide grassroots effort to voice the concerns of Armenian Americans regarding the Israeli government’s seizure of the Baron Der–the historic Armenian Church owned religious property on the outskirts of Bethlehem–the Israeli Embassy has issued a letter seeking to explain its position on this matter–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

The July 31st letter by Israeli Embassy Public Affairs officer Rebecca Weiner–received in the mail by early participants in the ANCA WebMail program to Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon–states:

"Thank you for your letter concerning the Israeli government’s use of property owned by the Armenian patriarchate. Currently–the Israeli government is building a security fence along the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem. This fence is being used to prevent the infiltration of terrorists.

"The Israeli government needs a small part of the land on Baron Der to be used for this security fence. The Israeli government does not challenge the ownership of this land–as belonging to0 the Armenian patriarchate–however–the Israeli government will need access to this part of the land for a temporary basis. It must be noted that the building of the security fence has not yet begun–and that the Armenian patriarchate has appealed the decision in court."

According to the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem–the Israeli government–which has a history of seeking control over Baron Der–is seeking to justify its take-over as a crisis response necessary for its construction of a security wall between Jerusalem and the town of Bethlehem. Despite the Israeli Embassy’s assertion that the take over is only on a "temporary basis," the Israeli Army has insisted that its seizure is irreversible and has indicated that it will begin construction through the Armenian land in the very near future. The Patriarchate continues good faith efforts to resolve this issue through negotiations and the courts.

In the weeks following the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) take over–the ANCA launched a nationwide letter writing campaign from its website to US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon expressing opposition to the Israeli Government actions. Thousands of Armenian Americans have participated in the campaign–which has now been expanded to call for greater US media attention to the issue.

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