Blind children facing delays at Israeli wall

30 April 2009

by Bill Bowder

BLIND and partially sighted children from the Palestinian Territories who attend the BibleLands Helen Keller Centre for the Visually Impaired in East Jerusalem have found their school trip extended by about two hours a day, after their previous route was closed permanently.

The staff and about 25 children up to the age of 13, who used to go through the Ar-Ram passage, a gap left by the Separation Wall, have to take a roundabout route, now that the unfinished section of the wall has been completed.

“These pupils, who are blind and partially sighted, now face an addi­tional journey time of up to an hour or longer, both in the morning and evening when they go home,” said the chief executive of BibleLands, Nigel Edward-Few.

One of the teachers described the conditions that the children face at the Qalandia Passage. “Only one per­son at a time is allowed through. . . The old, the children, and the dis­abled are forced to wait for hours be­fore they are allowed to pass through, and when the time comes, they are called names and yelled at by soldiers. The children, including those with disabilities, are ordered to empty their school bags [and] take off their jackets and shoes.”

Open Bethlehem film: Leila Sansour, founder of Open Bethlehem, which issued Bethlehem “passports” to Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canter­bury, has formed a company to pro­mote a feature-length film about growing up in Bethlehem.

Speaking to an invited audience at Amnesty International on 30 March, she said she had shot 500 hours of film, but “I still need to raise £60,000 to edit it.”

Contributions to the film can be sent to: All Things Bethlehem, Tipping Point Film Fund, The Studio, 310 King Street, LondonW6 ORR.

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