KENNINGTON BETHLEHEM LINK
The seeds of our group were sown in 2013 at a meeting with the Mayor of Bethlehem, who mentioned that the Palestinian city had no twinning arrangement with any municipality in England. We took this as an invitation and challenge.
Since early 2015 our group has met regularly to discuss how we, in Kennington, may form links with Bethlehem, eventually leading to a formal twinning arrangement. We have also held fundraising events at the Kennington Fete, Lambeth Palace and the Cinema Museum.
In May 2016 a group from Kennington made a fact-finding trip to Bethlehem to make links with the local community, meeting the Mayor and learning more about the daily reality of life in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. A report on this trip is available.
Read more: Visit to West Bank Report copy
What are we trying to achieve?
While the ultimate aim is to twin Kennington with Bethlehem, we are currently focusing on forming links in a number of areas. Faith, arts, education, media and sports are among those that we are exploring. We have formed links and are developing joint work with schools and a community college in Bethlehem, with the Aida refugee camp and with the Bethlehem Boy Scouts. Other projects in media, arts and sport are in the pipeline. These are areas that reflect our current members and their interests, but the list could be endless.
It is a city with roughly the same population as Kennington and with a similarly rich ethnic and religious mix. But while we in Kennington exist in relative harmony, Bethlehem is beset with problems. For many, Bethlehem is the iconic location of the Christian Faith. In reality it is far from idyllic ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’ that we may imagine. Once through the checkpoint visitors are struck by the 8-metre wall, built by the Israeli Security Forces, which hems the city in on 3 sides, separating farmers from their land, choking the tourism industry and limiting movement for Palestinians.