Leila Sansour showed an extract of her new film "The road to Bethlehem" which was launched at the Dubai film festival in December 2011 and has not yet been released in the UK. She also showed some slides about Bethlehem.
Leila comes from a Christian family in Bethlehem. After some years abroad she awakened to the problems of the Occupation and since 2002 has devoted herself to this. She directed a film "Jeremy Hardy vs the Israeli Army" (2003) covering his visit with the ISM in 2002 which was shown on TV here and obtained very good reviews (contact us or Open Bethlehem for copies).
In 2005 she started an NGO "Open Bethlehem" ( http://www.openbethlehem.org/ ), an international public relations campaign set up to address the state of emergency in Bethlehem which she continues to direct (donations welcome).
She spoke eloquently about the fall in population, especially of Palestinian Christians, in what has become a small very enclave confined to the built-up area and surrounded on all sides by the Wall and by new illegal settlements. Palestinians wanting to go in or out are obliged to pass through a single narrow pedestrian hole in the wall, where they are subjected to searches and long delays. Foreign tourists come another way in buses run by Israeli-based companies and have little interaction with the city. The people survive largely on subventions from foreign donors (EU UN etc) as normal commercial activities are quasi impossible - almost all the shops have closed in recent years.
There were many questions, and she was warmly applauded and thanked for her presence.
The image at the top is of how the wall annexing Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem has affected Palestinian lives. The link below takes you to a presentation about this.