Delight as Bethlehem Council approves twinning with Derry & Strabane

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Derry City and Strabane District Council has received correspondence from the Mayor of Bethlehem City Council about a possible twinning with the city.

At a Governance and Strategic Planning Committee meeting on Tuesday, Strategic Business Manager, Rachel Craig, sought approval to “engage with officials from Bethlehem City Council to agree an action plan and map a way forward in twinning with the City.”.

In December last year, SDLP councillor Catherine McDaid proposed contacting Bethlehem’s local authorities to start the process of twinning the cities, which would “show our support to the people of the region and to develop our relationship with Bethlehem in order to develop links”.

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Following the passing of the motion a letter was forwarded to the Mayor of Bethlehem, and the Mayor’s Office in Derry received a response on April 6.

An installation depicting the nativity of Christ with a figure "symbolizing baby Jesus lying in his manger amid rubble", in reference to Gaza, is displayed in front of the Church of the Nativity in the city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on December 23, 2023. (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP) (Photo by HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images)An installation depicting the nativity of Christ with a figure "symbolizing baby Jesus lying in his manger amid rubble", in reference to Gaza, is displayed in front of the Church of the Nativity in the city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on December 23, 2023. (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP) (Photo by HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images)
An installation depicting the nativity of Christ with a figure "symbolizing baby Jesus lying in his manger amid rubble", in reference to Gaza, is displayed in front of the Church of the Nativity in the city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on December 23, 2023. (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP) (Photo by HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images)

The response confirmed that Bethlehem City Council approved the signing of a twinning agreement by both councils.

Speaking at the meeting, Councillor McDaid said she was “delighted to read the letter” from the Mayor of Bethlehem, Mr Hanna Hanania, and was “looking forward to ascertaining how to make this a feasible, practical thing”.

She added: “We have an opportunity for this to be a very positive thing for people of all ages, and from all the political spectrum, to engage with a city of history and culture, just like ours.”

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Sinn Féin councillor Emma McGinley said the Irish people have been “steadfast behind the people of Palestine and will continue to do so”.

Palestinian vendors wait for customers in the main touristic street of the West Bank city of Bethlehem on December 16, 2015. (Photo credit should read THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images)Palestinian vendors wait for customers in the main touristic street of the West Bank city of Bethlehem on December 16, 2015. (Photo credit should read THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images)
Palestinian vendors wait for customers in the main touristic street of the West Bank city of Bethlehem on December 16, 2015. (Photo credit should read THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images)

People Before Profit councillor Shaun Harkin welcomed the Mayor’s response to the “excellent initiative”.

“This can be very positive for our district and Bethlehem,” he said. “But right now Jerusalem and the West Bank is facing unprecedented levels of violence.

“I would urge us to do as much as we can to slow down the violence.”

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Independent councillor Gary Donnelly said acts of solidarity were “very important to Palestinian people”.

SDLP Councillor Catherine McDaid.SDLP Councillor Catherine McDaid.
SDLP Councillor Catherine McDaid.

“We know what it’s like for people to have solidarity in this country,” councillor Donnelly concluded, adding: “This is very positive and should be seen as a proud and historic moment.”

Andrew Balfour,

Local Democracy Reporter