By Peter Jennings (Sec., Friends of Bethlehem)
20 January 2014
Friends of Bethlehem executive members Marty Morrison and I attended a meeting with the Mayor of Marrickville, Jo Haylen on Monday, January 20 at the Marrickville Council Chambers in Petersham.
The purpose of the meeting was to introduce the Marrickville Friends of Bethlehem to the new Mayor and explore possible future joint activities.
The meeting got off to a good start when Jo realised that Marty is the wife of Bill Morrison, a Minister in the Whitlam government. Jo is a member of the ALP, and is also in the Warren Branch (as I am also).
We gave a bit of the history of the Marrickville Friends of Bethlehem and also the reason why it was founded by Labor Councillor Sam Iskander and others (to make sure the sister city relationship was not just Council to Council, but also community to community). We reported to her on:
- the visit by Bethlehem Mayor Vic Batarseh who had been brought out by Marrickville Council, but many of his community activities had been organised by the Marrickville Friends of Bethlehem
- The photographic exhibition in the gallery in Camperdown
- Various visits and public meetings with Brother Peter Bray, Vice-Chancellor of the Bethlehem University, when he visited Marrickville
- Study visit by Ms Dina Nassar from Bethlehem Council who worked with the Council and the Friends of Bethlehem while on an AusAID scholarship.
- Addresses and stalls at various Marrickville LGA churches each Christmas
- The children’s playground in Bethlehem, towards which the Council had made a generous donation.
Current situation in Bethlehem
We then updated her on the current situation in Bethlehem city – how its lifeblood, tourism, is being strangled by the Wall, and how its economy is being strangled by the surrounding settlements. There are also many violent attacks on local Palestinian farmers, residents and students.
This led to a more general discussion of their situation for Palestinians living in the West Bank. She said she was aware of their difficulties and is sympathetic to their struggles. The discussion covered the Wall, the checkpoints and the illegal settlements.
We also informed the Mayor that the Marrickville Friends of Bethlehem was part of a wider grouping of organisations that, on the request of the Bethlehem Mayor and virtually all of civil society in Palestine’s West Bank including the unions and churches, had decided to support the international Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions campaign until Israel recognises the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to independent statehood.
The meeting concluded with good wishes from both sides and a determination to continue co-operation between Council and the friends of Bethlehem on projects, visitors and events in the future.
Friends of Bethlehem welcomes new Mayor of Marrickville and provides an open invitation to Bethlehem events
Councillor Victor Macri
Mayor of Marrickville
2-14 Fisher Street
PETERSHAM NSW 2049
3 October, 2012
Dear Hon. Mayor Macri,
Congratulations on your appointment as Mayor of Marrickville.
As a local community group, we are pleased to be able to welcome you to this position as someone who has been for some time part of a Council which has supported the twin city of Bethlehem in Palestine.
Since 2006, Marrickville Council has been a sister city of Bethlehem. We have been fortunate to have worked with three Mayors who have encouraged this relationship – Councillors Morris Hanna (Independent), Sam Iskandar (Labor) and Fiona Byrne (Greens) – and hope this will continue.
When this Marrickville-based community group was formed in 2007, Friends of Bethlehem inc. it had as its formal objective support for the Council’s sister-city relationship with Bethlehem. We believe in bringing the peoples of the two communities together.
In this spirit, we have:
- invited each of the Mayors mentioned above to our fund-raising dinners;
- invited the Mayors to chair meetings when prominent members of the Bethlehem community have visited Marrickville, most recently brother Peter Bray, Vice-Chancellor of the Catholic Bethlehem university;
- entertained Ms Dina Nasser when she was brought from Bethlehem Council to Marrickville Council as part of an Australian aid project; and
- supported the Council’s projects to aid Bethlehem (for instance, the recent grant to Bethlehem Council for a children’s playground.
In this vein, we would hope that we are able to work with you in your new role as Mayor and hope to see you in the near future at some of our meetings and dinners. Once again, congratulations! Kind regards,
Chair, Friends of Bethlehem inc.
Reply from the Councillor Victor Macri, Mayor of Marrickville
Marrickville Council gives $10,000 for Bethlehem playground
1 February 2012
Marrickville Council acted on its pledge to give $10,000 to Bethlehem City Council over the Christmas break.
It sent the money on December 23, 2011, to help Bethlehem get a children’s playground.
The “Christmas present” was a result of a resolution of Council passed at its October meeting, the first meeting under the new Mayor, Ald. Morris Hanna (Independent).
The resolution was overwhelmingly supported by Labor, Greens and Independent councillors.
Bethlehem has been one of Marrickville’s sister cities since 2007. The Mayor of Bethlehem, Dr Vic Batarseh, signed the agreement in Marrickville in 2007 when Clr. Hanna was last Mayor, and Clr. Sam Isklander (Labor) confirmed the relationship in 2008 when he visited Bethlehem.
Recently a Bethlehem Council executive, Ms Dina Nasser, stayed a month with Marrickville Council on an Australian Government AusAid grant. While here she told a meeting of Council staff that, unlike Marrickville, Bethlehem had only one children’s playground and it was a high priority to get a second.
Council acted quickly, once she had left, to help its sister-city Council.
Friends of Bethlehem Inc. has now opened a special “Playground Account” for donations to assist in adding community support to Council’s gift to Bethlehem. It has opened the account with its own donation of $200.
If you would like to make a donation, send a cheque to Friends of Bethlehem’s address at PO Box 418, Dulwich Hill NSW 2203.
Marrickville Council’s October 2011 resolution:
Marrickville Council Meeting Minutes, 11 October 2011
Motion: Kontellis/Byrne THAT:
1. Council identifies reputable, established charities/NGO’s providing funding, services and support to Palestinian children and their families and enter into a partnership arrangement for the specific purpose of providing capital funds for a children’s playground in Bethlehem;
2. This partnership will see Council as a supporter and donor, rather than a fundraiser; and
3. Council negotiates with the identified charities/NGO’s to progress the project and contribute $10K.
For Motion: Councillors Byrne, Hanna, Iskandar, Kontellis, Phillips, Thanos, Tsardoulias and Wright
Against Motion: Councillor Macri
Absent: Councillors Olive and Peters
Christmas Message 2011 by the Mayor of Bethlehem Dr. Victor Batarseh
“I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year. Looking forward to participate together in prayers and work in order to accomplish peace in the whole world. I take this occasion to thank all pilgrims and tourists coming to Bethlehem, and call upon them to keep on coming for the big support their visit renders to their brethren in Bethlehem. I wish the year 2012 would be a year of prosperity, tranquility and peace in the holy land and the entire world.”
Marrickville hosts Bethlehem expert
17 August 2011
Bethlehem Council senior public servant Mrs Dina Nasser is visiting Marrickville during August 2011 to exchange ideas about how the two councils can learn from each other.
Mrs Nasser is the guest of Marrickville Council but her trip is funded by an AusAid grant from the Australian Government.
Friends of Bethlehem members will attend the Council’s function on Friday, August 19 to welcome her and hear how the two cities compare.