New Elm tree for Bedford Embankment to mark town’s friendship with Palestinian village

Al Walaja
Al Walaja. Image: Bedford Friends of Al Walaja/Facebook

Bedford Borough Council is continuing to build on its friendship links with Al Walaja – a West Bank village informally twinned with Bedford – by planting an elm tree on the Embankment.

The village was discussed at the full council meeting held back in February, as part of the questions from the public agenda item.

Mr Rob Wall, from Bedford Friends of Al Walaja, reminded the council that it had once welcomed the Mayor of Al Walaja to a council meeting and that the council had recognised the “problems the village faced arising from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank”.

Mr Wall said that the village faced a new threat with the start of work on a new settlement built entirely on the village’s land and about half of it within the line of the “settlement barrier” being built around it.

He then asked the council to demonstrate solidarity with the villagers by writing to the Israeli authorities condemning this action and asking for the plans for this settlement to be cancelled.

The official minutes for the meeting show that mayor Hodgson agreed that the action taken was in clear breach of UN resolutions and that he had written to the foreign secretary to query how the government intended to respond to this illegal occupation.

This week, a spokesperson for the council said that the mayor did not receive a reply from the foreign secretary.

When asked by Mr Wall if the council would consider entering into an official twinning arrangement with Al Walaja, the mayor said the council had sought to reduce formal twinning arrangements as there was a cost associated with these.

But he would speak to members about other ways in which the council could support the village.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked for an update on the council’s links with Al Walaja, and a council spokesperson said: “The council remains keen to progress the links we have made.

“And as such will be planting an elm tree along the Embankment (beyond the Butterfly Bridge) to mark our link with Al Walaja and to support the Twinning Network’s campaign to Plant trees for Palestine 2022.

“The village of Al Walaja will also be planting an olive tree to mark our friendship,” they added. The date for the Bedford tree planting is to be confirmed.

Bedford Friends of Al Walaja was approached for a comment.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter