ALTAR wine on its way from the birthplace of Jesus to Birmingham has been stopped by border police because of claims it is a “security risk”.
The organic wine, made at the Cremisan winery in Beit Jala, a suburb of Bethlehem, by the Roman Catholic order the Salesians of Don Bosco, has been refused permission to pass the Hebron checkpoint into Israel.
Oscott College is one of the places of worship affected according to importer 5th Gospel Retreats, from Cornwall.
Della Shenton, of the organisation, said the move meant the wine cannot reach the Israeli port of Haifa, from where it is shipped to Europe.
Mrs Shenton said this year, nearly 4,000 bottles have been imported into the UK for church use with another 1,000 ordered for Christmas.
She said: “What has happened is really very sad. It was all working like a dream. I have asked the (Israeli) Embassy if they can shed any light on what is going on. What this is doing is causing havoc and distress. It is sad this Christmas Christians are being denied the opportunity to be at one with the people of Bethlehem by drinking its wine.
“The wine has always flowed across the borders of mistrust in this troubled land. There are many of us hoping and praying church authorities as well as the British government will ask the Israeli authorities to end this unjustified embargo.”
The Israeli Army has refused permission for the wine to pass the Hebron checkpoint for five weeks, she said, and soldiers said the wine constitutes a “security risk”.
But a city church leader denied the action would lead to a shortage of wine for Birmingham worshippers.
Bishop William Kenney, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, said: “Churches in the Archdiocese of Birmingham have not and will not run out of altar wine this Christmas.”
Bishop Kenney, a member of the Holy Land Co-ordination Group of Catholic Bishops throughout the world, stressed: “This is a serious matter of the Palestinians being refused access to international markets for products, not just altar wine. This will lead to more hardship and suffering for the ordinary people of Palestine as Christmas approaches.”
Mrs Shenton, who works in adult religious formation in the Roman Catholic diocese of Plymouth, said the Salesians have been producing wines for more than 100 years as a means of supporting pastoral and educational work among the poor in Bethlehem.