Essex town to twin with Bethleham

A small rural Essex town is planning to twin with Bethlehem, becoming the first formal such arrangement between the Palestinian territories and England.

But some Jewish residents have expressed concern at the plan to twin with Mersea Island, which Mayor Peter Clements claims is not "political," but aimed at forming religious links.

The mayor said this week: "The deputy mayor of Bethlehem suggested the twinning and I thought: 'What a jolly good idea'.

"I went to Yad Vashem and read the awful story we all know, but the one thing that struck me was that there was a lot about the Warsaw Ghetto, with its great walls and people penned in, and the next thing I did was drive through another wall on our bus."

The Jewish Lads' and Girls' Brigade hold their annual summer camp in Mersea and Charedi families have been known to holiday in the area.

Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies, said: "Twinning is their choice but any comparison
with the Nazi era is misconceived and offensive".

John Gottesman, of Colchester Jewish Community, said: "It's very worrying that the mayor doesn't understand what's going on there."

Find your twin

There are more than 50 UK communities that have twinning arrangements with West Bank and Israeli towns including:

● Ramallah with Birmingham
● Tubas with Brighton
● Beit Sahour with Cambridge
● Deheisheh camp with Cheltenham
● Jericho with Chester
● Hebron with Exeter and Leeds
● Gaza City with Southampton
● Haifa with Hackney, Newcastle and Portsmouth
● Netanya with Bournemouth

Last updated: 4:49pm, February 18 2010