Bethlehem District Update: December 16-22, 2000
Bethlehem District Update: December 16-22, 2000
Saturday, December 16
Due to checkpoints and closure, it took two and one-half hours for
Pierre Shantz and Anne Montgomery to travel to Hebron to attend
a farewell party for Natasha Krahn. When there is not a closure,
the trip takes about 20 minutes.
Monday, December 18
The team met with local Conflict Resolution specialist, who had
concerns about the media trying to frame the shootings into Gilo
and the subsequent bombings of Beit Jala by the Israeli military as
a Christian/Muslim conflict. He noted that there are many different
relational dynamics going on in the area--between Christians and
Muslims, between Palestinian political parties and between social
classes. He is concerned that the psychological effects of these
tensions will last long after the current Intifada ends.
He also speculated that the arms currently pouring into the
Occupied Territories come from Israel and are being sent there
intentionally to increase the violence and sow division between
When the team asked whether their presence in the neighborhood
was increasing or decreasing violence there (i.e., is the presence
providing cover for gunmen), he advised talking to many different
people to get different points of view.
Tuesday, December 19
The Feast of St. Nicholas. Legend has it that the Saint who was
later transfigured into Santa Claus lived in a grotto in Beit Jala a
block up from the team's apartment.
Holmes and Montgomery toured Aida and Beit Gibrin refugee
camps. They saw damage from both tank and helicopter raids in
factories, schools and houses (See December 21 release, "A Child
is Born in Bethlehem.")
The team spoke to Johnny Shawan, an evangelical pastor in Beit
Jala whose church invited the team. He assured them their
presence was not endangering the neighborhood. Other friends
told the team that the gunmen basically shoot from the places
where they have the best vantage point, regardless of the people
Thursday, December 21
A reporter from the New York Times called and spoke with Anne
Montgomery and Kathleen Kern. He asked about the Muslim-
Christian dimensions of the conflict. Kern told him that the
situation in the all-Muslim neighborhoods being shelled in Hebron
is similar to that of the predominantly Christian neighborhoods in
Beit Jala being shelled. In both cases, gunmen who do not live in
these neighborhoods fire into Israeli settlements and military
camps, thus drawing Israeli fire into the neighborhoods.
Palestinians in Hebron resent these gunmen every bit as much as
the Palestinians in Beit Jala. The Muslims in Hebron never talk
about "Christians" in Beit Jala getting shelled by the Israeli military.
They view them as fellow Palestinians suffering the same
The reporter asked Montgomery the same question and she
answered similarly, adding that part of CPT's work in Beit Jala is to
report what the team actually sees and hears to give a different
view than that presented by the mainstream media.
Friday, December 22
A friend from Sabeel, the Palestinian Christian Liberation
Theology Center, took the team to meet Father Ibrahim Iyad, a 91
year old Catholic priest who has been an advisor to Arafat since
1964. Father Ibrahim was working in Jerusalem in 1948 at the time
of the Deir Yassin massacre, in which approximately 250 men
women and children were killed by armed groups that became the
IDF after the founding of the state of Israel.
These armed groups then paraded the survivors of Deir Yassin
naked through the streets of Jerusalem. Father Ibrahim said that
the shop owners through clothes on them as the trucks carrying
them passed, "because you know in our culture it is very shameful
for the women and girls to be naked." He saw to it that many of
the girls were taken into convents, clothed and cared for. He
believed that it was the prospect of seeing their women paraded
naked through the streets more than the actual violence of Deir
Yassin that caused hundreds of thousands of Palestinian villagers
to flee their homes afterwards.
When asked what the team in Beit Jala should tell Christians in
North America, he said they should emphasize that Palestinians
are prisoners in their own land, that there have been 340
Palestinians killed and more than 15, 000 wounded since the
beginning of October--half of whom will be left with some permanent
disability. Four hundred houses in Beit Jala have been destroyed.
He expressed special concern about children who have lost
classmates and the fear under which they live.
The friend from Sabeel then took the team to visit the Arab
Rehabilitation Center in Beit Jala, where they met several young
men who had been shot by settlers from Teqoa. They told stories
of Israeli soldiers shooting the tires of ambulances as they tried to
As the friend drove the team back to their apartment, she said that
if there was not a negotiated settlement soon, there would be no
prospect for peace in the future, because the children cannot grow
up under these conditions without learning to hate Israelis. Her
own granddaughter is afraid to go to school, fearing she will be
shot. She mentioned as well that she has a young niece in the
United States whose best friend is Jewish. The policies of the
current government, she fears, will make such friendships
impossible in the future.
In the afternoon, a group of international volunteers and students from Bir
Zeit University came down to consult about their plan to spend the Christmas
holidays in places that are suffering heavy bombing by the Israeli
military in Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala. They wish to
alert their governments and the international media to their
presence there in order to draw attention to the ongoing violence
that civilians in the Bethlehem area are suffering.
On the way back from the apartment of Dorothy Jean Weaver, a
CPT Steering Committee member currently working in Bethlehem,
the team encountered numerous Palestinian police on the street
corners. Yasser Arafat has recently announced that the police will
enforce his ceasefire order by arresting gunmen shooting from Beit
Jala and other locations.