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Internationals enter Church of the Nativity

From: "Rapprochement Centre" <pcr@p-ol.com>

Bethlehem, April 28. (see also: May 2, below).

We walked right in to Manger Square--"right through the front door."

The writer in me wants to create some suspense, but I am ecstatic--my heart continues to

beat at the rate it was when we were walking through.

We were planning the night before and were planning around another demonstration led

by clergy. Our plan was to walk to the checkpoint before Bethlehem and protest. This

morning we decided to participate in this action but to also continue on if the participants

of it were stopped.

Well, we were stopped and the clergy weren't so much interested in pushing through as

they were in just challenging the checkpoint.

After this action, which lasted only about 30 minutes we decided to take a route through a

monastery. No one expected us to get through this way either because the soldiers were

very close, and if they were looking, would be able to see us. But, they didn't and we

continued on into Bethlehem.

The city was a ghost town, it was on curfew and it was almost completely quiet--at first.

As we walked on, people began appearing at their windows and cheering us on. It was

very powerful to see these people looking out and throwing up peace signs, children and

elderly people. Our presence gave them hope and as we continued we began to see more

and more people, mostly children coming out of their homes. They wouldn't come out on

the streets but they were coming out.

We stopped after having walked for quite awhile, and we began to plan for the march on

the Church of the Nativity. No one thought that we would have gotten as far as we did.

We planned and planned and waited and planned; finally, some of us decided to talk to

some families that had gathered just in front of their homes, a few of them were fluent in

English.

They were entirely full of gratitude--they let us into their homes and served us coffee--

these people are resilient. Their lives are being put on hold by an occupying force; they

can't go to work; their children can't go to school, yet, they were so willing to share with

us. Some even invited me to stay with them.

Time began to get short; so, we had to go with the plan we had, which was for five of us to

cross the barricade with water and food but we didn't think that we would get through; and

so, we were considering that the action would be symbolic at best. We waited some more

and finally set on our way with a box of water and a bag of rice--meant to be symbolic of

course because in the church there is barely any water, let alone a way of cooking the rice.

People began coming out more. I guess the word had gotten out. There was a group of

Palestinians just before the barricade and some walked to it with us, holding down the

barbed wire so that we could walk over it.

When we saw Manger Square we thought the siege had ended. It was empty except for an

M1 Abrams tank. We walked on and at the halfway point, Israelis began yelling for us to

stop. These soldiers doing the yelling didn't have on their Kevlar helmets or their rifles--

they were caught off guard.

We continued on through the yelling and made it to the door of the Church. When there

we were instructed to sit by Huwaida. We did and the soldiers threw smoke canisters to

block the press from seeing us. We knocked at the door and yelled that we had food; the

soldiers looked on, the smoke rising. The tank moved so as to scare us. The media began

moving so the smoke wouldn't block their view. We held our hands up while yelling at the

people inside to open the door, then, the soldiers moved towards us started pulling us up

and throwing the food away from the door.

They were attempting to hold us but we were leading them more than them us. They tried

to confiscate cameras, but we refused and they capitulated. However, they did drag some

people. The soldier holding me was telling me how he didn't agree with what was going on

but that it was his job. He seemed to be a good man.

We were put in one area and Ted Koppel came over and interviewed Huwaida. He got the

entire incident, all the cameras did despite the smoke. When he finished we came to the

conclusion to walk out. The soldiers weren't prepared for this. They tried to stop us but we

defied them and kept on walking 'til we were clear of them.

The action was one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen, and the people I was

with are some of the most brave people I have ever known. Tomorrow we will begin to try

and get some people in Hebron and the Gaza Strip. I will be going to Hebron. More to come.

* Larry Hales is one of two members of the Colorado Campaign for Middle East Peace who

have joined many internationals in Palestine to nonviolent resist Israel's illegal military

occupation of Palestine. More on their trip at: www.ccmep.org/palestine.html.

[Note by Gush Shalom: on this day they caught the soldiers by surprise. But two days later, the soldiers should have been prepared, but still they did it again and actually got into the church - which tells something sad about the calibre of the IDF in situations which can't be solved by brute force alone.]

BETHLEHEM (May 2, 2002) - Ten members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) entered the besieged Church of Nativity at about 5:45 pm, walking past Israeli occupation soldiers. A further thirteen persons, working as decoys were arrested by the Israeli soldiers. All those inside are determined to remain until the Israelis lift their siege on the city of Bethlehem.

The ISM conceived of an intricate plan to move past Israeli soldiers outside the Church in several separate but coordinated groups carrying placards denouncing the ongoing Israeli occupation. In a move orchestrated with contacts within, two ISM teams were able to reach the Church and enter its main door before Israeli soldiers could respond. Every member carried with them food and other critical supplies badly needed by the Palestinians holed up inside. The Israeli army has denied the Palestinians, besieged since April 1, 2002, sufficient amounts of food.

This constitutes the latest in a series of success by the ISM to defy the Israeli occupation and to demonstrate to the world that the international community takes a firm stance against the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. In light of the failure for the international community, namely the United States and the United Nations to act to help protect the Palestinian people and secure their universal rights, the ISM has had to operate on its own. Prior to this, the ISM has twice circumvented Israeli occupation forces to place activists inside of President Arafat's compound in Ramallah.

 

Those inside and their respective nationalities are as follows:

Nauman Zaidi (USA), Robert O'Neill (USA), Alister Hillman (UK), Allan Lindgaard (Denmark), Stefan Coster (Sweden), Erik Algers (Sweden), Larry Hales (USA), Mary Kelly (Ireland), Kristen Schurr (USA), and Jacqueline Soohen (Canada)

Those detained by the Israeli army are as follows:

Jeff Kingham (USA), Kate Thomas (UK), Marcia Tubbs (UK), John Caruso (USA), Nathan Musselman (USA), Nathan Mauger (USA), Trevor Bammgartner (USA), Jo Harrison (UK), Johannes Walilstram (Sweden), James Hanna (USA), Thomas Kootsoukos (USA), Ida Fasten (Sweden), Huwaida Arraf (USA)

Phone numbers:

Coloradan Larry Hales and New Yorker Kristen Schurr in Church: +972-673-464-10; +972-65-622-017; +972-67-403-272; +972-67-346-410

Outside of Church: Huwaida Arraf, +972-52-642-709; Georgie Reeves, +972-840-767 Colorado contact:+1+720-956-0700

Pictures of Larry Hales at: http://www.ccmep.org/delegations/larry/pictures050102.html or contact the International Solidarity Movement, send an email to info@palsolidarity.org

We will continue to post updates on Indymedia Palestine : http://www.jerusalem.indymedia.org and soon have our website updated with this and more information on how you can get more involved -

http://www.palsolidarity.org

Internationals arrested and mistreated

From: "Rapprochement Centre" <pcr@p-ol.com>

Subject: Update on ISM volunteers arrested

Friends,

We succeeded to get foodstuffs and ?international protection? into the Church of the

Nativity! If you havenít yet seen the reports, please see below.

The 13 of us that were detained after the action have just been released for a few hours, I

think. We were 8 guys and 5 ladies. After over 7 hours of being detained and questioned

by the Israeli military, we were finally hand-cuffed and escorted out of Bethlehem. At the

Bethlehem checkpoint, the guys and girls were divided. The five ladies were pushed into

the floor of a police jeep and our legs were bound. The Israeli police officers drove around

for a while then stopped and pulled one girl out - Ida Fasten, from Sweden, cut her loose

and left her, in the middle of we donít know where, by herself. We were horrified! They had

taken all of our phones and identification, and it was 2am. When I protested leaving a

foreign woman out in the middle of unfamiliar territory in the middle of the night, with no

phone and no ID, I was physically assaulted -- slapped hard in the face by one of the

officers. Both officers in the jeep refused to give us their names and badge numbers,

despite repeated requests.

When we realized that the officers were going to leave each one of us in a different place,

the four of us left in the jeep agreed on a meeting place. Four of us are now safe in a hotel

in Jerusalem, but we still donít know where Ida is. We donít know what happened to the

guys. Again, none of us have our phones. We were told to report to a certain location, 24

Hillel, at 9am - in 4 hours. I pray Ida is there and that the guys are also safe.

We donít know whether we face arrest or deportation; what we do know is that the

presence of the international civilians now inside the Church of the Nativity is probably a

lifesaver. We brought in food and are offering international presence as protection for the

civilians inside the church from the indiscriminate shooting of the Israeli Army. We are

international civilians upholding international law. Please contact your governments and

ask them to do the same.

In solidarity & struggle,

Huwaida

The Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People

64 Star Street, P.O.Box 24, Beit Sahour - Palestine

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 Update: 26-5-2012