The weekend edition of the Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, carried an article entitled “Sharon collects scalps”. In it the Israeli journalist, Uzi Benziman, stated “It was embarrassing to see Israeli tanks navigating the narrow alleyways of Palestinian towns, bluntly illustrating the David-versus-Goliath balance of power. It was hard not to wonder about an operation of this type.” The day before this article, the Israeli organization, B’Tselem, sent out an e-mail reporting on the actions of the Israeli Occupation Force in Palestinian towns in the West Bank October 26, 2001
The weekend edition of the Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, carried an article entitled “Sharon collects scalps”. In it the Israeli journalist, Uzi Benziman, stated “It was embarrassing to see Israeli tanks navigating the narrow alleyways of Palestinian towns, bluntly illustrating the David-versus-Goliath balance of power. It was hard not to wonder about an operation of this type.” The day before this article, the Israeli organization, B’Tselem, sent out an e-mail reporting on the actions of the Israeli Occupation Force in Palestinian towns in the West Bank. They stated that as of last Wednesday, Oct. 24th., the recent Israeli invasion caused the death of 2l Palestinian civilians and 10 members of the Palestinian security force. Among the civilians killed were 5 children and 4 women, as well as 4 civilian assassinations by the Israelis. B’Tselem also stated that the Israeli Occupation Forces’ actions had severely harmed the human rights of the entire Palestinian civilian population and that the Occupation Force continues to employ a policy of “an easy trigger-finger and demonstrates a disregard for human life.” Even the Brigader General Jerry Yitzhak, Commander of the Israeli Forces in the West Bank, told reporters that “an innocent population has been injured by our entry into Areas A” – Palestinian controlled areas of the West Bank.
And yet the massacre goes on, only interrupted last Tuesday for three hours as the “Solidarity Convoy” of Christian leaders and faithful walked into the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Beit Jala. As I walked with the convoy along the main road into Bethlehem, I was aware that I was in a war zone. It was quite eerie to pass the Paradise Hotel — several floors on one end of the hotel were totally burned out, windows were shattered in homes and other buildings, bullet casings piled in the street (evidence of the “easy trigger-finger”) at the IOF post at Rachel’s tomb in Bethlehem. The only place I saw in the area that was untouched was the new Intercontinental Hotel. All its windows were intact and not one bullet mark was seen on the facade. I begin to wonder who owns this hotel chain…. The rest of the way manifested at least a million dollars in damage, and I can assure you that the Israeli government won’t be repairing it.
While walking to the Basilica of the Nativity, I found Sr. Sylvia of the Rosary Sisters and walked part of the way with her. She asked me to come to the convent in Beit Sahour and spend the night with them. I wanted to do so, but I had cancelled an appointment to be part of the convoy and I knew that I had better take care of that when I got back to Jerusalem. She told me that the convent in Beit Sahour had received bullet holes and that the younger sisters were quite frightened, but they were all staying there, sleeping on the floor in two central rooms. Well, actually, they couldn’t get out anyway, because the checkpoint was completely closed.
When we reached the Basilica of the Nativity, I stood on a fallen column against the church. From that vantage point I could see that the entire place before the basilica, as well as the large square beyond it, was filled with people. There had to be at least a thousand of us there. Inside the Church of St. Catherine, which adjoins the basilica, the Patriarchs of Jerusalem and dignitaries of the various communities spoke to the people gathered. The church was crowded, with standing room only. Everyone who spoke, spoke words of peace and prayed for peace, peace for both Israelis and Palestinians, peace for this war-torn town and all the others like it in the West Bank and Gaza. I know they would have prayed for the war-torn towns in Israel, but there aren’t any. It is such a strange feeling that life goes on as normal in Israel, while civilians are dying at the hands of violence just miles away.
Leaving the church, we went to the Catholic seminary in Beit Jala, where those who had lost loved ones during the invasion of these last days had gathered. There we expressed condolences to the families. Adults stood there with bloodshot eyes, as the tears continued to fall. My heart was heavy, as I expressed my sorrow to them at the loss of their loved ones.
We brought quiet for three hours to Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala, giving some of the residents time to run out to the store for groceries. But as soon as we left, the Israeli Occupation Force, took up where it had left off; and this time one of the tanks took aim at the convent in Beit Sahour were the Rosary sisters live. No one was hurt, and the sisters are still inside, not daring to go out because it isn’t safe. Goliath remains out there and Sharon is still collecting scalps.