35 days since Berlanty was blindfolded, handcuffed, and taken from Bethlehem to Gaza
Dear Friends of Bethlehem University,
Many of you have written requesting to know what happened at Monday’s Hearing, my apologies for the delay in responding.
Bottom line, I regret to say, that it is not over yet!
- Berlanty is still not back in Bethlehem. She is in Gaza while her academic courses and her future aspirations remain “on hold.”
- It is now 35 days since she was taken from Bethlehem.
- At the Monday, November 30th Hearing at the High Court, the Court did not declined to instruct the Israeli Army to return Berlanty to Bethlehem for her to complete her education at Bethlehem University – but instead allowed her to be returned to Gaza as the Court continued to consider the matter.
- Three hours after the Monday, November 30th Hearing, the Israeli High Court issued a ruling requesting the Israeli Army to “again attempt to locate the documents relating to the request from 2005 and the permit that was issued” – and to submit to the Court an update on this effort no later than 6 December 2009 at 10:00am.
I hesitate to ask you to write once again – but then again, I feel compelled to do so since it means so much to Berlanty and to her future. Would you consider writing once again to:
•1. The Israeli Embassy or Consulate in your Country. If you go to this website and find your country, you will find the email for the Israeli Embassy or Consulate in your country:
•2. US Consul General in Jerusalem, Daniel Rubinstein
•3. Major General (Res.) Amos Gilad, Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)
•4. Your own elected representatives in the USA, UK, Ireland, Spain, The Netherlands, Philippines, Spain, Denmark, Canada, Italy, France, Germany, etc.
Perhaps you might consider saying something like:
I am writing concerning the life and freedom of a 22 year old young woman, Ms. Berlanty Azzam. On October 28th she was forcibly removed from Bethlehem – blindfolded and handcuffed – and brought to Gaza – just two months before completing her studies at Bethlehem University.
Petitions have been before the Israeli High Court requesting her return to Bethlehem, where she has lived since 2005 as she studied at Bethlehem University.
Two Hearings have been held, the most recent being on November 30th. The Israeli Army has admitted that it made a mistake in taking Berlanty without any due process. The Israeli High Court has recommended to the Israeli Army that they allow Berlanty to return to Bethlehem to complete her studies at the Vatican-sponsored Bethlehem University which is conducted by the international religious order of the De La Salle Christian Brothers.
To date, after more than one month of delay, the Israeli Army has not complied with this request of the High Court. Each day that Berlanty is not allowed to return to classes at Bethlehem University:
- she is losing,
- the State of Israeli is losing,
- the Palestinians are losing,
- all people of the Holy Land are losing, and
- all of us – you and me included – people who believe in the right to and value of education are losing.
I ask that in your commitment to truth, freedom, and democracy – and on compassionate and humanitarian grounds – that you do all in your power to require the Israeli government, military, diplomatic, and legal officials immediately allow this young 22 year old woman, Ms. Berlanty Azzam, to return to Bethlehem University to complete her studies.
It is important to remember that we are talking about the real life of a real young woman and her future goals and aspirations – all of which are being placed “on hold” without any accusation whatsoever of any criminal or other negative behavior being leveled against her.
I pray for you, for the judges, for the lawyers and leaders of the Israeli government and military, for Berlanty and for her lawyer, that you all may they be united in your efforts to bring about justice and to “bring Berlanty back to Bethlehem.”
Thank you for your support and prompt attention to this request. I await your response.
Let me share with you some additional details on the happenings at Monday’s Hearing:
I last wrote to you on Monday, 30 November, just before the 2nd hearing before the Israeli High Court concerning the request to have our student, Berlanty Azzam, returned to Bethlehem to complete her final semester of studies for her degree from Bethlehem University – which she started in the Fall of 2005.
Monday was a day of mixed emotions – and it has been difficult to find the words to adequately convey to you the outcome of Monday’s Hearing. For this reason, I apologize for the delay in providing you on today, Wednesday, with this update on Monday’s Hearing.
As you might imagine, it was a great delight for many of us to see Berlanty once again. The Israeli Army complied with the request of the High Court to allow Berlanty to come from Gaza (at her own expense) to Jerusalem to attend the Hearing. Berlanty had a 12 hour permission to leave Gaza from 8am until 8pm. There were nearly 40 people from Bethlehem University, Tantur Ecumenical Center, the German Association of the Holy Land, and the Latin Patriarchate there to meet Berlanty. There were also a number of media representatives present: from German ZDF, Reuters, AP, NBC, Salt and Light TV, the Israeli Defense Force Radio and TV, Haaretz, and The Chronicle of Higher Education to document the event.
The outcome of Monday’s Hearing was quite disappointing, to say the least. At the end of the 25 minute Hearing, the Israeli High Court declined to instruct the Israeli Army to return Berlanty to Bethlehem for her to complete her education at Bethlehem University where she began studying business administration and translation in 2005 – and where she has been a diligent student ever since.
What happened during the 25 minute Hearing on Monday?
- During the Hearing, the Court asked the Army a number of questions about the precise nature of the request that Berlanty made in 2005 to leave Gaza and the precise wording of the permission that the Israeli Military granted to Berlanty in 2005 to leave Gaza. The Military has not yet been able to find a copy of these documents and so could only speculate as to the precise wording of these documents. Berlanty’s lawyer, Yadin Elam of Gisha, repeated that in 2005 she was granted permission to leave Gaza and to come to Israel – which Berlanty did. Berlanty then went to Bethlehem – which was not forbidden and was legal – and did not return to Israel without permission since that time. She remained in the West Bank legally and enrolled at Bethlehem University. The Israeli Army disagrees.
- During the Hearing, the Court repeated its encouragement to the Israeli Army to find a solution that would enable Berlanty to return to Bethlehem to complete her degree – even going so far as to suggest that the Army agree that Berlanty must post a significant financial guarantee that she would return to Gaza upon completion of her education. The Israeli Army declined to find a solution – but instead argued about a travel permission from the year 2005, a copy of which it can’t find!
- During the Hearing, the Court was asked if it wished to hear from the Vice Chancellor of Bethlehem University, Brother Peter Bray, or any of the other representatives of Bethlehem University who were present at the Hearing. The Court did not wish to do so.
- During the Hearing, the Court was asked if it wished to hear from Berlanty Azzam herself. Berlanty was asked to stand to be noticed by the panel of three Justices, but was not asked to speak.
- At the end of the Hearing, the Court indicated that it would deliberate on the matter further – but in the meantime, the Court did not grant Berlanty the permission to return to her studies at Bethlehem University.
- Berlanty returned to Gaza so as not to violate the end time for her permission to be in Jerusalem only until 8pm.
Within three hours of the end of the Hearing, the High Court issued its ruling saying (translated from Hebrew):
“Before we give our decision, the respondents are requested to again attempt to locate the documents relating to the request from 2005 and the permit that was issued. The respondents will submit an update on this issue no later than 6 December 2009 at 10:00am. If the documents are located – the respondents will attach them also.”
Thank you for your support and prayers … we know very well that no outcome is guaranteed … we need and COUNT on your prayers.
I hope that my next email to you is more joyful – but let us not lose hope as we enter this Christmas Season when the Prince of Peace came to dwell among us here in Bethlehem.
With deep gratitude from Berlanty in Gaza and from us all here in Bethlehem,
Brother Jack Curran, FSC, PhD www.bethlehem.edu
Vice President for Development Tel: 972-2-274-1241
Bethlehem University Fax: 972-2-274-4440
Location Address: Rue des Freres, Bethlehem, Palestine
Temporary Mailing Address: PO Box 11407, 92248 Jerusalem USA Office Br. Dominic Smith, FSC, 3025 Fourth St, NE – Suite 330, Washington, DC 20017-