Below is a first hand report from Bethlehem, which was composed on Sunday, April 8th, 2002.
Marla Schrader also sent photographs.
This email below (second one) is from an alum of Pacific School of Religion who lives in Bethlehem. I thought you would find it as compelling and disturbing as I did. May this terrible conflict end soon....
Kimberly M. Hinrichs
Swedenborgian House of Studies
at Pacific School of Religion
From: Marla Schrader <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sun, 07 Apr 2002 05:43:17 +0300
Subject: Another urgent udpate
Dear friends and colleagues,
My family and I are still here, held captive in our homes as is the entire Palestinian nation of three and a half million people. In the Bethlehem area, we have been under strict house curfew since last Sunday night. The curfew was lifted once (but not in all areas of the city) on Friday for about three hours. However, four people were shot and wounded during that time. The people under hardest assault in Bethlehem's old city and the Manger Square area were not allowed to move. There was no produce or dairy to be found and bread was scarce, only dry goods available. And, at least in our area near Manger Square, there were no pharmacies open. So that even those of us who could get out, could not secure medicines. The TV crews were out to document us scrambling for the little we could find.
The international UN staff has begun distributing food in Ramallah. This is no easy task. They must wear helmets and bullet proof vests in order to do so. But, the people of Ramallah are suffering tremendously; they have been under assault for over a week. Many neighborhoods have no water and/or electricity and definitely no access to medical care no matter how critical one's case.
Although there is some international media left in Bethlehem and Ramallah, it is the cities and refugee camps of Jenin and Nablus that are currently under the most brutal of attacks. Friday's death toll was 34 persons. Today's is still being counted (as medical staff and human rights workers are struggling to document what they can), but may be as high as 100. Israel has resorted to bombing and shooting from the air into the densely populated areas in the northern West Bank. In addition to the lives being destroyed there are reports that several historical and archaeological sites are now in ruins. So that now Palestinian cultural rights are being gravely violated, along with their religious, political, human and environmental rights.
I am sickened at the world's complacency and at the empty words of the world's leaders. I am saddened at the Christian world's lack of bold and earnest action to intervene in all of this and more particularly the battle going on around the Church of the Nativity. Although the snipers across the valley were out again today, I managed to sneak a few photos from our balcony which I have attached. One of Israeli army tanks and bulldozers surrounding the northern entrances to the Church of the Nativity. There is great fear that this stand off many result in many, many killed and wounded. Another of smoke rising from Bethlehem's old city, as it was shelled extensively this afternoon. And finally, an ambulance accompanied by very courageous internationals on its way to retrieve the wounded from the Nativity Church today. I could hear my neighbors shouting 'thank you', 'thank you', to these amazing people who risk being shot and killed trying to do so. They held signs, stating that it is a war crime to not allow ambulances to the injured and dead. Nevertheless, they were turned back by Israeli soldiers before reaching the Square. (For more photos of the Bethlehem area go to the website of the International Center of Bethlehem <www.annadwa.org>.)
The state of Israel thinks it is invincible, but it is morally dead. The spirit of a captive and oppressed people can not be broken like this. The Palestinian people may today be hungry and humiliated, but they are also hungry for life and freedom. And someday justice will prevail, for the atrocities of today are not God's intent. The faster all of us from around the world telephone the White House, write letters, demonstrate in the streets, speak from your pulpits, and talk to the media the fewer lives will be lost and damaged. Consider this an urgent plea; please consider doing something or more of what you are already doing. It has always been grassroots people's movements who have changed the world for the better. Our efforts are not in vein.