At the Church of the Nativity

by Larry Hales In Bethlehem

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: http://www.ccmep.org/palestine.html

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Geoffrey McDonald
Obama’s Overtime Tweak: What is the Fair Price of a Missed Life?
Brian Cloughley
Hypocrisy, Obama-Style
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Renee Lovelace
I Dream of Ghana
Colin Todhunter
GMOs: Where Does Science Begin and Lobbying End?
Ben Debney
Modern Newspeak Dictionary, pt. II
Christopher Brauchli
Guns Don’t Kill People, Immigrants Do and Other Congressional Words of Wisdom
S. Mubashir Noor
India’s UNSC Endgame
Ellen Taylor
The Voyage of the Golden Rule
Norman Ball
Ten Questions for Lee Drutman: Author of “The Business of America is Lobbying”
Franklin Lamb
Return to Ma’loula, Syria
Masturah Alatas
Six Critics in Search of an Author
Mark Hand
Cinéma Engagé: Filmmaker Chronicles Texas Fracking Wars
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Patrick Hiller
The Icebreaker and #ShellNo: How Activists Determine the Course
Charles Larson
Tango Bends Its Gender: Carolina De Robertis’s “The Gods of Tango”