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Beit Jala - a Palestinian village besieged
Beit Jala is a quiet village of 12,350 near the city of Bethlehem.  It is renowned for its harmony among western-oriented Latin Catholics and Greek Orthodox and a few traditional Muslim families.  Since November, 2000 this peaceful village has been the target of numerous clashes and shelling by the Israeli forces.  Also see | Palestinian Territories | Bethlehem | Beit Sahour | Gaza | Pontifical Mission for Palestine |

Neighbors and family mourn the death of a 13 year old boy killed when a bomb destroyed the family's home
"Even the birds have gone"

A young Palestinian Christian, named Ihab Lulas, recently sent the following letter to the world via the internet in which he describes the death of his brother's friend by a sniper's bullet  (quoted in the Haaretz Daily News, October 28, 2001):

"`Even the birds have gone,' my mother told me this morning. Another dawn breaks in Beit Jala and we're still awake and the Israeli tanks and helicopters are preventing the sun from shining. This morning, we couldn't hear the chirping of the birds or the bells of the churches. Just  the sound of the Israeli killing machine and the crying of our mothers and tears of our men. They killed the boy. Musa was 19, another victim of the hatred and cruelty of the Israeli Zionist soldiers. He wasn't carrying any weapon. His only crime was that he was born Palestinian and his mistake was that he sat down to watch television with his family. The Israeli bullets came through the window of his home and struck him in the chest, killing him and leaving his family in terrible mourning ... For  anyone who doesn't know, this is what is happening in this holy land, especially here in blessed Bethlehem, in the place where Jesus was born ... I don't know if God is watching us now. I don't know what Jesus would have said to this innocent boy who bled to death in the place where he was born. I don't know what the world is seeing or why it is waiting. Palestinian blood has been dripping since 1948 and Israel is still killing us and our children. But we are the strong ones in this war. Our  dream is the true dream ... I could be the next in line. Pray to God to watch over me and my family. Ihab, Palestine." 

Several families were displaced when tank shells destroyed their apartments

Father and son inspect damage to their home hit by Israeli tank shells - their second floor is totally destroyed
"Destroy our churches but spare the homes of our faithful."

"As regards the houses which continually undergo the Israeli bombardments, we say to the Israelis: Destroy our churches but spare the homes of our faithful. If you must impose, at any price, collective punishment and if there needs be a ransom in order to procure the tranquillity of innocent children and families, we offer our churches: Destroy them; we will find other places in which to pray and we will continue to pray for ourselves and for you." 

"And to the Palestinian militants who think that it is necessary to direct their fire against the Israelis from populated houses, even when the orders are clear: Do not transform peaceful homes into a line of fire to them toowe say: Obey the orders, preserve the cohesion of Palestinian society, and spare the homes of the innocent. We agree to offer our churches as ransom for any house that they want to demolish. However we cannot agree to the demolition of the homes of our children so that they be forced to abandon their land."

+ Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, March 1, 2001

Thus says the LORD: "A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping.  Rachel is weeping for her children;  she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are not." - Jeremiah 31:15 & Matthew 2:18
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(c) 2001 Don Schwager