Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday in Bethlehem, 2010

Today, as we lifted our palms and shouted "Hosanna!" Christians in Bethlehem were denied travel permits to join the Palm Sunday procession into Jerusalem, to mark the beginning of Holy Week--a long-standing tradition for all the Christians of the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, who lives in Beit Sahour, one of the towns in the Bethlehem district, writes of his experience:

"Wow, what a day: over 100 native Palestinian Christians and Muslims and internationals including Israelis, breached the tight security separating the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem from the occupied city of Jerusalem.

Donkeys and people arrested!

We were initially some 150 strong and started from the Church of Nativity at 11:45 AM carrying palm leaves an banners asking for freedom of worship and movement (as demanded by international law). The demonstration included individuals riding 2 donkeys and a horse. Appropriate since Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. Like him, we knew this was not going to be an easy entry but we did believe in the goodness of humanity. We arrived at the main gate used for tourist buses at around 12:30 and decided to just keep going. The few soldiers and police at the gate tried to close it but we managed to get in and the huge 8 meter high metal gate stopped half way perhaps as a safety mechanisms since there were dozens of people passing and they could be crushed if it continued.

The Israeli security forces tried to close other fences but we kept going. As word reached their offices, the Israeli army was mobilizing its forces and soon several army jeeps arrived and blocked the road half way between the gate and Deir Mar Elias (the monastery at the edge of the city). They blocked our way. (photo shows Palm Sunday marcher being arrested)

Ibrahim Salah riding his donkey was speaking to them in Hebrew and saying why can't we go to Jerusalem. It is our right to travel. He was the first to be violently knocked down off his donkey and arrested. The next

was an American girl, then some Palestinians. All violently wrestled to the ground when even many were just peacefully walking back to the gates. It seemed like a calculated move to punish some of us so that others get the message not to try this again.

Some 60 of us ended up being rounded up in between a wall, a hill, a gate, and a cordon of police officers. We expected to be all arrested......."read more of his story

See more photos:

Read a news report of the protest in the Ma'an news: