Docente all'Università Ebraica di Gerusalemme

Sergio Minerbi

The Vatican and the basilica of nativity

On April 1, 2002 about 200 armed Palestinians entered the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem and remained inside the Church until May 12, 2002. The Basilica is considered one the most important shrines and Holy Places for Christianity since it was built over the grotto in which, according to the tradition, Jesus was born, as it is written:” [Mary] placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke, 2,7). Probably the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem is linked to the fact that also King David was born also in the same town, and the genealogy of Jesus makes him a descendant from David (Matthew, 1,1-17). Queen Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, dedicated the first church on 31 May 339, but most of what can be seen today, dates from the Crusaders renovation of the church.

Like the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the Basilica of the Nativity is shared between the Greek Orthodox, holding the major part of it, the Armenians and the Catholics represented by the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land.

The forceful entrance of armed Palestinians into the Basilica on April 2, 2002, created an international crisis, with the Holy See becoming the leader of a world wide campaign of unprecedented verbal violence against the State of Israel which brought upon it hate and despise from a large part of Christians. But in Israel the Ministry for Foreign Affairs was only a minor partner in the negotiations with the friars inside the Basilica, and the whole issue was exclusively dealt with by the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and its specialized team in negotiations to liberate hostages. It was not until April 8 that vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Michael Melchior took the initiative to convene in his office the vice Minister of Defence Mrs Dalia Rabin-Filosof, and the chiefs of the various churches involved. But even after this important meeting, the IDF team was the only one entitled to lead the negotiations and they were seemingly unaware of the strong protests of the Holy See. Also the Israeli press refrained from reporting most of the declarations of the Vatican’s officials and of the Pope on this issue. A particular detrimental role was played, not for the first time, by Msgr. Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem , who regularly takes the side of the Palestinians. He immediately declared that the entering Palestinians were not armed, were willingly accepted into the Church by the friars, and given asylum.

We are not aware of any official and public rebuttal of Vatican’a allegations by Israeli authorities.

The major preoccupation of the Vatican official was for the stones of the ancient Basilica, not for the people and even less for the necessity of Israel to screen the palestinians who fled into the Church and to imprison those who had been involved in killing Israeli citizens. The Fundamental Agreement with the State of Israel signed in Jerusalem on 30 december 1993, 1 was almost forgotten except for Vatican’s accusations that Israel had infringed it.

The old hostility of the Franciscans towards the Latin Patriarcate was perhaps one of the reasons that brought the Custody of the Holy Land to publish at a very early stage, on April 3, a declaration denying what had previously been said by Msgr Sabbah. The Custody stated clearly that “the problematic situation created in and around the Basilica is the result of the violent invasion effected by armed men who thereafter barricaded themselves there.”2 The word “palestinian” was carefully avoided but the denial of Msgr. Sabbah was clear.

One would expect that the Catholic Church would consider the “violent invasion” a sufficient proof of the desecration of the Basilica by the Palestinians. Also Father Jaeger, spokesman of the Custodia, said that “when the battle started, the doors of the Basilica were closed. Armed palestinians fired at the locks, entered the Basilica and barricaded themselves in the compound”. 3But the wish to preserve the good relations with the Palestinians was so strong that no ceremony of reconsacration was held at the end of the long occupation by the Palestinians militia men, as if no desecration had occurred. For more than a month all the official uproar of the Catholic Church was addressed only against Israel.

The stand of the Holy See

On April 2, the Holy See expressed “growing concern” for the latest news from the Holy Land . Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls told reporters that the Holy Father "is continually following the developments of the tragic situation in the Middle East." The Nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi had been encouraged to "take timely diplomatic initiatives." 4

On April 2, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, secretary for Relations with States, summoned Ambassador Yosef Neville Lamdan of Israel, and the following day Ambassador James Nicholson of the United States, to discuss the “dramatic situation in Bethlehem”. The position of the Holy See, included an unequivocal condemnation of terrorism; the “disapproval of the conditions of injustice and humiliation imposed on the Palestinian people”, as well as reprisals and retaliation, which only make the sense of frustration and hatred grow; the duty for the parties in conflict to protect the sacred places, (which are) very significant for the three monotheistic religions and the patrimony of all of humanity. 5

The same Msgr. Tauran said on April 10: [The Pope] has, on several occasions, spelled out his position: mutual respect of both parties' legitimate aspirations; the application of international agreements; withdrawal from the occupied territories; and an international

statute ensuring access for all parties to the holy places of Jerusalem.

On April 24, at the conclusion of his regular public audience, the Pope said: "My thoughts are constantly turned to the Church of the Nativity". He observed that the conditions facing the Franciscan friars and nuns inside the church compound, "already quite serious due to lack of water and food, have been further aggravated by the break in telephone communications."6

The poison of Msgr. Sabbah

Msgr. Michel Sabbah was very active in daily anti-Israeli statements. On April 2, he asked the Heads of other Churches in Jerusalem to sign with him an urgent appeal to President Bush saying: “We appeal to you to stop immediately the inhuman tragedy that is taking place in this Holy Land in our Palestinian towns and villages. Only this morning the Israeli tanks have reached the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the City of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is wanton indiscriminate killings. Very many people are deprived of water, electricity, food supplies and basic medical needs. Many of our religious institutions have been invaded and damaged.” 7

To give an example of the so called “wanton indiscriminate killings”, may we recall that on April 2 the Israeli radio, Kol Israel, broadcasted at 01.15 p.m. that a Salesian priest had been killed in the church of Saint Mary in Bethlehem. An Italian Radio even added two hours later that the priest had been killed while he was saying Mass on the altar. Reuters confirmed the piece of news and gave its source: the Catholic Missionary News Agency. A quick look at their internet site proved that in the afternoon they had just published one line (in Italian) that the priest a Salesian Father Giacomo Amataeis, was alive in Saint Brigida convent.8 The Nuncio Sambi denied the killing in an interview to Kol Israel at 6 p.m. but for days and days the officious Osservatore Romano went on carrying the news of the killed priest (who was alive).

The Pax Christi organization chaired by Msgr Michel Sabbah was publishing new statements very frequently. On April 5, it declared:” Pax Christi USA unequivocally condemns the recent suicide bombings by Palestinians in Israel as well as the brutal escalation of violence against civilians in the Occupied Territories being carried out by the Israeli Defense Forces. This cycle of violence must end. Moreover we are concerned over ongoing U.S. support for the Israeli occupation, support which sustains Israel’s ability to, as Pope John Paul II pointed out this week, impose “unjust conditions and humiliations“ upon the more than 3 million Palestinian people living under occupation. Israel has engaged in widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure in the Occupied Territories, subjected civilians to round-the-clock curfews, denied them access to food, water and medical services and engaged in summary executions.” 9

In this statement there was gross exageration as well as some lies. It is unproper to put on the same level the Palestinian terrorism and Israel’s right of selfe-defence; no destruction of civilian infrastructure was deliberately done, and there were no “summary executions” of civilians.

Were the friars hostages?

On April 5, the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, fearing an imminent Israeli assault on the Church of the Nativity, declared: "The friars are NOT hostages; they are in their own house, in the precise place where they belong, in fidelity to their divine calling, and in obedience to the orders of their superiors.” An Israeli assault would be "an extremely grave violation of the holy place, of the fundamental principles of humanity and civilization, and of precise undertakings at the level of international law." 10

As a matter of fact there was no Israeli intention of entering the Church and this was made clear many times, but it is true that the Israeli Army team directed by Marcel Aviv, was convinced that the friars were detained as hostages by the Palestinians. I am informed by a very good source, that the Vatican authorities knew that the Palestinians were taking shelter behind the friars, but neither could the the Vatican admit it publicly, nor would it encourage the friars to escape because their duty was to remain on the spot.

When on April 7, an exchange of fire arms was started from the Basilica, and Israeli soldiers answered back, one monastery worker was killed and a fire was started in the monastery courtyard.

According to the statement issued by the Vatican Press Office on April 8, "the Holy See follows the situation in Bethlehem with extreme apprehension”. According to Palestinian sources and Franciscans locked in the basilica, the building was the object of an Israeli military attack. The operation started at 3:10 a.m., Vatican Radio reported. It lasted just over an hour and ended with a fire in the parish hall, caused by the explosion of grenades. A 26-year-old Palestinian, Khaled Syam, who tried to put out the fire, was killed by an Israeli bullet.

The Israeli army gave a totally different version of the events. An official statement explained that during the night, "Palestinian terrorists" opened fire and threw grenades against army units. The fire, and the killing of the young Palestinian, must be blamed on the Palestinian militias locked in the Basilica, the Israelis said. In his statement, Navarro-Valls revealed that "Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican secretary for relations with states, and Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio in Israel, have had contacts with the Israeli authorities to confirm that the Holy See regards respect for the status of the Holy Places as an absolute priority." Navarro-Valls continued: both "the fundamental agreement of 1993 between the Vatican and the state of Israel, 11as well as the 2000 basic agreement with the Palestinian Authority, include articles that sanction respect for the status quo of the Holy Places." 12So again the Palestinians who forced their way into the Basilica and the Israelis who remained ouside, were put on the same foot.

Father David Jaeger, the spokesman for the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, described the incident to Reuters, as "an act of indescribable barbarity. It is a violation of every law of humanity and civilisation. It is a violation of the explicit and repeated public and diplomatic guarantees of the State of Israel with consequences that will be long-term and incalculable”.13 Father Jaeger reported that the Franciscans were under heavy pressure from Israeli officials to leave the Church of the Nativity. He added:“The friars have resisted that pressure, pointing out that the shrine is their home-- served by the Franciscan order for centuries.”

Which solution for the barricated Palestinians?

The solution that Father Jaeger would gladly accept as “reasonable, honorable and peaceful” was that Israel let the Palestinian gunmen free to go in a “convoy to another spot of the West Bank”. Inside the shrine, the Franciscan spokesman continued, conditions are "deteriorating, the tension is unbearable; the food emergency is now critical." 14 Already on April 5, the Nuncio was speaking privately about the possibility that the Palestinians would quit unarmed to Hebron or Gaza in a convoy under international escort.

In Rome on April 8, the Pope said to members of the Papal Foundation:”The spiral of violence and armed hostility in the Holy Land -- the land of the Lord's birth, death and resurrection -- a land held sacred by the three monotheistic religions, has increased to unimaginable and intolerable levels.” 15

At his public audience on Sunday, April 7-- a day he had dedicated to prayers for peace in the Middle East-- Pope John Paul II condemned the "pitiless logic of arms" that dominates the situation in the Holy Land. The Pope offered his special prayers for the

Franciscan, Orthodox, and Armenian monks and nuns who have been living for almost a week inside the Church of the Nativity, under an Israeli siege that began when Palestinian gunmen sought protection there. 16

On April 10, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran,the top foreign-policy official at the Vatican, Undersecretary of State, also known as the Secretary for Relations with States. gave an interview in which he said:”The Franciscans are insisting that they are not hostages, and that they are staying in their monastery because they want to be faithful to their vocation. For centuries, popes have relied on them to safeguard the holy places. Generally speaking, all of the holy places of the three monotheistic religions must be regarded as inviolable. But with the Catholic sanctuaries, in particular, the tradition is reinforced by recent specific agreements, codified in international law. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians have entered into bilateral agreements [with the Holy See] in which they undertake to maintain and respect the status quo regarding the Christian holy places and the rights of Christian communities.

To explain the gravity of the current situation, let me begin with the fact that the occupation of the holy places by armed men is a violation of a longtradition of law that dates back to the Ottoman era. Never before have they been occupied-- for such a lengthy time-- by armed men. It has become a practical necessity to find a solution. Certainly we can understand that the Israeli state must defend itself against terrorism. No one can justify the terrorism in any form. The problem is to find the right response. Too many times, it is the people who must pay the price. There must be a legitimate, measured response. It is a question of proportion-- between the evil and the means that are used against it17

Father Giacomo Bini, Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, speaking over the radio in Italy said that during WW2 Franciscan monastries gave shelter to Jews and so they should do now.

In a telephone conversation with Yosef Neville Lamdan, Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, Bini, the superior of the 35 Franciscan friars and four nuns confined in Bethlehem reminded him of "the heroism of the Franciscan friars during the Second World War." They risked their lives and their own religious communities to save many Jews from extermination, the Franciscan superiors reminded the ambassador. 18

Thus innocent Jews trying to escape a sure death were compared to armed palestinian terrorists who should be brougtht to trial, while the Nazis of yesterday become the Israelis of today.

Bini stated on April 11, that Israeli soldiers appear to have occupied part of the Franciscan monastery. This was another lie in the campaign of disinformation by the Franciscans, which included also an alarm as Bini said: “Since yesterday evening, the supplies of water and food have run out”. When journalists entered the Basilica it became clear that there never was a lack of food or water.

Bini “urgently requested that the Palestinians be allowed to leave the building of the Nativity, guaranteeing them their life, and thus permitting our Communities to take up their work of pacification once again.” 19 Father Bini said that the Palestinian gunmen must be allowed to leave, in order to avoid "a humanitarian catastrophe" and "useless bloodshed."20

On April 26, Msgr. Tauran answered to the question: What steps should be taken to unite peace and justice again in the Holy Land? Archbishop Tauran: Withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, respect for U.N. resolutions, the involvement of the international community, and the recognition of an international juridical statute for the holy places.

Q: The latter, a topic that is again of very great importance, following the invasion of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem by 200 Palestinians.

Archbishop Tauran: The entry of those armed men is a violation of a holy place. However, the problem will not be resolved by force. The Vatican has proposed the establishment of an Israeli-Palestinian bilateral commission to address the question. More generally, we can see, as history teaches, that guarantees diminish when the protection of holy places is entrusted to only one national authority.

This is why we again ask that the international community be the guarantor of places loved by Jews, Muslims and Christians -- loved by faithful of the whole planet. 21

Humanitarian aid or political support to the palestinians?

Caritas defines itself “the Catholic Church’s international aid organization” but in fact it develops a onesided political action in favour of the Palestinians.

On April 15 Caritas Internationalis sounded a humanitarian alarm. "Ambulances are being prevented from saving lives and even being shot at by the Israeli army.

Palestinian clinics and hospitals are in need of medicines but cannot get them. Many children cannot go to school. There has been random shooting of civilians, including children and women, by Israeli soldiers at checkpoints. The showeringof missiles on civilian areas by helicopters, bombers and tanks is causing widespread terror. Israeli and Palestinian human rights defenders are prevented from doing their work. Journalists are denied access to areas where there is fighting. ". "As long as the illegal occupation of Palestine continues there will be no peace; the Organization calls for an immediate end to occupation and an international monitoring presence in the occupied territories, "this would be adeterrent to violence and violation of human rights". 22

Again the previous declaration is full of lies. Ambulances were used by the Palestinians to transfer suspects and weapons and ammunitions and therefore had to be checked; no random shooting of civilians occurred except by error or when the terrorists took shelter behind civilians; in the Jenin refugee camp there were 23 Israeli casualties just because Israel did not use helicopters or aircraft in bombing.

A group of Christian organizations sent a delegation to Israel and after the visit they declared on April 16:” The fundamental cause for the present situation has repeatedly been explained to be the occupation of the Palestinian territories and its consequence, without an end to this occupation, security is considered unattainable for Israel as well.

The on-going violence against the Palestinian people was condemned as much as the violence against Israelis, in the form of suicide attacks, has been condemned. Peace groups describe the Gaza Strip as one huge prison, while the people of the West Bank are also virtual prisoners. “

Why the Gaza Strip should be considered “one huge oprison” is not clear since it is under Palestinian administration. Their press release goes on:”The only foundation for any future peace for either side lies in a two-state solution with secure boundaries and with Jerusalem being the capital city of both the State of Israel and the new State of Palestine. To achieve this, international help from outside, in the form of a UN mission, is indispensable.

In order to achieve this, many peace groups insist on an arms embargo, economic sanctions and a stop to the extension of new Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. In order to reach a permanent solution, the economic and social inequality between Israeli and Palestinian society must gradually be reduced. 23

On Sunday 21 april, the Pope in the liturgy of Regina Caeli, said: Every day I go to Bethlehem spiritually, to the Basilica of the Nativity, where I experienced unforgettable moments during my Jubilee pilgrimage. For almost 20 days, the Basilica and adjacent buildings have been the scene of clashes, threats and unbearable exchanges of accusations. May that place, and all the holy places, be restored quickly to prayer and the pilgrims, to God and to the human person.

May the Blessed Virgin Mary obtain for the parties in conflict the courage of peace and for the international community an unyielding solidarity. May Israelis and Palestinians be able to learn to live together and may the Holy Land finally return to being a sacred land and a land of peace. 24

On Sunday, April 21, the Franciscan Generalate in Rome called Nemer Hammad, the diplomatic representative of the Palestinian Authority in Italy, and asked him to convey a message to Arafat about the "intolerable situation" in the Bethlehembasilica, and the urgent need for a peaceful solution. Two Italian bishops also sent an open letter to the Palestinian leader, asking him to direct the Palestinian fighters inside the Church of the Nativity to seek a peaceful resolution. "To remain inside," the bishops observed, "only serves to have them die of hunger and thirst, or bring about desperate attempts that would have mortal consequences for all." The bishops warned Arafat that if the situation in Bethlehem continues to deteriorate, "the negative consequences could be attributed to your person, and will bring about an even more serious isolation for your people." 25

- A spokesman for the Israeli army said on Friday that a "military option" may be necessary to end the 23-day standoff between Israelis and Palestinian gunmen holed up in the Church of the Nativity.

"We do not want to prolong this, therefore we could resort to a military option," army spokesman Captain Joel Leyden told reporters, saying that talks with Palestinians aimed at resolving the impasse could not be pursued indefinitely.

The strong language came on the same day that Israeli soldiers shot and wounded two Palestinians inside the church compound and as US President George W. Bush called for a peaceful resolution to the standoff. Israeli officials had previously said the army would not storm the church.

Israeli military sources said the two wounded men were "high up on the list of terrorists in the church," and that they had threatened soldiers after four other Palestiniansleft the church and surrendered. "Four unarmed Palestinians, two in police uniform, gave themselves up to our troops, and then two gunmen were spotted in the church compound, about to fire. Troops shot and wounded them, and then took them into custody for treatment," they said. 26

On May 1, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, was sent to Bethlehem as a special envoy of the Pope, to solve the crisis “caused by the Israeli Army siege around the Basilica of Nativity” according to a press release of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem.27

On May 2 afternoon a group of activists of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) evaded Israeli military patrols and entered the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

They reached the interior of the church with supplies of rice, flour, salt and sweets and left ten of their party in the church to church for protection during the Israeli invasion a month ago. The purpose was to underscore to the international community the severity of the conditions there and the illegality of the Israeli military occupation of the city of Bethlehem and to share the confinement with the resident monks who oversee the operations of the church and a large number of Palestinians who had fled to the church.

The most recent Israeli attack occurred last night and resulted in two fires in the church and, according to the mayor of Bethlehem, one Palestinian killed and two wounded.

This action occurred on the same day that the military siege of the Presidential Compound at Ramallah was lifted. 28

It is interesting to note that “Pax Christi USA” while not particapating openly in ISM initiative, offered them a large public relation effort and sent a special “legal observer” in the person of Dennis B. Warner, Pax Christi USA.

On May 8, a statement was made in Jerusalem by Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, Pope John Paul's special envoy to the Holy Land:

"The tragic and intolerable situation in which the Basilica of the Nativity finds itself for over a month is at the heart of everyone's concerns by reason of the symbolic character of this holy place, but also as a test of the common will of the leaders of the two peoples to reach a true peace throughout the Holy Land. Pope John Paul II, through his prayer, words and gestures, and through the diplomatic action of the Holy See, has never ceased sharing in the sufferings and the hopes of the population of Bethlehem. I had asked to go to this place and to pray in particular with the Franciscans who, in solidarity with the Greek-Orthodox and Armenian Churches, bear the spiritual responsibility of this sacred place: Despite great insistence, I was refused what is, properly speaking, a religious step.

"One must actually be there to measure the mistrust, disdain and vengeance that have accumulated on the steep path to peace. How many ruins to clear away, material, but especially moral! At this very hour, as the negotiations for Bethlehem seemed to be reaching the finish line, a further obstacle is preventing the happy denouement awaited by everyone. I am thinking in particular of those who are in the Basilica of the Nativity, or in the adjacent convent, and also of the inhabitants of Bethlehem and environs: For them, above all, there most be no further waiting." 29

On May 8, Msgr. Sabbah published a long and detailed declaration on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reaffirming his well known pro-Palestinian stand. He wrote among other things:

“3. The State of Israel occupies territories of another. Palestinians are under Israeli military occupation, with all that that implies regarding the deprivation or limitation of freedom and suffering and humiliation.

4. The conflict between Palestinians and Israelis is not basically a question of Palestinian terrorism that threatens security or the existence of Israel. It is a question of Israeli military occupation that started in 1967, which provokes Palestinian resistance, which then threatens the security of Israel.

8.Oppression and humiliations imposed upon the Palestinian people can only produce violent Palestinian reactions that threaten the security of the Israeli people and fill its soul with fear and hatred. “30

According to the distorted view of Sabbah the only reason for Palestinian violence is to be found in the Israeli occupation and practically he justifies “violent Palestinian reactions “ as a reaction to “oppression and humiliation”.
Jerusalem, May 8, 2002
+ Michel Sabbah
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem

The crisis came to an end after long negotiations under the CIA cover and a solution was found according to which 13 Palestinian terrorists were sent to Europe, and 24 Palestinians to the Gaza strip. An american correspondent writes what he saw inside the Basilica when he entered it.

A baptism font, festooned with bottles of Ajax bleach, appeared to have been used to wash dishes. An altar had served as a table. Cooking pots and gas stoves shared floor space with abandoned camouflage fatigues.

Indeed, the siege of the church had been accompanied by a curfew that added pressure on those inside the church to surrender. So Israel's withdrawal tonight released the entire town of 100,000.

They maintained contact with the outside world on mobile phones and a radio. Meals were reduced to a single daily serving of rice and pasta soup, some of those who left the church said in interviews today.

A Mexican priest trapped in the church, the Rev. Nicolás Márquez, said that in the early days some gunmen stole articles from the Armenian section of the church — a bishop's gold chain and pectoral cross, a candelabra, an icon. But they put them back later.

Greek Orthodox priests said that, initially, some gunmen or youths slept in the grotto where Jesus' birth is venerated, before priests persuaded them to sleep elsewhere behind the church's thick walls

After the Palestinians and others left the church today, American agents collected tens of assault rifles left behind by the gunmen under the terms of their release. Israeli officers said their experts had found 40 "explosive devices," including booby traps.

Soon afterward, as the church reopened, Pietro Sambi, the Vatican's Jerusalem representative, in tailored robes trimmed in purple, entered the church, surveyed the evidence of recent occupation — abandoned soup bowls and cooking gas cylinders — and pronounced that this did not amount to formal desecration31

  Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, envoy of Pope John Paul and the Latin Patriarch of the Holy Land Michel Sabbah, led hundreds of Catholics from Bethlehem and surrounding towns in prayers, urging Israelis and Palestinians to work for peace.

"The manger of Jesus Christ has suffered for long. We pray to God to help us reach the real roots of peace which are in the heart of every human being," Etchegaray said in his sermon.

"The results we reached must induce us to seek peace through justice and dialogue and not through violence," he added, referring to Palestinian-Israeli negotiations that ended the more than five-week standoff.32 


Il mondo cristiano eleva in queste ore una preghiera di ringraziamento per la fine dell'assedio alla Natività. Grazie alla trattativa che ha portato all'esito della crisi, i francescani della Basilica potranno tornare a svolgere in serenità il loro alto ed esclusivo compito: custodire il Luogo dove è nato Gesù. Lo scampato pericolo ammonisce tutti a rigettare la forza come strumento di soluzione dei contenziosi. Solo il dialogo e la comprensione delle ragioni dell'altro consentono di superare le contrapposizioni e di ricomporre dissidi, anche quando questi possono sembrare insanabili.

L'intesa che ha sbloccato l'assedio alla Basilica della Natività "rimuove un ostacolo" sul cammino della pace in Medio Oriente. È questa l'analisi del Presidente degli Stati Uniti, George W. Bush, che dovrebbe tradursi in un rilancio degli sforzi per riannodare il negoziato.33

My considerations

= The crisis went on much too long but it was not possible to solve it until Arafat gave his consent and this he did only after the siege on himself was lifted.

= The huge Catholic machinery including the Pope, Msgr. Tauran, the special envoy Cardinal Etchegaray, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Franciscans, Pax Christi, Caritas International, were all in various degrees spreading a strong anti-Israeli propaganda. Not a word of criticism was said on the armed Palestinians who entered the Basilica. On the contrary Bini compared the situation in Bethlehem with that of Jews persecuted by Nazis and saved by Franciscan friars during WW2.

= Israeli management of the crisis was poor. In a crisis with so many international facets, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs was left aside and the management was in the hands of of a military group specialized in a different branch: liberation of hostages.

= The damage caused to the relations with Catholics , was very severe. No matter who caused it, the blame is on Israel.

= Besides the crisis of the Basilica, Catholics in Israel are represented by a Latin Patriarch who is openly and publicly anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian. The State of Israel did not reserve the right of veto on nominations of Bishops made by the Church, but even so, something must be done to make the Vatican aware of the gravity of the situation. I think that if Msgr Sabbah can not keep silent , he should be replaced. Alternatively the Israeli Government could cut any contact with him, suspend his diplomatic privileges, clearly express the difference of opinions.

= Jews in the United States should understand what this crisis has shown: we differ deeply in our assessment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the Vatican. They should on every occasion express clearly their dissent form the stand of the Vatican and such American organizations as Pax Christi USA.

1 Sergio I. Minerbi, “The Treaty with the Vatican; achieved objectives and problems still open”, Gesher, N. 130, Winter 5755, pp. 42-52, (in Hebrew).

2 David Jaeger, “Chiarificazione del Portavoce della Custodia di Terra Santa”, April 3,2002; the text is in Italian with an official translation into English.

3 Anat Ciegelman and Amos Harel, “The Church: Israel making pressure to take out the friars”, Haaretz, 8 April 2002.


5 VIS, “HOLY SEE STATEMENT ON MIDDLE EAST CRISIS” VATICAN CITY, released by The Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls on April 3, 2002; APR 4, 2002 . On April 3, Msgr. Celestino Migliore, under-secretary for Relations of States, received Mohamad Ali Mohamad, director of the Delegation of the League of Arab States to the Holy See, insisting, in particular, on the necessity to put an end to indiscriminate acts of terrorism.


7 Urgent appeal from the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, Tuesday, April 02, 2002


9 Paxchristi, April 5,2002,Pax Christi USA Statement, End the Occupation: End the Cycle of Destruction Pax Christi USA, 532 W. 8th St., Erie, PA 16502 (814-453-4955;;

10 FIDES/, FRANCISCAN FEAR ISRAELI ASSAULT ON NATIVITY SHRINE in BETHLEHEM, Apr 5, 02. Under an agreement negotiated by the Nuncio Pietro Sambi with Israeli and Palestinian officials, four friars were taken to a medical clinic for emergency treatment

11 Sergio I. Minerbi, “The Treaty with the Vatican; achieved objectives and problems still open”, Gesher, N. 130, Winter 5755, pp. 42-52, (in Hebrew). 12 Vatican Insists on "Absolute Priority" of Holy Places ;VATICAN CITY, APRIL 8, 2002 ( ZE02040803

13 “Vatican: respect for holy sites is ‘absolute priority’, Haaretz, English Edition, 08.04.2002; 16:46;


15 Pope Decries Levels of "Intolerable" Violence in Holy Land ;Fallout of Sept. 11 Lingers, He Tells Members of Papal Foundation;VATICAN CITY, APRIL 8, 2002 (



18 Israelis Cut Off Bethlehem Franciscans´ Telephone Friars´ Superiors Make Appeal to Embassy and to Palestinian Officials ,ROME, APRIL 23, 2002 (

19 Franciscan Proposal to End Siege of Bethlehem Basilica Request Negotiated Solution to Palestinians´ Confinement ROME, APRIL 11, 2002 (


21 Vatican´s Position Vis-à-vis the Holy Land, 26-Apr-02, Zenit -The World Seen from Rome Interview with Archbishop Tauran, Secretary for Relations with States

22 Fides 15/4/2002

23 8 - 13 April 2002, an ecumenical delegation of peace pilgrims from five European countries visited Israeli and Palestinian Peace Organisations in the Holy Land. For the members of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pax Christi International and the network of peace churches "Church and Peace", the purpose of this visit was to express their solidarity.

24 Pope,REGINA CAELI, Sunday, 21 April 2002



27 Press Release about the arrival of Cardinal Etchegary to the Holy Land Jerusalem, May 1st 2002 by Raed Abusahlia

28 Thursday, May 2, 2002 10:30pm ,Bethlehem The International Solidarity Movement is a Palestinian-based organization dedicated to non-violent resistance to Israeli occupation. Founded two years ago, it encourages international peace activists to come to Palestine to provide non-violent support to the Palestinian resistance.


30 Jerusalem, May 8, 2002 ,+ Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem sabbah5Perspectives on the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis

31 ALAN COWELL and JOEL GREENBERG ,In Church of Nativity, the Refuse of a Siege,New York Times,BETHLEHEM, West Bank, May 10

32 World News Headlines from Reuters; Palestinians pray at Nativity church; 12 May, 2002 14:04 BST; By Said Ayyad ; BETHLEHEM,

33 L'Osservatore Romano - 12 Maggio 2002

Per gentile concessione dell'autore. Tutti gli articoli sono © degli autori è ne è vietata la riproduzione, anche parziale.

Le principali sezioni del sito Morashà

Cinema ebraico i film di argomento ebraico, di autore ebreo, di vita ebraica o che riguardano l'ebraismo da vicino.

Cucina kashèr le ricette ebraiche degli ebrei sefarditi, askenaziti e italiani, secondo le regole alimentari kasher della religione ebraica e dell'ebraismo come cultura.

Ebraismo abc l’ebraismo in pillole: spiegazioni e regole dell’ebraismo per principianti con norme dello shabbat ebraico, delle feste ebraiche, del mangiare kasher, della preghiera ebraica (tefillà).

Ebrei in italia la storia degli ebrei italiani e del loro ebraismo durante la lunga permanenza nelle diverse regioni italiane.

Israele la situazione socio-politica di Israele attraverso le riflessioni personali degli ebrei italiani residenti in quel paese.

Pagine oro il più completo e aggiornato elenco di indirizzi e di numeri telefonici di tutte le istituzioni ebraiche italiane, dei servizi di ristorazione kasher, dei prodotti kasher, degli ingredienti kasher, del turismo ebraico in Italia e dell'ebraismo italiano.

Sefer Tutti i più recenti libri ebraici pubblicati e gli inserti mensili su argomenti di ebraismo, di religione ebraica, di letteratura israeliana e di lingua ebraica.

Tesi di Laurea I testi completi dei lavori più interessanti presentati in ambito universitario pronti per la consultazione. Storia ebraica, sociologia, esegesi biblica.

Umorismo ebraico le barzellette ebraiche più divertenti sul modo di vivere e di pensare tipicamente ebraici.

Zehut tutto ciò che riguarda l’ebraismo: identità ebraica e pensiero ebraico attraverso i testi dei pensatori ebrei italiani su feste ebraiche, sulla preghiera ebraica, sui motivi del mangiare kasher e in generale sulla religione ebraica..