H. E. Mr. Ehud BARAQ
Prime Minister Office
Subject: Protest for an irresponsible aggression, by the Israeli soldiers, against myself and two other Priests and a Sister.
I strongly protest against the behavior of the officers and soldiers of the Bezeq camp for their dangerous, irresponsible, unjustified and violent threat against myself and other two Priests and a Sister.
Here are the facts. On the 9th of January 2001 in the afternoon, in my diplomatic car having a very visible Church patriarchal flag, accompanied by Fr. Elie Kurzum (Israeli I.D), Fr. Elias Odeh (American passport) and a Sister (American passport), I was on my way to Zababdeh (Jenin) for my pastoral, religious and humanitarian duties as Bishop.
As we arrived at about 3:00 p.m. by the military camp called Bezeq, near Zababdeh (Jenin), 3 soldiers run out of the camp pointing the guns against us and shouting on us: Stop, stop. We stopped on the right of the road waiting at a distance of about 15 mt. After a while, as Fr. Elie asked what we have to do, a soldier shouted: "Shut up, go back otherwise I shoot on your head". Immediately without asking to identify ourselves, the soldiers started to shoot towards the car, at least three bullets passed very near to me. I repeat, very near to me.
We turned back. Passing by the military camp of Baraq to denounce the facts. The officer of the camp understood the situation and was cooperative. He intervened personally by the officer of the Bezeq camp, who allowed us to pass, and we informed him that we would come back one hour later. They agreed. But as we arrived there at about 4:00 p.m. the same reaction happened. They pointed the guns against us and threatened us again without any question. We were obliged to go back to Nazareth by a very long and hard way.
Such a treatment is inadmissible and irresponsible. The Palestinian territories are living an intolerable closure and hard isolation. The life of priests and bishops is threatened in the accomplishment of their pastoral and humanitarian work. It is a violation of the Fundamental Agreement signed between the State of Israel and the Holy See, which gives freedom of movement and activity for the religious duties. It is in the same time against the diplomatic regulations.
I ask the Israeli Authorities for a strong condemnation of the facts, for an official apology to the Church, to take proper measures against those soldiers, to give an official opportune instructions to the officers and the soldiers and to alleviate the measures of isolation in the Palestinian territories.
Today afternoon, two Ministers, Mr. Yossi Belin and Mr. Matan Vilnai, kindly paid a visit to me and to the other 2 priests in the Latin Patriarchal Vicariate of Nazareth. They presented an official apology on behalf of the Government. We are grateful to them. They showed good understanding and good will to our requests. We are waiting for the practical application of their declarations.
Best wishes and greetings,