The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, April 16, 2002  


Sources at the General Curia of the Friars Minor tell Zenit news agency that the Franciscans holed up in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity "are still in dire straits."

The Israeli army is interfering with the supply of water, electricity, and basic provisions, and has been sluggish in allowing badly needed medication to get to the friars and nuns. Every night the Franciscans hear explosions and shootings outside the church, according to Zenit's sources.

The army's siege of the revered church -- regarded by many Catholics and other Christians as the birthplace of Jesus Christ, even if by legend rather than historical fact -- is now in its 15th day. The Israelis will not back off unless the Palestinians inside the church, including the governor of the district of Bethlehem, and some of whom are reportedly armed, surrender to Israeli authorities. The Franciscans in the church will not be released unless and until the Palestinians give themselves up.

Zenit reports that Father David Jaeger, spokesman of the Custody of the Holy Land, said today: "We renew our appeal to the parties to speedily find the much-desired peaceful and honorable solution, as also required by the international agreement signed by each of them with the Holy See."

Israel, it should be noted, over the last three decades has emphasized with steadfast righteousness that it does not and will not interfere with the practice of religions other than Judaism and will not impede access to the holy places of other religions.

At The Rittenhouse Review, we wonder how exactly the cordon dégoûtant fits in with this humanitarian impulse, but we're open to suggestions.

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