The Siege of Bethlehem
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Commentary and Analysis

Two Sides, Two Stories, One Church >

This Christian Science Monitor article (April 9, 2002) examines how the standoff at the Church of the Nativity represents the "the larger ways in which Israelis and Palestinians refuse to consider the validity of each other's claims to the land that is at the heart of their conflict."

The Nativity Sin >

In this National Review commentary (April 24, 2002), Ariel Cohen takes issue with religious leaders who condemned Israel for the violence at the Church of the Nativity. He writes: "Taking clergy hostage at gunpoint in a church is a war crime and violation of international law. ... Over 50 gunmen took 200 hostages and locked them up, half-starving, in the sprawling church complex. Instead of decrying this act of barbarity, church representatives and spokesmen from a number of foreign ministries around the world blamed Israel."

At the Church of the Nativity >

A first person account from Larry Hales, one of the peace protesters who attempted to breach the Israeli blockade to bring food and water to the Palestinians in the church. He writes: "We held our hands up while yelling at the people inside to open the door, then, the soldiers moved towards us started pulling us up and throwing the food away from the door."

Conversation with Anton Salman >

A Christian, Anton Salman is the lawyer for the Church of the Nativity. He volunteered to stay in the church for the entirety of the siege, and served as a link between those inside and the Israeli negotiators. CNN conducted this interview with him by phone from inside the church on the second day of the siege.

Background on the Church and the Siege

Illustrated Timeline of the Siege >

An illustrated timeline on the Bethlehem siege from the BBC, with a diagram showing what took place where.

Picture Gallery >

An online collection of photographs of the end of the siege from The Guardian.

Bethlehem: the Site Where Jesus Was Born >

A comprehensive history--with pictures--of the town of Bethlehem and the compound of Church of the Nativity from the Christian Franciscan order.

Church with a Turbulent History >

A diagram of the church and an overview of the its 1600 year history from the BBC.

360 Degree Images of the Pre-Siege Church >

The Jerusalem Post provides Quicktime VR panoramic images of the Church of the Nativity before the siege, in addition to pictures of other holy sites.

The Basilica of the Nativity >

A description of the layout and history of the Basilica of the Nativity from the Israeli state web site.

International Law Protecting Religious Sites

Call From UNESCO to Protect Religious Sites >

On April 11, 2002, as the siege at the Church of the Nativity raged on, the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) wrote letters to Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shimon Peres, and to the President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, imploring the leaders "to respect the sacred character of religious sites" in the Palestinian territories. He reminded Peres that, as a signatory to the 1956 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, Israel was required to do "everything in its power" to ensure that the provisions of that convention were complied with.

UN Resolution: Protecting Religious Sites >

Following the destruction of two ancient statues of Buddha in Afghanistan by the Taliban, in May 2001 the UN General Assembly passed a resolution condemning attacks on all of the world's holy sites. The Assembly called on governments to take action to prevent threats or acts of violence against religious sites. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis were criticized for violating the spirit of this and other international agreements aimed at safeguarding holy sites during the siege. Here's the text of the UN resolution [excerpted.]

The World Heritage Convention >

In 1972 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. It has been signed by over 170 countries, including Israel. Under the convention, a Committee of representatives from the signatory states maintains a "World Heritage List" of sites of particular historical or cultural value; currently the list includes 721 sites, two in Israel. The signatory States agree "not to take any deliberate measures which might damage directly or indirectly the cultural and natural heritage ... situated on the territory of other States Parties."

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