News > Holy Land Armenians > Catherine Arakelian describes her experience in Bethlehem clashes
By Carl Brown
A mum-of-two has described the terrifying moment Israeli soldiers fired bullets during a peace protest near Bethlehem.
Catherine Arakelian, flew out to the Middle East for a 10 day trip earlier this month with Christian Arab charity Holy Land Trust, which peacefully campaigns against oppression of Palestinians.
Mrs Arakelian attended a protest in the village of Al Massarah, which involved campaigners walking 40 minutes out of the village and demonstrating in front of Israeli troops.
She said the protest, which happens every Friday, was on this occasion particularly large.
The campaigners finished their peaceful protest, which involved flag waving, and as they began to walk back to the village, Mrs Arakelian said the Israeli army decided to act.
She added: “All of a sudden they started rolling razor wire across the road, to stop us going further away and then they fired shots above our heads to try and get us to go back to the village, which is where we were going anyway. They also threw smoke bombs to scare us.
“It was very scary, I have never been anywhere close to a group of young soldiers who themselves looked frightened and I did not know what a smoke bomb was.
“The whole point of the Palestine Peace Movement is that it is non-violent, but the media got the pictures they wanted of people running away and of conflict.”
Mrs Arakelian said she and her fellow campaigners did not know why the army acted in the way it did.
The 48-year-old, who is standing as the Labour candidate in the Chingford & Woodford Green constituency at the general election, added: “When we touched down in Luton on the way back I felt free.
“Here we have freedom of expression, movement and association, we don't always realise in this country how important these freedoms are.”
During her visit Mrs Arakelian also visited the Armenian quarter of Bethlehem and met a Muslim family in danger of losing their home to Jewish settlers.
Despite the terrifying moment with the army, Mrs Arakelian, a practising Christian, described the trip as “amazing spiritually and politically.”
Photo: Catherine Arakelian in the scene of the action.
Source: Asian Image, 05 February 2010 (The voice of the Asian Community in the United Kingdom)