February 16, 2001
Beit Jala: Wedding Bells and Bullets
By Pierre Shantz

Since leaving Beit Jala in late December, I have continued to visit my
friends there once a week or so. We play cards as we did
when I was living there, but without much worry that we
will be hurt, since the Israeli shelling has stopped for the last two
On Saturday night, February 10th, I went to Beit Jala, dressed up in a
shirt and tie because I was going to the wedding our former landlady's
I was playing cards with my friends as we waited to leave for the reception
when it started: The familiar "pop pop" sound of Palestinian gun shots.
Although the shots seemed to be coming from outside Beit Jala, we ran for
the neighbor's house which is more protected.
Two of my friends, George and Zuzu, were leaving and offered to
take me to the reception in Bethlehem. We jumped in thecar. Since
the shots were not coming from Beit Jala and Israeli retaliatory shelling
does not usually begin immediately after gunmen fire on Israeli positions,
we figured we had time. However, as we drove away three 50 caliber (big)
bullets hit the ground beside the car. George stepped on the gas and we sped
away. We pulled into a parking lot to see if the car had been damaged. We
did not see any marks on the body although we had clearly seen the sparks as
the bullets hit the road beside us. George said. "Guys we are sleeping in
the car tonight. It seems that
we won't get hit by anything while in it." We all laughed.
Zuzu called home to make sure that everybody was fine. Nisreen, his
sister, had gone back to the house to turn off the gas. Since the shots had
been fired fromfar away (We later learned that the shots had come from
gunmen in 'Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem firing on the Israeli army base at
Rachel's tomb) Nisreen didn't think that they would shell our area. After
shutting off the lights and the gas, she was locking the front door when
suddenly, bullets hit the wall of her house and the house across the street.
She started to run for the next house where everyone was gathered, and
tripped and fell into the street. More bullets whizzed
above her. Had she not fallen she very likely would have been killed.
She crawled up to the house, only a few metres away and escaped to
We thanked God that she wasn't killed and that we had escaped
unharmed. We were the lucky ones, I guess. The news reports next day
said that two Palestinians were shot riding a bus back from Jerusalem,
and Israeli settlers had a funeral for one of their friends who was
killed while driving his car.
I hope and pray that somewhere through all this we will be able to find
the peace once again to play cards and go to weddings without fear of
being shelled.
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