Mourning the loss of an angel


The whole town of Bethlehem is in grief for the loss of Christine Saadeh, a 10 year old, shot dead by Israeli snipers on Tuesday

Her school teachers described her as an angel, a calm young smart girl.
George Saadeh, his wife Najwa, and his two daughters Marianne and Christine were riding in their car when a group of Israeli soldiers fired their automatic weapons putting at least 30 bullets in the car of the Saadeh family.

Christine was shot in the head, her father was shot in the abdomen, and her sister was shot in the knee.


As soon as the Saadeh's car approached the Israeli army unit, they were fired upon. Then Israeli troops then approached the car, and once they realized what they had done, they apologized  to the mother and to the injured father. What good is the apology to Christine, who was laying dead in the back seat?!

The Israelis later claimed that they were targeting another vehicle carrying "wanted men". Even if that were true, it is a violation of international law to engage in assassinations and instigate fire fights in a residential neighborhood.  George Saadeh said he saw no "other vehicles" nearby. The Israelis just began shooting as soon as they saw his car. He did not hear shots from anywhere except from the Israeli troops. So it's hard to believe that the "other vehicle" started the fight.  The mother confirmed the same story.

Her funeral on Thursday was one of the biggest in Bethlehem. Posters of the martyr Christine Saadeh were all over the town. Everyone cried at her funeral, those who know her and those who don't.

 We mourn the loss of Christine - May she Rest In Peace.

May justice be served. And may there be Peace in Bethlehem and in Palestine.

The Bethlehem Association

Funeral service for Christine Saadeh at  Church of Nativity.     (AP Photo/ Eyad Hamad)


As war rages to the east of us, we continue to bury the dead here
By Sandra Olewine, writing from Bethlehem
26 March 2003


Early last evening I was on the phone to a friend in the US, when gunfire erupted nearby. It was loud enough that my friend on the other end of the line could hear it. A few seconds later another loud round went off. Moments later I could hear the sound of an ambulance approaching.

The local television station was soon showing a group of Palestinian medics trying to carry away someone who had been killed, a car with the entire back window blasted out, and the trunk riddled with bullet holes. A few Israeli soldiers in uniform kept watch on everything.

The scene was on the hill just four houses up the street from my own, so I immediately called to see if everyone there was all right, figuring any bullets that went over the car could easily have entered the front of the house. Fortunately, everyone there was fine. The early news was that two men had been killed, allegedly men that an Israeli undercover unit was trying to arrest. But, this was not the final story.
Israeli accounts asserted that someone in the first car shot at the undercover unit and then the unit returned fire. Another car approached and the soldiers opened fire on it as well, claiming they feared they were under attack.


The mother of 10-year-old Christine Saadah mourns over the body of her daughter at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, March 27, 2003.
 (REUTERS/Magnus Johansson)

This second car contained a young Christian family -- a father and mother and their 2 daughters, age 15 and 10. The youngest, Christina Sa'ada, a bright 10-year old and a student at St. Joseph's School in Bethlehem, was killed instantly. Her sister was shot in the knee and the father in the side.

According to witnesses, the undercover unit put the wounded family in their cars and sped them to the checkpoint, sending them by ambulance to Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem. Christina's body was kept at the checkpoint and was evidently not allowed to be picked up until 11:00 pm last night.

The bodies of two of the men that were killed in the first car were also taken away. The third man killed, who just happened to be in the car and was not involved in any political action according to his family and friends, was finally taken to the local hospital.

Many questions must be asked about this 'operation', not least why the Israeli unit would let loose a barrage of bullets in the middle of the intersection between a central market area and a residential area on a main transition street, in the early evening hours when many people could be passing by?

Christina's funeral will most likely not take place for a couple of days, as the father has not yet recovered enough for the doctors to tell him of her death. Marianna, Christina's 15-year-old sister, is recovering today from the surgery to remove bullet fragments from her knee.

As war rages to the east of us, we continue to bury the dead here. When will it end?

Rest in God, Christina - we'll miss your bright smile...

Sandra Olewine has served as the United Methodist Church Liaison to Jerusalem since December 1996. She is currently residing in Bethlehem and is serving as pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church while Dr. Raheb is on sabbatical.


Letter from Bethlehem

Toine Van Teeffelen

March 28, 2003


As a good teacher Suzy has more than two eyes. She is used to scan, in the classroom or the school yard, the students of St Joseph wearing their familiar blue and checkered school uniform. Until last Tuesday she saw how a parent, George Sa'adeh, used to pick up his ten-year old daughter Christine at the school gate. Sometimes Suzy overheard their talk, and then she was charmed by how George always joked with Christine. Picking up a child from school is one of those small encounters that uplift family life. Happy that school time is over, everybody goes home. When Suzy told me about this, I had to think how I saw Mary for the first time at such a meeting point, the university gate, hearing the murmur of departing students. Suzy knew Christine from kindergarten on, and saw her growing up as a good and happy student. The Institute knows George well because up until last year he used to give computer lessons to students who were involved in exchanges with Dutch and Flemish schools. It was Tuesday, a normal day except that everybody was talking about the war in Iraq.


On Tuesday early evening George and his wife, and Christine and her older sister Marianne drove in their car through the city. Suddenly there was the sound of two gun salvos. They came from an Israeli army unit in civilian clothes who shot at, or thought to shoot at, Palestinian militants. They did not only shoot at the two militants but also at another car, that of George Sa'adeh and his family. According to people in Bethlehem the type of car in which George drove resembled the type in which the militants drove, and local collaborators informed the army wrongly. According to Israeli media the militants shot at soldiers and after the soldiers shot back, George's car was hit.

Christine's little body on the way to the cemetery
 REUTERS/Magnus Johansson


Passers by heard the cries, in agony, of the two girls after they were hit. The Sa'adeh family was brought to hospital. Shot in her head, Christine died on the way. George and Marianne were also seriously injured. It was early in the evening, and it was downtown Bethlehem. There were not so many people around as usual because of the heavy weather. One of the bystanders, at a hundred meter distance, was the Dutch Franciscan Louis Bohte who presently resides in the Nativity Church complex. Only later he realized that if he would have been a few steps closer to the event, he could have been hit by a misguided bullet. When I called Suzy that same evening, her voice choked. Next day Israeli TV showed images of the exploded passenger bus for which the militants were apparently responsible.

What had happened is called by human rights organizations an "extrajudicial execution." The United Nations secretary-general, Kofi Annan, as well as many Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organizations strongly condemn this kind of action because people are killed without any kind of process and also because it often happens that others are injured or killed too, like the Sa'adeh family (as well as a third passenger in the car who was not involved in politics at all). From the beginning of the Intifadah in September 2000 at least 96 militants have been killed as well as 42 bystanders who happened to be nearby. Immediately that same evening everybody in Bethlehem wondered why such an execution could take place in the heart of Bethlehem, in a residential area. There was also no understanding of the collaborators' behavior. Do they have so little to eat, that they do such kind of terrible work? Or are they addicted to drugs, as a result of which they become dependent on Israeli agents?

Christine's burial was announced for Thursday afternoon. After the closest family - George and Marianne were still in hospital - all the girls and teachers of St Joseph were walking in a long, uniformed procession, flanked by scouts with drums, into the direction of the small gate of the Church of Nativity. Just at the moment of arrival the Moslem prayer came out of the mosque loudspeaker, a little later replaced by church bells. The voices of some youths chanting political slogans died away. Silence reigned, except for the drums. Besides a large colored picture of Christine, the girls carried a sea of flowers. They held banners with Arabic and English texts like "Christine, you are our messenger in heaven," and "Christine, you will be always in our hearts." At the end of the procession, some carried a meters-long Palestinian flag. I estimated the presence of some 2000 people. Most, like me, stayed outside the church because there would not be enough place inside. After the prayer service, a group of men held the coffin high above their heads, as is the custom here under Christians as well as Moslems. Through my tears, I blinked into the sunlight which suddenly after weeks of heavy weather broke through the clouds. Upset, a friendly priest said: "Where was God, where were her angels?"

During the first three days after the decease, so is the custom, all people who know the Sa'adeh family or who otherwise wish to convey their sympathy, pass along the family house. Men and women sit in separate rooms. I have recently seen it many times. Probably as a result of the difficult circumstances more people pass away than before the Intifada. The psychic pressure is a heavy burden for especially older people; also, due to lack of income people are less able to take good care of themselves. Lately the neighbor of my family in law passed away. According to custom, my family in law had for one a day to take care of providing the visitors with food and drinks. During that occasion kiddreh - herbed rice with lamb meat - is served, and bitter Turkish coffee offered in small cups - in fact a suitable means against depression. During the first day, one sees, especially when the decease is such a great shock as in the case of Christine, that all visitors silently sit and support the family. In the consecutive days conversation is gradually taken up. The meeting heals and the community comes to live again. A few days ago, Sana'a, who is the principal of a UN school in a village near Bethlehem, showed me how during a mourning period Moslems bake a special type of crispy bread that is broken and distributed among family and friends.

Suzy called off her presentator's role during the live video exchange with the Dutch city of Vlaardingen on coming Sunday. Also St Joseph's choir cannot join in the "Justice and Peace" song that will be performed. It is still too difficult. Suzy and some students of St Joseph will however be invited to join a silent vigil on Sunday night immediately after the exchange. It concerns an initiative of a group of Palestinians and foreigners who wish to have Bethlehem participating in the worldwide protests against war and occupation, and in support of justice and peace. Inspired by, among others, the women who years ago used to walk around the Plaza de la Mayo in Buenos Aires in order to mourn their family members who had disappeared, and to indict the authorities. And perhaps also by the courageous Israeli "Women in Black" who since over ten years weekly indict the occupation of Palestine on Paris Square in West-Jerusalem, supported by groups abroad.

Silently we will walk a round along the Church of Nativity and the nearby Mosque of Omar. The memory of Christine will strengthen our conviction to continue this initiative.

The story by an eye witness ..

Dear everyone:


Care about Palestine, and about human rights ….

My name is Amani Juha, I live in Bethlehem city, and I'd like you all to read this true tragic accident in which I was witness.

Ten days ago there was a crime in Bethlehem, the Israelis killed innocent 12 years old girl, her name is Christina Sa'ada. She was with her family passing by in their car near the Shepherd hotel (Near my home) (Almadbassa Area). Christina was reading a book in the car; when she was hit by 30 bullets. Christina's father "George" was injured. He is now in the hospital. He received two exploding bullets in his midsection, and the eldest sister (Marian) was also injured, received one exploding bullet and five pieces of shrapnel in her right knee. How was that?

The Israeli soldiers (Special forces) who were dressed in civilian clothes, were hiding behind the trees in that area, waiting for a specific car (Peugeot) so as to assassinate the ones who are inside that specific car.  Unfortunately Sa'ada family car was the same model (Peugeot), and both; wanted car and Sa'ada family car were passing at the same time, the Israeli were prepared to shoot the Peugeot with the three guys in it. They (the soldiers) were in front of two Peugeot cars …. Which one to shoot? They decided to shoot both (so easy……).The minute the cars passed they started shooting strongly, and hardly on them .The Israeli aggressive, and savaged way, killed the 3 guys and the 12 years innocent girl.

While I was watching TV, I heard that strong shooting , I started screaming because my brother and my ante were outside parking the car , and I fell  rapidly on the floor. I was really worried. Just after one minute they came in crawling. A few minutes later we heard a female voice screaming asking for help, so our neighbor and us went outside to see who is screaming and what happened. First we saw Christina's mother (Najwa) screaming loudly saying: "my daughter, my daughter … they killed my daughter, please for the sake of God, call the ambulance." She was completely grieving. The father was seriously injured, that he just stood near the car crying, looking desperately at his daughter, and Christina sister also was crying and regretting. My neighbor (Rola Sabbat) called the ambulance, we all were waiting and trying to calm down the mother and the family. After 5-7 minutes the ambulance didn't show up, the father was crying out "where is the ambulance, call them another time, my daughter is dying!!"  I went quickly to the house and called the ambulance continuously, but they told me "we are near but we cannot get in, the soldiers refused to let us come." I went out again and told them about that. Christina's father shouted; " bring any car to take my daughter to the hospital. Immediately my neighbor (Bassem Sabbat) tried to take her out from the car and I went to bring my car . When I started to move my car from the parking, the Israeli soldiers started to shoot at me! so I went in quickly. During all this period the Israeli soldier's jeeps were standing near the cars and they were watching all this incredible catastrophes. Later on, (after 30 minutes later!!)  The Israeli forces decided to take them to Hadassa hospital. When they went the ambulance came and tried to take the three to the hospital, but in a glance, another Israeli soldiers Jeep came and banned them to take the 3 guys thrown on the floor .It was really disgusting!

All what I know later that they took the three killed persons with them (I don't know why???). And after a few days they brought them back to their parents.

As for Christina, she was a student at St. Joseph School, the first on her class, she belongs to the Orthodox parish, she lives in Bethlehem, she was a really lovely girl, she's like the angel, what did she do to deserve that?
Is it a mistake for being Palestinian???? , or what..????.
As for Christina funeral, it was really sadly, and huge. Most of Bethlehem district residence (Beit Jala, Beit Sahour) graces with their presence in the funeral march, beside all St. Joseph School students and teachers, and some other schools and institutions attended.

Now it is one week later as if nothing happen. Even a word of sorry, the parents didn't receive; I was really chocked by that accident. Until now I can't believe it was really incredible catastrophes; anyone passed at that time could have been on that situation. I feel sorry for all of what happened, and till now I can't believe were we reached from human transgression and, are we still having human principles?? Please tell me if this happened in another country will it be neglected???? …

I'm not writing that so as to increase hatreds or to make you feel sorry, I wrote that so as to share it with you, to see what's happening over here. How our rights as a human being are vanished. We need peace, but!!!!!

Where is it??????

Amani Juha



10-Year-Old Christine Killed By Israeli Soldiers in Bethlehem

Susan Sahouri

Early last night a newsflash was broadcast on our local TV stations announcing the killing of four people in Bethlehem and injuries to at least three others. No names or the circumstances surrounding the incident were given. Until late in the night our TV station brought more news concerning what had happened.

Amongst the dead is a ten-year-old child. All four were murdered by Israeli troops. The injured include the mother, father and sister of Christine, the little girl brutally slain by the occupation army. They are currently in hospital, their injuries serious, but apparently not life threatening.

The Israelis claim that they wanted to arrest a person and set up an ambush, right in the heart of the town of Bethlehem, with no care for the innocent people in the streets. The two-pegout cars drove by and the Israeli soldiers just started shooting indiscriminately toward the vehicles. The head master of the Greek Orthodox School in Beit Sahour was the driver of one vehicle, his family with him; they were all shot.  Ten-year-old Christine was shot fatally in the head, her parents and sister were also shot in the head and now in hospital. We have no clear news of the two others who were murdered; the Israeli soldiers took their bodies immediately.

Is this the destiny of this family? Is it just their bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or drive the same car as the targeted one, or should they have taken another way home? All these are questions only God can answer for us. But I believe their bad luck is really because they are Palestinian and each Palestinian is a terrorist, according to the Israelis. How my heart goes out to their relatives, trying to come to terms with this hideous and illegal act. A little girl murdered, her immediate family all hospitalized.

We are used to raids, assassination attempts and military actions against us. We are used to double standards and hypocrisy. In other parts of the world we are told how humane soldiers are as they try to spare the lives of civilians but we do not know that kind of soldier here. To be Palestinian is to be a target, and there is no hope of justice for us. A Palestinian can be accused of any crime by Israel and no evidence need be shown, no lawyer given access, no legal process adhered to. That person can be assassinated and no one questions the validity of the Israeli accusations.

What about those families who know that their loved ones are dead but have no idea where their bodies can be found? What need is there for the Israeli soldiers to take away the corpses, why can't they give them to their families so they can say goodbye and bury them in an honorable way? This is all part of the process of humiliation and dehumanization that Israel uses against us.

We are all victims of these ugly methods being used by the Israeli soldiers. Where is the justice? What sort of justice was received by those killed last night and for those who are killed each and every day in the most despicable manner by our occupier?

For us we know no liberator will come; no freedom, no justice for Palestinians. We will continue to struggle against the violence forced on us; we will continue to demand our freedom and our deliverance from occupation. We will defend our homes, our families and our land, despite the overwhelming odds we face. We will continue to resist because we know that our cause is true and just. I believe that one day the whole world will become conscious and understand the inhumanity we suffer and enormity of the crimes that are committed against us each and every day.