: Sandra Olewine <SOlewine@annadwa.org>
Sent: Tuesday, March 05, 2002 5:11 AM
Israeli F-16s Strike Bethlehem


Dear Friends,

I am learning a lot about the physical effects of major adrenalin rushes
through the body.  For the first few hours you can hardly sit down; you have
to keep moving, trying to dissipate energy.  As the level begins to drop,
you feel like you've had 15 - 20 cups of coffee as your muscles begin to
twitch lightly.  Eventually, as the rush wears off, your body begins to
ache, as if someone has been pummeling you.

Early Sunday morning when the missiles from the helicopter gunship hit the
building across the street from my house, it took most of the day to 'come
down' from the adrenaline.  But, that was nothing to what I'm feeling this
morning.

Last night, as F-16s screamed low over the houses of Bethlehem, dropping
bombs on the police station a block away from my home, people in Bethlehem
felt what others across the West Bank and Gaza have felt many times in the
last 10 months, like ducts in a shooting gallery.  No place to go, no place
to run - nothing to do but crouch low on the floor waiting for the shock
wave of the explosion to pass, hoping and praying that everyone is safe who
is nearer the attack than you.

This night the attacks did not come as a complete surprise.  Ever since the
Israelis began to use F-16s to hit Palestinian police and government
buildings, we've wondered when they would hit Bethlehem.  Ours was the only
major police station still standing.  So, early in the evening when a drone
began to fly low over Bethlehem, I think most of us felt our time had come.
Around and around it went, close to the ground. Maybe mapping the city?
Then jets arrived and made a few passes around the overly-quiet town.
Phones began to ring as people talked back and forth, wondering whether this
was just a psychological torment or preparation for an attack.

But, when the first jet made the approach to actually drop a weapon, I think
everyone knew what was going to happen.  Suddenly, the jet squealed through
the sky, like someone all of a sudden hit the gas, and then the explosion.
With each successive strike, one jet would speed over and, in what felt like
a minute or two later, a second jet would come and drop a bomb.

I grew up in California when we had 'Duck and Cover' drills in school for
earthquake preparedness.  Last night, I felt like I was 10 years old again,
dropping to my knees, bending over and covering my head with my arms. My
knees look a bit battered this morning from hitting the hard concrete
floors.

Between each pass, the phones would begin to ring - calls from Beit Jala,
from other parts of Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Jerusalem, asking whether
everyone in the house was okay.  Before one pass, a friend who was on his
roof cried out to me on his phone , "Here comes another one directly at
you!"

Our house was fortunate.  The bottom floor has most of one wall and all the
windows out as the family is building a new apartment there.  We had the
doors between the upper apartments open as we were gathered together in the
stairwell.  On the third attack, which was either the biggest or the closest
to us, there was a sudden swish, a high pitched sound, a slight
decompression of the air, a crash and a huge swirl of dust up the stairwell.
I can only describe it as like the sound in the movie Backdraft when a fire
is sucked into a room.  We all thought for a moment that a missile or
something had landed in the bottom apartment.  And I admit for a moment, we
held our breath waiting for the floor to explode below us.  But, evidently,
due to all the open space in the bottom apartment, the concussion from the
explosion went through there, as the point of least resistance, blowing a
door off into the stairwell and carrying dust up with it.  I'm sure this
saved our windows from blowing out.

This was Bethlehem's first night.  But for Ramallah, Gaza, Nablus and
others,  it was another night of the same.

The amazing thing to me as I have read the news reports after Israeli F-16s
have dropped bombs on Palestinian cities is they all seem as if such strikes
don't cause any impact beyond the building targeted.  No accounts of the
terror of the children and adults alike, screaming, huddling together,
completely helpless to protect yourself or any one else. Brief mention that
almost all of these bombs have been dropped in heavily populated areas.  No
reports of the windows, doors, furniture, cars destroyed by the shrapnel or
flying debris.  First reports are that at least 2 apartment buildings close
to the police station will have to be brought down.  All one can do is hope
that the high technology works and nothing goes a few meters off course.

Today, we've begun to speculate what else might be targets in Bethlehem,
which buildings to avoid, which families should move.  Twice this morning
jets have sped overhead.  With each, there is a moment of feeling like a
deer frozen in headlights, just waiting for what might happen.

Sharon and his government announced yesterday that they had to cause as much
hurt to Palestinians as possible, until 'they cry out...' and then they can
go back to negotiations.  They also announced there was no connection
between attacks on Israelis by Palestinians and Israel's military action
against Palestinians.  Such a declaration makes me afraid for Palestinians
and Israelis alike.  Already since early morning today, another 5 Israelis
and 2 Palestinians have been killed.  Numerous others have been wounded.

How many more will have to die before we end up back exactly where we
started, with none of the issues standing between a secure and peaceful
future for both peoples having been addressed?  For all those suffering, I
pray for God's comfort.  For all those who had the power to stop this
madness and choose not to, I can only pray that God is more merciful than I
feel this morning...

Sandra

Rev. Sandra Olewine
United Methodist Liaison - Jerusalem