This report appeared during the siege of the Church of the Nativity in 2002.

"Depressed? I'm fed up with this — with these morons on the other side for two weeks. How many agreements do we have to reach with them? I know I look like a monster in all this," he said, tapping his helmet, then his vest, then his rifle. "I'm not a monster. I don't like this. I'm a human being just like you."

Source: Steven Erlanger, New York Times, Section A, page 16, 10 May 2002.

Nisan, age 19, was among those surrounding the Church of the Nativity. The stand-off finally ended on May 10th. (Photo by Rina Castelnuovo)

The "morons inside" (minus some nutty "peace activists" who delayed the process) were given a hero's welcome back in Gaza. (See photo at right)

Palestinian gunmen released from the church proclaimed victory and vowing to fight again. One was quoted as shouting to the crowd, "We are going to Jerusalem as martyrs! Millions, millions of us!" (Front page of The New York Times, 11 May 2002.)

"Go away, go away—it's curfew. Go home," Nisan, an Israeli soldier, shouted in Arabic, exasperated.

He was speaking to a group of Palestinian women who begged to be allowed to see their sons and relatives inside the church.

"We just want to see them one more time! I'm afraid I won't see him again alive!", said Shibah Daghlalah, whose brother, Ahmad, a Palestinian Authority policeman, would be sent to Gaza (where, as it later transpired, he was given a hero's welcome, a new gun, and his freedom).

Steven Erlanger of The New York Times reported this scene and interviewed Nisan (who declined to give his last name) while two other Israeli soldiers consulted via radio about the women.

"Now I'm the bad guy," said Nisan. "They have to understand that there is a curfew. I'm supposed to arrest them. I won't. I'm not going to attack them, they're women."

One woman, Iman Abayat, shouted in Arabic, "Doesn't your mother call you to see how you're doing? I bet she calls you every hour."

The woman has a son, Ibrahim, 29, who is a former Palestinian policeman. He resigned to join the Aksa Martyrs Brigades. Ibrahim is believed to be the local Brigades' leader, and he is wanted for the murder of three people. He is one of the 13 in the church who will be sent abroad.

"She says she wants to see her son," Nisan said. "Well, let him come out. We want them all to come out. We want to go home. Nobody wants to be here in Bethlehem, but everyone thinks we like it."

One of Nisan's comrades said in Hebrew, "These people are taking pictures, don't look so depressed."

"Depressed? I'm fed up with this—with these morons on the other side for two weeks," Nisan said, referring to the Palestinian gunmen in the church. "How many agreements do we have to reach with them?"

"I know I look like a monster in all this," Nisan said in English, tapping his helmet, then his vest, then his rifle. "I'm not a monster. I don't like this.

"I'm here to defend my family, my father and my mother and my brother and my girlfriend, that's all."

He shouted at the women again, to go away, to obey curfew.

"People outside think that all Israelis pray and eat kosher. I eat cheese and meat together, and I don't pray, not once, I don't believe in it.

"People outside think I'm a monster with a gun, and pray every day and eat kosher and kill Arabs," he said. "We just want to go home."

Where is home? Metulla, he said, right on the border with Lebanon. "Hezbollah is firing rockets at us all the time," he said. "I'm in a war here and at home too."