Arun Gandhi, the grandson of the Mahatma Gandhi, visited Bethlehem and was welcomed by a huge crowd at the manger square in front of the Church of the Nativity.
The Palestinian Roman Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem beatitude Michael Sabbah, Archimandrite Attallah Hanna of the Orthodox Church and Sheikh Ikrema Sabri, the Sheikh of Al-Aqsa Mosque, welcomed Gandhi in Bethlehem.
Before joining the rest of the clergy and the crowed in a prayer for peace where candles were lit, Gandhi spoke to the crowed calling the Palestinian refugees to walk back to their land.
Inspired by his grandfather’s lead and the nonviolent experience of Indian people, Gandhi suggested that if 50,000 Palestinian refugees, led by Parliamentarians walk from Jordan across the Jordan River demanding to return to their land, they will create a pressure on Israel, and if Israel shoot at the crowd killing some of them it will create a world shock.
‘What would happen if the army opens fire at the marchers killing 100 or 200? That would shock the world and make them question this act’ Gandhi said.
At the end of his speech, Gandhi compared between the current situations in the occupied Palestinian areas with the Apartheid South Africa.
‘The situation here in Palestine is ten times worse the situation in the Apartheid south Africa then,’ said Gandhi.
Gandhi has been visiting several places in the West Bank and joined several peaceful protests organized by the Palestinians and visited the Prisoners’ solidarity tents.
On Friday, around 2,000 Palestinians and Israeli protestors demonstrated Friday adjacent to the separation wall in the town of Abu Dis, in support of the existing non-violent resistance to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The grandson of Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, Arun Gandhi, and Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei were among those to address the rally.
Gandhi called on the parties in the Middle East conflict to resolve this conflict through peaceful means.
‘It is about time now that the world gets involved for finding a solution to this problem,’ said Gandhi, a scarf draped around his neck designed with a traditional black-and-white Palestinian headscarf and the Palestinian flag.
‘This wall reminds me of… South Africa,’ Gandhi added, gesturing behind him at the gray slabs of concrete that have cut Abu Dis residents off from Jerusalem.
Arabic music was played through loudspeakers at the gathering at the end of the march and hundreds chanted.
The marchers also passed by as the concrete wall that stand near the Palestinian prime minister’s home in the town.
‘This Holy Land is in need of bridges of peace, bridges of loving, bridges of coexistence, and is not in need of walls of hatred, a wall of aggression, like this wall,’ Qurei told the marchers.
On Thursday, Gandhi also joined around 10,000 Palestinians in a demonstration in Ramallah after he met with the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat in his headquarters in the city.
Gandhi is expected to join the residents of Bethlehem are in a prayer for peace this week as well at the Nativity square.
‘We welcome Gandhi in our country, and we consider his visit as a support to our right to resist the occupation preserved by the International Law,’ said one of the marchers.