JERUSALEM (Jul. 16)
Greek Catholic Archbishop Joseph Raya began a fast today outside the Knesset in an effort to induce the authorities to allow former settlers of Birim and Ikrit villages near the Lebanese border to return to their villages.
The Cabinet decided earlier this year the villagers would not be allowed to return to their villages, which they were forced to leave during the 1948 war “for security reasons.” The government offered assistance in resettling the villagers near their original homes.
Raya said today he was trying to solve the villagers” problem in an honorable way but it was the government which was applying emergency laws which were enacted by the British during the Mandate and used originally against Jews. “These very same laws,” Raya said, “were described by the present Justice Minister Yaacov Shimshon Shapiro as barbaric. If they were so at the time, the Israeli government is taking even harsher measures against the inhabitants of Ikrit and Birim,” he said.
Raya denied that his renewed drive for the reversal of the Cabinet’s decision had anything to do with the approaching elections. He said he planned his hunger strike several months ago but now that the elections were so close “perhaps this will make the government soften up.” he said. Raya was joined by a group of youths from the two villages.