Raya Ends Three-day Hunger Strike

Archbishop Joseph Raya and his followers ended a three-day hunger strike outside the Knesset today. They were protesting the government’s refusal to permit villagers to return to Ikrit and Birim, two Arab villages on the Lebanese border, from which they were evacuated during Israel’s war for Independence in 1948.

The protestors said they would petition President Ephraim Katzir to intervene on behalf of the villagers. They said they were persuaded to end their fast by sympathetic Knesset members who expressed fear that 55-year-old Archbishop Raya’a health would fail.

The Archbishop, garbed in his clerical robes, sat in an aluminum folding chair under an umbrella on the grass lawn outside-the-Knesset. He was surrounded by 75 hunger strikers and sympathizers when he began his fast Monday. By yesterday their numbers had grown to 550 including many Jews. A Knesset physician was summoned three times yesterday to examine the Archbishop. A Red Mogen David ambulance took exhausted protestors to the hospital. The Archbishop greeted Jewish youngsters who were carrying placards reading “Justice for the People of Birim and Ikrit.”

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