15 year old Udai Sarham was walking outside a Bethlehem restaurant last Sunday evening about 8pm. The restaurant is located about 200 metres from the Separation Barrier and Checkpoint 300, where a demonstration was being held that night. Udai was not involved with the demonstration. Witnesses report that from a distance of about 20 metres, Udai was gunned down by an Israeli army masked sniper, leaving him with a single gunshot wound to the head.
Soldiers then dragged Udai behind a wall. An Israeli soldier used Udai’s cell phone to call the last number Udai had called on his phone, telling the friend who answered to “Bring your guns and come down here.” The perplexed friend had no idea why someone would call from Udai’s phone and say that and so did not respond. After Udai lay on the ground for approximately 30 minutes, the Israeli soldiers called for a Palestinian ambulance which arrived and took Udai to the nearest hospital. Doctors there were unable to treat him and he was transferred to Jerusalem, where surgery was performed.
Udai has sustained a massive head injury. His prognosis remains unclear, but no doubt his life will be irrevocably altered by this single act of violence.
Worried family members gathered yesterday at the Jerusalem hospital. In the waiting room adjacent to the ICU where Udai is being cared for, they willingly spoke with EA’s, asking us to please publicize this shooting. A friend of the family, a council member for the Municipality of Bethlehem, spoke glowingly of the fine person Udai is. He spoke of Udai’s willingness to volunteer with community projects, and of how this past Christmas he had been very instrumental in helping to decorate the community and erect the large Bethlehem Christmas tree. Udai and his family are members of the Bethlehem Church of the Nativity, the church that is built over the place where it is believed that Jesus was born.
Some of the group expressed anger that such an incident could happen. Others spoke of their hope that this young man will fully recover despite the doctor’s lack of optimism for Udai’s outlook. His mother appeared drawn and exhausted and seemed to find it difficult to comprehend what has happened.
Family members believe that the Israeli human rights groups B’T Selem and Physicians for Human Rights Israel are working on the case. EA’s have filed an incident report with EAPPI and that information will be shared with the UN. We will continue to do what we can to support the Sarham family. To the family’s knowledge, there have been no charges laid against any soldier.
Today is Udai’s 16th birthday.
This incident has left many hearts deeply troubled. Let us pray for this young man, for his family and friends, for those who wonder where it is safe to walk in this troubled land, and for the soldier who lined up Udai in the crosshairs of his gun and pulled the trigger.
Peace, Salaam, Shalom,