- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 1, 2002

RAMALLAH, West Bank At home in New York City, Angela Bukowy watched television coverage of the Mideast conflict, and, like hundreds of other peace activists, flew to the West Bank to show support for the Palestinians.

Miss Bukowy, 35, used two weeks of vacation from her Columbia University library job and almost $2,000 to come here to lend a hand and bring attention to people living in the West Bank.

"As the violence escalated and I increasingly tried to speak with people, I increasingly met with open ignorance," she said.

Miss Bukowy, who returns home today, said she leaves with sense of community and new friends.

At least 700 pro-Palestinian activists from around the world have come to the region since Israel's West Bank incursion began on March 28, according to one group, the International Solidarity Movement.

But the effort is loosely knit, and reliable figures are elusive.

On her first day in the territories, Miss Bukowy joined a group of activists at the Ramallah hospital to plan a protest.

They asked her if she was willing to be arrested and deported in an effort to get into the besieged headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

"It was a really terrifying decision to make," Miss Bukowy said. Later that day she slammed her head against a wall in a scuffle with Israeli troops surrounding the compound.

"From the moment we turned the corner where we could see the compound, everyone was humming," she said. "I think that was what got us over the barricade this communal wave of intent to get over, to get in."

Activism during this conflict is more intense than in previous times, when volunteers were more likely to escort Palestinians through Israeli checkpoints or assist aid organizations with humanitarian efforts.

This crop of protesters has had to contend with barbed wire, tear gas, concussion grenades and the specter of snipers.

Israeli officials warily referred to the activists as "terrorist sympathizers" after many foreign volunteers brought food and phones into Mr. Arafat's compound.

They have attempted to screen arrivals at the airport and send suspected pro-Palestinian activists home.

In a more personal effort, Miss Bukowy and fellow activist Suzie Abdullah, a 31-year-old Palestinian American from Philadelphia, spent one recent morning painting faces and drawing with children who live in the Jenin refugee camp.

Several of the children's drawings of Jenin show tanks and dead bodies. One showed a tank shooting at a sleeping old man near a mosque with a huge Star of David on its front.

This kind of hands-on involvement is part of what the activists spend their time doing in between protests and demonstrations.

In the Jenin camp, volunteers have been digging for the dead with their bare hands, looking for unexploded bombs and delivering food.

After weathering two more violent demonstrations, Miss Bukowy opted out of future marches.

"I'm not an activist, and that's become really clear," she said.

Instead, she said she plans to exhibit the children's drawings from Jenin when she returns home.

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