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Berkeley native trapped in Bethlehem

By Jia-Rui Chong, Daily Planet staff
Friday April 05, 2002

Berkeley native Kenneth Cardwell and Oakland native Myron Collins, professors at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, are among the 12 Lasallian brothers, a group of Catholic priests, still surrounded by Israeli troops at Bethlehem University. 

They have been restricted to their residence on the campus since 2:30 a.m. Monday. 

Cardwell, whose parents still live in Berkeley, earned a Ph.D from UC Berkeley in 1986. He has been able to stay in contact with friends and relatives through telephone calls and e-mail. 

“They are locked in, but surviving. They’ve got light, heat, telephone and food,” said Mary Cardwell, Kenneth’s mother. She said she was glad to be able to keep in such close contact by “virtue of e-mail.” 

Brother Ronald Gallagher, a professor at St. Mary’s and former president of Bethlehem University for four years, has been speaking continually with the brothers. He spoke to the Daily Planet on Thursday just an hour after Cardwell’s last call.  

“Their house was searched again today,” he said.  

He thought it was ridiculous, saying, “Israeli troops went through their closets and drawers looking for terrorists.” 

He laughed dryly. 

“But I guess they found none.” 

Although the brothers have been unable to move from their house, they can pick up the phone or use e-mail whenever they want. 

But Gallager said he did not know whether their calls were monitored.  

“My calls were monitored when I was there. They were routed through the Isreaeli Governor’s Office,” he said. 

Gallagher said that, based on conversations with his friends in Bethlehem, he thinks there are about 100 troops are using the university as a staging ground for the half-mile between the university and the Church of the Nativity.  

“The brothers are not in immediate danger because it is an Israeli-occupied camp. They’re not going to bomb their own soldiers,” said Gallagher. 

Nevertheless, he said, “We are very concerned.” 

Gallagher said that because the soldiers arrived while the students were on Easter Break, no students are confined on-campus. But the students, who are all Palestinians from the Jerusalem and Bethlehem area, have been confined to their homes. 

Brother Raphael Patton said he was not surprised that the university was targeted. “If I were the Israeli Army, that’s what I’d do, too,” said Patton. “You want to get the Europeans and the Americans out of there, because once they’re gone, the international press will leave, too. And then the Israeli Army can do what it wants.” 

Cardwell, who is now 55, lived in Berkeley until he was 20. He went off to college at St. Mary’s College and also did graduate work at the University of Washington and Oxford University. When he came back to Cal, he was already a mature student. 

That made him stand out to Professor Emeritus Thomas Sloane, who worked with him on his dissertation, “Francis Bacon and the Interrogation of Nature.” 

“He was a very bright guy. And he brought to learning a certain understanding from his maturity,” said Sloane. 

Sloane said he was not aware that Cardwell had any interest in the Middle East. When Sloane was working with Cardwell, the student was focusing on “the intersection of rhetoric, science and religion.” 

Cardwell has been on the St. Mary’s faculty since the mid-1980s, said Gallagher. Two years ago, he went to Bethlehem to help the university with its English language program and also to advise its administrators. 

“He went to the Middle East because he wanted to know more about the Middle East, because he had studied Arabic,” said Mary. 

But their son’s knowledge about the area did not necessarily ease his parents’ fears. 

“Of course we’re worried,” she said.