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Israelis, Palestinians Clash At Border; A Twist On The Christmas Story; "Babies Holding Babies"; Morsi Power Consolidation Draws Fire

Aired November 23, 2012 - 14:30   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The fragile truce between Israel and Hamas faces a serious new test right now. Israeli troops started shooting in a buffer zone along the border with Gaza. And according to Hamas, one Palestinian man was killed, 25 others were wounded.

Hamas claims the victims were farmers trying to check their land near the zone. Israeli officials say they were attempting to breach a fence that divides Gaza and Israel.

Also, we have this just in, concerning the man credited with brokering that cease-fire, Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi. Well, the U.S. State Department just released a statement concerning those demonstrations erupting in Egypt today against Morsi. Those demonstrations claim that -- the demonstrators claim Morsi is making a power grab.

CNN's Jill Dougherty is at the State Department. Jill, what is in this statement?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, there is concern and the United States is making it clear that they're watching this very closely, that there is concern by this -- about this move by President Morsi.

And as you can hear in this statement, what they want to know is exactly what it means because after all, this is very soon after President Morsi was brokering or actually bringing together the elements for a ceasefire in Gaza.

His reputation was very high, and now this. So here is what the State Department is saying. The decisions and declarations announced on November 22nd raised concerns for -- concern for many Egyptians and for the international community.

One of the aspirations of the revolution was to ensure the power would be -- would not be overly concentrated in the hands of any one person or institution. And that, in fact, is the State Department Says that when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in fact was in Cairo.

She was meeting with President Morsi, she was talking about this constitution, which is in the process of being written, and she was urging President Morsi to make it inclusive, both for women and for religious minorities, et cetera. The United States is pointing out that right now there is what they're calling a constitutional vacuum and that is obviously what President Morsi has filled, that constitutional vacuum. But the question is how long will that go on?

The U.S. is stressing basic rights, things as they say, fundamental freedoms, individual rights, and the rule of law. They are not, the United States, is not trying to dictate what precisely should go into that constitution.

That would embroil the United States in something that obviously it doesn't want to get embroiled in. But they are urging them to make sure that they have these universal rights, let's say, or the rule of law, which would be very important.

Number one that is peaceful and number two that it include all of the groups in Egypt that should be involved in putting this together.

BLACKWELL: And this puts the secretary in a pretty precarious position because just two days ago, she was praising and congratulating President Morsi for his work in brokering this ceasefire. Does this change the fundamental very fragile relationship between the U.S. and Egypt in the immediate sense?

DOUGHERTY: The second part of your question I think, Victor, is hard to answer. It depends how this is interpreted, what President Morsi is trying to do. Is it really, as he would argue, to protect the constitutional process, a temporary move, or is it something more, let's say, long lasting.

That remains to be seen. But certainly the United States never felt that this was an easy path, or that any of this was guaranteed. They went into it and out of it very soberly.

BLACKWELL: All right, Jill Dougherty at the State Department for us, thank you.

Is it an island of safety in the Middle East? Ahead, two children both victims of the conflict between Israel and Gaza, and a twist of fate, are treated at the same hospital.


BLACKWELL: Less than 48 hours into a very fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, a deadly shooting. One young Palestinian killed, and many more wounded in a buffer zone near the Israeli/Gaza border and while the sides remain divided, a week of fighting also saw an unlikely coming together. CNN's Sara Sidner found proof in a Tel Aviv hospital.


SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The 4-year-old Joseph is listening to an age old bed time story, but he's not at home safe in his bed, he's in the hospital, a victim of an age old conflict that has shattered his family life. He and his parents were staying inside this apartment building in Southern Israel when a rocket from Gaza slammed into it. The blast sheered of several of Joseph's tiny fingers, badly injured his father, and took his mother's life.

She was among the first to die on the Israel side of the border. He was saying, my mother is not here. She's with God. He knows it will be a hard time, his grandmother says. Hard is putting it mildly.

He has just been through a second surgery. Doctors at the Sheba Medical Center reattached four of his fingers. But in the end, they had to ream pew trade two of them. He lives in the south and there are rockets all the time in that area. Hamas doesn't think about where the rockets are going, she says.

(on camera): While Joseph is being treated here, one room away there is another child with the same kind of war injuries except she's from the other side of the conflict. She's from Gaza.

(voice-over): She lost three fingers when the war came to her home. I heard the sound of the missile that hit, I didn't even have time to ask what happened, and then the second one hit, she says.

When the dust cleared, she could see the bones of her child's fingers in small pieces on the floor. She was taken to the hospital in Gaza, but it was too crowded and they couldn't give her the best care.

So the family asked Israel for permission to cross the border. Initially her mother was terrified, terrified at the prospect of people considered an enemy in their country putting their hands on her wounded daughter.

It is a strange situation, and it is my first time entering Israel. I was afraid, but they treated me and my daughter in a very nice way and I understand that medicine has nothing to do with politics, she says.

PROF. ZEEV ROTHSTEIN, CEO, SHEBA MEDICAL CENTER: All the tension is blocked outside the hospital. Here there is an island of sanity. In this stormy water of the Middle East, here we treat people. We don't actually look from where they are and what they do and what they did before coming here and what they're going to do after leaving us.

SIDNER: The doctor is treating both children.

DR. BATIA YAFFE, DIRECTOR OF HAND SURGERY: It will never be normal. It will affect her life from now on and his life from now on in the choice of profession, in the choice of a future partner for life, everything.

SIDNER: She has worked in this Tel Aviv hospital her entire career treating everyone from soldiers to suicide bombers and the civilians in between.

YAFFE: What is it in this piece of land that everybody is fighting about all the time? This is what comes to my mind whether this is our lot for eternity from now on. Always have the injured on both sides, always fighting, what's the point?

SIDNER: If there is a point, it is lost on a 4-year-old boy and 8- year-old girl from either side of the Israel/Gaza border, who just want to be children, but now share a similar fate. Their innocence interrupted by a war they had nothing to do with. Sara Sidner, CNN, Tel Aviv.


BLACKWELL: Coming up, the pope is challenging some Christmas beliefs, including when Jesus was born and who was present at the time of his birth. Got a lot of people talking. We'll break it down next.


BLACKWELL: Just in time for Christmas, a new book about Jesus debunks a few myths about his birth. For example, it says there were no cattle or singing angels present when Jesus was born. It also questions Jesus' birth date.

Now, this isn't from just any person who is writing on the topic. The book was written by Pope Benedict XVI. So, of course, it is getting a lot of attention. Eric Marrapodi is co--editor of CNN's Belief Blog. All right, so the first question is, how does he know?

ERIC MARRAPODI, CO-EDITOR, CNN BELIEF BLOG: Well, Victor, what he's doing is he's going through the texts. He is going through the gospels, particularly, the gospel of Luke where it lays out this narrative of Jesus' birth story.

And what he does is he picked out these three specific instances, the date, the animals and the angels and he's gone through and corrected some of the traditions.

For example, on the date, he says that the timing where Jesus' birth where it is determined as year zero where we had before Christ and then after, he said that date is probably wrong and made by a monk in 550.

The date is probably much earlier if you look at the other sources. Let's look at something else, the animals. You talk about the oxes. This is going to be upsetting to some kids who are supposed to play the ox or the sheep in the Christmas pageant this year at church.

BLACKWELL: It was really disappointing because I was a lamb in the first grade nativity play and I feel like I wasted my time now.

MARRAPODI: Well, maybe not just quite yet. Let's look at this passage from the gospel of Luke here. It says Mary and she gave birth to her first born son, and she, there is Mary, and wrapped him in bands of cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.

Of course, we know Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem for the census. There is no room, so they go to this stable. And the pope talks about in the book that the manger is the place where the animals ate. He says there is an implicit reference to animals in that part of the story, but not an explicit reference. You can't make the jump that there were animals present at the birth.

Of course, later on in the story we know there are shepherds, which is probably why you played a sheep in your Christmas pageant because down the line the angels come and talk to the shepherds. The thinking is they may have brought those sheep with them to the manger scene.

BLACKWELL: So let's talk more about the angels because there are so many carols about the angels singing and maybe the issue is with the singing here specifically.

MARRAPODI: Again, when we get to that textual criticism here is what the pope is doing as he is breaking apart the story. One of the things that is important, he says, in the story it says the angels said to the shepherds, instead of the angels sang to the shepherds.

So there he's parsing out that word, and saying, while tradition has said they sang to them, and that what they said glory to God in the highest and all that made it into lots of carols and songs.

The text says they only said it to the shepherds, so there the pope is saying, look, that's part of the tradition there that they sang, but it really -- the text says they just said it.

So really we should focus on what they said instead of whether or not they were saying it or singing it.

BLACKWELL: All right, Eric Marrapodi, we now sing hark the herald angels said. Thank you very much.

MARRAPODI: You got it, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Up next, children having children, the often repeated cycle, offers little hope for the young parents. Now a woman helps teenage moms. We'll meet this CNN hero next.


BLACKWELL: Columbia, it is a nation why nearly one in five teenage girls is pregnant or already a mother. And it is here we find one of our top ten "CNN Heroes."

Catalina Escobar spends her days carving out brighter futures for these young moms and their children. She joins me now via Skype from Bogota, Colombia. Catalina, welcome.


BLACKWELL: First, can you paint a picture for us of what life is like for these young mothers and these pregnant teenagers in Colombia and how your group is helping them?

ESCOBAR: Well, first of all, we recruit the girls from extreme poverty. These girls come from families that are really, really in the base of the pyramid.

And the only thing they do is expect whatever happens to their life, their mothers have been teenagers, pregnant teenagers, and their grandmothers as well.

Actually I met grandmothers of 20 years old so whatever they have in life, it is become pregnant.

BLACKWELL: What are their prospects? I imagine it is difficult to -- to move up the social stratus to get a better job, to provide for your children, when your children are pregnant and you're 28 and a grandmother.

ESCOBAR: The problem is when a girl gets pregnant. She will drop out of school immediately. And that's a fact and it is an equation. And the next year, she's going to get pregnant again of a different man.

So what we do is really get them out of there and give them studies, they graduate from high school, we provide them with education in college or technical schools as well as giving them productive workshops.

For us it is so very important to empower them so they can become productive because it is the only way for them to break that cycle of poverty.

BLACKWELL: This started with your story. Tell us about how you were introduced to all of this, your personal story.

ESCOBAR: Well, my second son passed away. He fell from an eighth floor when he was 14 months old. I'm married to a Cartagenian and we lived there for years. Cartagena is a beautiful city, but it is surrounded by misery.

I describe Cartagena as Latin Somalia. It is unbelievable the poverty here. So you cannot live in Cartagena or come around and not see the poverty or se the slums. It is so attached to you.

So I decided to work in a public hospital and before my son passed away, I saw how baby died because her mom -- her teenage mom raise like around $60 to save this life. So four days later my son died and I just associated both incidents that, for me, a baby or my son wouldn't die for money.

It died because of an accident, but there was so -- a lot of moms around the city going through a process of grief because they didn't have the money. So 11 years ago, I decided to take this leap, just saving lives wasn't good enough.

What we found out was that 30 percent of all pregnancies in the city were from girls between 12 and 18 years of age. So that became a real issue. Teenage pregnancy and infant mortality rates are two basic concepts.

BLACKWELL: All right, Catalina Escobar doing great work for the mothers who wouldn't have a way to care for themselves and for their children and break this cycle as you call it. Again, thank you very much.

And you at home can now vote for your favorite among the top ten CNN Heroes for 2012. Go to, cast your ballot. The winner will be announced and all ten heroes honored live on December 2nd at our CNN Heroes All-Star Tribute hosted by Anderson Cooper.