THIS is the exclusive first picture of the West Chiltington woman arrested and detained by Israeli forces for trying to visit Bethlehem in the West Bank.
Audrey Gray, 77 a retired nurse and current Methodist preacher, was one of 12 people detained after travelling to Israel aiming to stay at the Palestinian Aida refugee camp just north of the city.
She was travelling in a group of 25 people to Bethlehem via Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport.
Once detained the plucky pensioner reportedly went on hunger strike.
In a recent Methodist church newsletter she commented on her trip saying that ‘there will be others from around the world visiting at the same time going to other locations around Bethlehem.’
She added about how her British passport says she is able to pass freely across boarders she commented: ‘We expect that to be honoured if it is not, then the alternative may be custody care of the Government of Israel, so watch this space.’
The group were arrested at the border on Friday July 8 and taken to Bir el-Sabah prison in southern Israel.
The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), which was coordinating the British arm of the visit, said that no specific charges had been made against them.
Around 700 people from around the world had intended to the visit city, which is located inside Palestinian territory, on the invitation of families there. The campaigners were planning to join a week of events in support of Palestinians in the wider West Bank area.
On the SPSC website they had a comment from Ms Gray on why she wanted to go which said: “I want to make a difference in some small way. In the past 20 years I have made seven pilgrimages to the region and lived on the West Bank for four and a half months in 2008 and have seen for myself the difficulties, conditions and constraints under which people live.”
Talking exclusively to the County Times Audrey Gray described being arrested. She said: “I saw a group of them gather outside and then the police, immigration and soldiers came in, one stood on a table with a video camera and the whole atmosphere changed.
“They started saying that they would interview us one by one, but we protested and said we wanted to go in groups as we were frightened of what they would do to us if we were alone. Then one of the guards came and went to take a French man and people gathered around. I saw the guy filming it all it was as if they wanted to show us as hooligans, so they created this atmosphere of fear to get a reaction.”
At the prison they were searched and their bags were taken away, in the time she was there she only had one pair of clothes which she had to keep cleaning.
She said: “You just couldn’t trust anyone, one minute they would be nice to you and the next they would be horrible, you just couldn’t tell what kind of mood they would be in.”
In the time she was there she was never told why they were detained, she said: “You have to remember we did nothing wrong and yet we were treated like prisoners.”
A statement from SPSC said: “Six UK nationals and two US citizens landed at London’s Luton Airport at 2350 tonight (Tuesday).”
They has previously stated that Ms Gray was one of those due to return home on that flight.