Jewish American Who Visited Arafat Weds Palestinian Activist

A Jewish American who joined Yasser Arafat at his besieged West Bank office married a Palestinian-American activist in a ceremony blending Christian and Jewish rites.

Adam Shapiro, 30, of New York and Huwaida Arraf, 26, of the Detroit suburb of Roseville were married Sunday at St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church in Troy.

"I'm very excited," Shapiro said before the ceremony began. "Now that it is actually happening, I'm very happy."

About 300 relatives and friends attended the ceremony, in which a passage from the book of Genesis was read in Arabic and the groom followed the Jewish tradition of stepping on a glass.

"It is not political in any way, shape or form," said Arraf. "I don't even think along those lines. I'm marrying someone from a Jewish background. I have many friends who are Israeli.

"This 'Arab vs. Jew' thing is misleading."

Both Shapiro and Arraf have played visible parts in promoting Palestinian rights during the recent flare-up of fighting between Israel and Palestinian forces.

On March 29, Shapiro accompanied an ambulance crew into Arafat's Ramallah headquarters, besieged by Israel's army in an invasion that followed the Passover suicide bombing of an Israeli resort hotel.

Shapiro spent 24 hours in Arafat's compound, sharing breakfast with the Palestinian leader and about six aides. He later gave the media an account of conditions inside.

Afterward, Shapiro's parents, Stuart and Doreen Shapiro, received death threats and temporarily fled their Brooklyn home.

Arraf and 12 other foreign supporters of the Palestinians were arrested May 2 in Bethlehem, after 10 other members of their group got into the Church of the Nativity in defiance of the Israeli soldiers surrounding the shrine.

The activist couple's path to the altar began in Jerusalem, where they first met two years ago. Shapiro was director of Seeds of Peace, an international organization that promotes peace between cultures. Arraf was a program coordinator.

The couple plan to begin their married life in the Middle East.