In less than a week, three of us from Alliance of Community trainers will join 1300 other people in Cairo to begin a Gaza Freedom March. Lisa, Juniper and I will join Code Pink and a coalition of peace groups who have attracted an impressive list of participants, including Pulitzer Prize Winner Alice Walker. On the anniversary of the Israeli assault which last year claimed the lives of sixteen hundred and sixty Palestinians and thirteen Israelis, we will attempt to enter Gaza through the Rafah border to meet with human rights groups and civil society activists and to bear witness to the continuing devastation. Over four thousand homes and eighty public buildings were destroyed, including much of Gazas vital infrastructure. Since that time, the Israeli military has maintained a siege on Gaza, preventing materials, medicines, food and consumer goods from entering or leaving.
On December 31, we’ll be joined by sixty thousand Gazans in a nonviolent march to the Israeli border at Erez, to demand the siege be lifted. ACT will join other nonviolence trainers in helping to prepare all the members of our group to respond nonviolently to violence.
Six years have gone by since I was in Gaza. I went down there in the spring of 2003 to support the teams with the International Solidarity Movement after Rachel Corrie, a twenty-three year old volunteer, was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer as she attempted to prevent a Palestinian home from being demolished. I went down again a few weeks later to support many of the same team members who were with Tom Hurndall, a twenty-two year old British photographer, when he was mortally wounded by an Israeli sniper as he attempted to rescue children who were under fire.
Six years ago, Gaza was a hellish landscape of rubble, dust and razor wire. Packs of traumatized children roamed the streets, crying ‘What’s your name? What’s your name?” like flocks of starlings who only know one call. They had nowhere to go and nothing to play with. The images from that trip are still so vivid: sitting in a farmhouse as Nahed holds her children who do their homework while bullets thudd into the walls and tanks prowl. Drinking tea with Abu Akhmed in his courtyard surrounded by high, concrete walls while tanks grind by in the ruined fields where he once cultivated olive trees. Drinking coffee on plush, red velvet chairs as stout, sweet Rafi tries to make plans for a Children’s Fun Day in Rafah—wondering if ‘fun’ and ‘Rafah’ can ever be brought together. Staring up at the sniper towers as we make our way through blasted streets, walls plastered with posters of martyrs, knowing that soldiers we might never see could shoot at any moment.
Those days punctuated with shells and bullets and casual murders were the good days—for beneath the rubble was still a ground of a strong community of people struggling to maintain some semblance of normal life. People celebrated marriages and waited long hours at checkpoints to attend university and a few donkey carts still brought onions to market.
The homes I stayed in, which were on the border, are all gone now. The tree that gave sweet oranges that Soriya stuffed into my pockets, the last of the olives, the rambling old farmhouses and crowded, concrete tenements—gone. I don’t know what remains, and how the people there are managing to survive. I hope to find out, to bear witness, to lend some small weight of my own to the cause of justice.
“Don’t send me any more of these posts,” I’ve heard from some members of my own family. “We’ll never agree—you just want to hate Israel.”
I was raised to love Israel—raised in the American Jewish world of the ‘fifties, when Israel was a dream come true, a miraculous salvation from the grief and terror of the Holocaust. I was raised on stories like the Hanukkah story we celebrate this week—a small band of heroic Maccabees fighting off the entire Greek army of occupation, reclaiming the land from the tyrant Antiochus, purifying the defiled temple with miracle oil that burned for eight nights instead of only one.
But I was also raised to love justice, not tyranny—no matter who the tyrants profess to be. Without justice for the Palestinians, there can be no security or peace for Israelis. Whether Antiochus wears a toga or a turban or a tallis, I’m not on his side.
“We’re not Israelis, we’re not Palestinians—we are people standing together for justice,” a young Israeli activist once said to me. In the next weeks, I hope to stand together, with Jews, Christians, Muslims and other Pagans, with people from forty-five different countries, and with the people of Gaza themselves, to cry out for justice.
I’m asking for your support, on a number of levels. First—to hold us in your thoughts, send us energy, protection, to visualize gates opening before us, borders dissolving, roads being clear.
Next, to be on standby if we need political pressure or public support—not just for us, but for the people of Gaza and the Occupied Territories. I’ll be posting accounts to here on this blog, to my Facebook page, to my own listserve which you can join at www.starhawk.org. Goddess help me, I may even set up a Twitter account—if so, I’ll announce it on all of the above.
Solidarity vigils and marches are already being planned—want to organize one? If you’re in the Bay Area, there’s a candlelight vigil on December 27 at Union Square, and a local Gaza Freedom March across the Golden Gate Bridge from 12-2 pm on December 31.
Right now, we’re asking everyone to call or write your Representative and urge them to sign onto two crucial letters: the McDermott-Ellison letter to President Obama urging him to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza and, second, the Moran-Inglis letter to Secretary of State Clinton, urging her to press the Israeli government to end the ban on student travel from Gaza to the West Bank.
Here’s a link to the progressive Jewish group J-Street’s site to make it real easy to do just that:
And, of course, we can also use your financial support. You can help Alliance of Community Trainers will be helping to provide training for the march. But that’s not all we do. ACT’s Lisa Fithian has been in Copenhagen for weeks training activists and helping to organize the climate change mobilizations. Throughout the year she has provided trainings at college campuses for youth activist groups around the country. Have you ever deplored today’s young people—how they just aren’t engaged like we were in the Sixties? Lisa is the antidote to youth apathy! She’s also deeply involved in organizing the Climate Pledge of Resistance, Union organizing, and many other things.
I teach and organize Earth Activist Trainings, www.earthactivisttraining.org
which combine the solution-based ecological design science of permaculture with a grounding in spirit and a focus on action and organizing. I also work with Transition USA providing training in process and facilitation. And there are many other projects and programs ACT supports, like our Skills for New Millenium Permie Bus, http://www.permibus.org/Skills_Tour/Skills_Tour_Home.html and Radical Urban Sustainability Trainings http://www.radicalsustainability.org/
Check out our website, http://trainersalliance.org/ where you can also make a tax-deductible donation:
Or donate by mail at:
Alliance of Community Trainers (ACT)
PO Box 1286
Austin TX 78767-1286
Anything you can give, large or small, will lift our spirits and help us to keep doing this work. Much gratitude to all of you who continue to be generous with your support. May the returning light of Solstice strengthen the light of justice in this world!
Alliance of Community Trainers
Earth Activist Training