#GoingtoGaza – July 2015

Traveling to Gaza is challenging, as my daily, monthly, yearly journal illustrates. I’m thankful I visited Gaza in 2004 (10 days) and again in 2012-2013 (9 months). When I return to Gaza, I’ll think twice about leaving again considering the obstacles in traveling across the border.

The following entried are from July 2015 when I was in Baltimore awaiting approval from Egypt to cross the Sinai. Earlier entries can be found on my blog.

Day #299 – Reading David Hirst’s book about the history of Palestine. Wish I’d read it many years ago. #GoingtoGaza

Day #300 – Feeling depressed. Lack of sleep contributing to my depression. Not much hope getting into Gaza. No plan B. #GoingtoGaza

Day #301 – Met Maurice Jacobsen online. He’s started a new video project called WE ALL LIVE IN GAZA.  www.wegaza.com  He’s hoping to get into Gaza.  #GoingtoGaza

Day #302 – Good chat with Hamza from Gaza on Skype and spent time reviewing his paper.  I need to be more disciplined about my own writing.  #GoingtoGaza

Day #303 – The 4th of July, overcast and raining in Baltimore. I have never felt patriotic or full of national pride. Don’t care to wave flags and sing songs. Thinking America’s birthday celebration should be accompanied by some sober assessment of the need to mature and grow up. #GoingtoGaza

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Lora Lucero in Baltimore summer 2015

Day #304 – Trying to figure out Plan B if I can’t get into Gaza. How much longer do I wait? Can I help from “outside”? What does “help” mean? #GoingtoGaza

Day #305 – “Helping Gaza from the outside” could possibly mean:

(1) raising $$ for a good cause

(2) writing about Gaza and getting published

(3) working for an NGO outside of Gaza focused on Human Rights in Gaza

(4) helping – working with the legal effort at the ICC?

(5) speaking about Gaza in USA  What else? #GoingtoGaza

Day #306 – “Why should Americans give a damn about Gaza?” I need to answer that question before I meet with Rep. Lujan-Grisham later this month. #GoingtoGaza

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Author David Hirst

Day #307 – I sat next to a young woman on the bus who asked me about the book on my lap. David Hirst’s “The Gun and the Olive Branch“.  I felt very comfortable and confident talking about the book, Israel and Palestine.  Wish it was always that easy. #GoingtoGaza

Days #308-309 – Saw my hero from a distance tonight (July 9, 2015). President Jimmy Carter was autographing his book “A Full Life – Reflections at Ninety” for 200+ people standing in long line at Politics & Prose in DC.  I took the bus, Amtrak, Marc, Metro and walked a couple miles to get there. It was worth the effort!  #GoingtoGaza

Day #310 – Traveled to NYC on Bolt Bus. Connections were easy. No waiting lines. We take our mobility for granted. #GoingtoGaza

Days #311 – 312 – I had an aha moment on Saturday when I was standing on the platform waiting for the subway to go to Crown Heights. I cherish the experiences of immersing myself in new places, new cultures, new people. Hasidic Jews in Crown Heights, poor blacks at Enoch Pratt Library, Palestinians in Gaza. Many more.  I love observing them all.  Guess I’ve traded my future security and stability for these types of experiences. #GoingtoGaza

“You must accommodate changing times but cling to unchanging principles.” Pres. Carter’s school teacher – Miss Julia Coleman

Day #313 – Paint nite in Manhattan with sis and the nieces. Tired (had not slept nite before) and 2 gin & tonics. When my camera fell behind the bench, I felt awful. Upset and wanted to cry. Left and took subway home by myself. Sis and girls took taxi and beat me home. They tried to console me in front of the house. I felt more miserable for ruining the evening. What lesson(s) did I learn? That family is very important for my sanity and I’m lucky to have nieces who are so loving and empathetic. Chanie talked about positive affirmations. #GoingtoGaza <~~~~ is my positive affirmation.

Days #311 – 319  – Catching up on the days when I was not connected to social media and technology. Spent time with my family in NYC and Florida, and celebrated Ramadan and Eid with my Palestinian friends in Florida. Off of Facebook for the month of Ramadan helped me redirect my focus and energy away from the “drama” and towards real relationships that I want to nurture more. #GoingtoGaza

Day #320 – A young Palestinian from Gaza announced on Facebook a conference in Gaza and invited everyone to come to Gaza. :-) :-) :-)  No theme for the conference. No dates for the conference. No idea how participants might travel and get into Gaza.  Dreaming of normalcy in an abnormal place. #GoingtoGaza

Day #321 – Watching how natural allies are fighting each other.

Example #1 – The PA in Ramallah is contributing to the suffering in Gaza by withholding fuel for the power plant in Gaza. Families are limited to 4 hours/day of electricity.

Example #2 – Groups in the U.S. working on educating Americans about the Israel/Palestine conflict are now in conflict with each other.

Is the human condition just designed to remain in conflict?  #GoingtoGaza

Day #322 – Walking in the bowels of Baltimore’s Basilica, the oldest cathedral in the U.S.  A middle-aged woman from Jamaica asked me my age. I asked “Why?” She said her mother was over 100.  WTF?!?!  When did I turn into Old Age, the Ancient One, or Wise Old Fool? #GoingtoGaza

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Refaat Alareer and Rawan Yaghi meet with Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham (D-NM)

Day #323 – Met with Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham’s staff today in her DC office. She returned to ABQ this morning because her daughter gave birth. Congratulations! We talked about:

1) Anniversary of Operation Protective Edge and the facts on the ground in Gaza today.

2) My petition to Congress asking them to send an invitation to Jimmy Carter.

3) The new group Friends of Khuza’a New Mexico and their invitation to attend the event in September with Palestinian musician Issa Maluf.

4) Rep. McCollum’s letter to Secretary Kerry

5)  BDS and H.Reso. 318

6) The DARK Act

Hope to sit down with Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham during the last week in August in her ABQ office. #GoingtoGaza

Day #324 – Watching a good number of “peace” activists fighting, calling each other names, verbally attacking and disrespecting each other, and I’m thinking……

(1) With friends like these, who needs enemies?

(2) Will they gain any insights into their own behaviors?

(3) They appear to be reenacting the Israel-Palestine conflict on another stage and a different scale.

(4) Would Palestinians be better off if all the “peace” activists just burned out and quit their activism?

(5)  We all need to get our own house in order before trying to “fix” another’s house.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #325IMPUNITY should be the new word of the day, week, month, year!

Israel and IDF act with impunity against Palestinians

Cops act with impunity against blacks

Big oil, fossil fuels industry acts with impunity against our children and future generations

Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street Banks act with impunity against all of us

We (you and I) need to end all of these acts of impunity, or else we get what we deserve.

#GoingtoGaza

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GOD Doesn’t Mean You Get to Live Forever – A One Act Musical at the Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church, July 25, 2015

Day #326 – My friend helped me get out of my box yesterday. She took me to a musical in a black Baptist Church in DC with loud gospel singers. Getting out of my box —- that’s been an unstated lifelong mission. Might also explain why I went to Gaza the first time in 2004.  Why do some people prefer to live in their boxes and others don’t? #GoingtoGaza

Day #327 – Nowhere else on the planet does one have to jump through as many hoops to visit, as Gaza. Speaking from experience — not USSR/Russia, Mongolia, China, Egypt, Norway, Cuba, Mexico etc. Israel is the jailer. Israel holds the keys. Israel decides who can & cannot enter Gaza. DON’T TELL ME THAT GAZA IS NOT OCCUPIED!!!!! #GoingtoGaza

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Lora with the Congressional office pooch.

Day #328 – Hope that staff from the offices of my Congressional delegation attend the briefing on Capitol Hill tomorrow about Gaza. Makes me think: You can lead a horse to water but can’t force it to drink. #GoingtoGaza

Day #329 – Today Israeli authorities refused to allow a Palestinian-American to enter Israel-Palestine to visit her family. Why? After hours of answering the same questions again and again, the last official decided she was being uncooperative. I can’t begin to imagine the anger and hatred she must be feeling tonight. #GoingtoGaza

On this day a year ago, Glenn Greenwald wrote the best piece about “terror” – “terrorism” and “terror tunnels” here.

In American media discourse, when Palestinians overwhelmingly kill soldiers (95% of the Israeli death toll) who are part of an army that is blockading, occupying, invading, and indiscriminately bombing them and killing their children by the hundreds, that is “terrorism”; when Israelis use massive, brutal force against a trapped civilian population, overwhelmingly killing innocent men, women and children (at least 75% of the Palestinian death toll), with clear intentions to kill civilians (see point 3), that is noble “self-defense.” That demonstrates how skewed U.S. discourse is in favor of Israel, as well as the purely manipulative, propagandistic nature of the term “terrorists.”

Day #330 – I have several Palestinian friends who have studied in Malaysia, and I hear good things about their experiences in Malaysia. I also read about the human rights abuses in Malaysia…..specifically human trafficking…..and wonder what my Palestinian friends think about that issue. #GoingtoGaza

Day #331 – American news is focused on the public’s anger over the killing of a lion in Zimbabwe by a Minnesota dentist. How can we mobilize the same anger and attention towards Israel’s actions against the Palestinians in Gaza? I’m genuinely puzzled. Why are Americans roused off of their recliners to rant about Cecil the Lion (he even has a name!) — while the Palestinians launch a campaign “We Are Not Numbers” (WANN) to remind Americans and the rest of the world that they are more than mere statistics and they have names? Why? Please NPR, NY Times, and CNN — tell Americans about WANN.  #GoingtoGaza

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Singing for the future in Gaza

My heart sings when I hear these young people. They are the hope for the future.

 

 

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#GoingtoGaza – June 2015

Keeping a daily journal of my efforts to return to Gaza helps me retrace my steps. This pilgrimage certainly isn’t easy and my gut tells me the path is just as important as the destination.  For previous months, check out my blog posts: September 2014, October 2014, November 2014, December 2014, January 2015, February 2015, March 2015, April 2015 and May 2015.  What follows are entries for the month of June 2015.

Day #273 – Communicating about hot button issues (religion, politics, Israel-Palestine) is so challenging.  Rethinking my whole approach (especially after reading “The Righteous Mind” by Haidt). Going to write a book review today. Take away message—-we try to convince the “other” person with our rational arguments but the “other” person can’t hear or appreciate rational arguments when his/her opinions originate from intuition. Likewise, our opinions very likely originate from intuition, followed by strategic reasoning. Haidt says that conservatives understand this, but liberals typically don’t. #GoingtoGaza

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Day #274 – Thinking electoral politics is for the birds!

Fact No. 1 – Palestinians haven’t had an election in 9 years and the old farts in office don’t seem eager to hold another.

Fact No. 2 – Israeli P.M. Netanyahu wins his election by warning Israelis that the “Arabs are coming to the polls in droves” thus proving Israel is a racist state.

Fact No. 3 – Millions of Palestinians living under occupation can’t vote in Israeli elections despite the fact that Israel has so much control over their lives.

Fact No. 4 – Elections in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, NM, USA run like clockwork but the elected officeholders prove like clockwork that they are corruptible or corrupted.

Fact No. 5 – My generation has screwed things up so royally that future generations will feel the full blunt force trauma of our actions, despite having no voice and no voting power.

I agree with Tracy Chapman — We’re Talking About a Revolution. #GoingtoGaza

Day #275 – News from Gaza. Some militants in Gaza fired something (rockets?) into southern Israel today. No fatalities or damage reported. ISIS claimed responsibility. Hamas has been battling ISIS operatives in Gaza. Tonight Israel’s jets scrambled; lots of noise and several air strikes were reported. No fatalities. I’m thinking of the young children who survived last summer’s assault on Gaza that lasted 51 days. While Bruce Jenner commands too many soundbites and photo spreads documenting his “freedom to be himself/herself” — these Palestinian children have no freedoms and can’t just be innocent kids. What a screwed up universe. #GoingtoGaza

Day #274 – Watching “activists” on FB and Twitter, I’m struck with our ineffectual communication skills. (I include myself.)

1) Some activists refuse to have an exchange with anyone who disagrees with them. “Unfriend” option is so childish.

2) Some activists prefer to lecture or “educate” but are clueless about what others think.

3) Some activists really believe that meaningful change can occur via social media alone, and it sounds like they are stuck on their divans.

Here’s a book I hope activists will pick up. If we want to change the status quo, which I presume we all do, we have to understand the other side. The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt (2012)  #GoingtoGaza

Day #275 – On this day in 1967, Israel launched an attack against Egypt, known today as the Six Day War but to the Palestinians as the Naksah. I wonder how many of my American friends know about the attack on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967. #GoingtoGaza

Day #276 – Here is a good account of the difficulties traveling across the Rafah Border from Egypt to Gaza, written in 3 parts. Part 1  –  Part 2  –  Part 3  Very discouraging!  #GoingtoGaza

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Days #277 – 278 – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Zivotofsky family and said they will not get “Israel” marked as the place of birth on their son’s passport. Kennedy’s opinion said that the President has the sole responsibility for recognizing a sovereign nation. Time for Obama to recognize the State of Palestine. #GoingtoGaza

Day #279 – “Confirmation bias” … a new phrase that a psychologist-friend recently taught me. Confirmation bias is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions. I clearly see it among pro-Israeli activists, pro-Palestinian activists, and with greater scrutiny, I can now see it with myself. We want to find the “facts” to support our world view, and we disregard facts that may negate our world view.  This is very interesting stuff….   #GoingtoGaza

Day #280 – Feeling very pleased that over 600 letters have been sent to members of Congress asking them to invite former President Carter to speak about his recent visit to Israel & Palestine.  I’m planning to visit Capitol Hill with these signatures once we reach 1000+ letters.  Check out the petition here. Add your signature!  #GoingtoGaza

Carter in DC

Day #281 – Netanyahu and his cabinet are doing everyone a favor by using blunt and vulgar language concerning their real intentions towards the Palestinians. Nothing new, of course, except that they aren’t pretending to hide behind a veneer of reasonableness any longer. Obama is going to find it increasingly difficult to side with the Israelis or pretend to be a peace broker. #GoingtoGaza

Day #282 – Palestinians in Gaza may be blockaded and under Israel’s lethal siege, but they are CONNECTED to the world.  Case in point. Today the U.S. House of Representatives voted on the “Fast Track” bill which many Americans opposed. I waited for news about the vote. I sat in Baltimore about an hour from the Capitol listening to public radio and watching news sites for the results. Finally, my friend in Gaza half way around the world posted a message on Facebook with the good news! The Fast Track bill was defeated! Thank you Internet. Thank you social media! Thank you friends!

Day #283 – As much as I want to return to Gaza, this weekend I’m praying that my young friend in Gaza will exit the Rafah gates when they open for 3 days. He was accepted abroad to pursue graduate studies but Israel has treated him like a prisoner all of his life in Gaza. May Allah protect him in his travels! #GoingtoGaza

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Day #284 – Al-hamdulillah! My young friend made it out of Gaza through the Rafah border crossing. He said there were many military checkpoints through the Sinai, and the place looked like a military zone with all of the tanks, etc. But his bus made it to the Cairo Airport. Now I’m saying prayers that he makes it on to a plane. I can’t imagine what his family back home must be feeling. #GoingtoGaza

Day #285 – Lots happening this week. Yesterday Israel released its 250-page report about its investigation of Operation Protective Edge last summer … as a preemptive move against the pending release of the UN Human Rights Council investigative report. This week marks the 8th anniversary of Israel’s siege on Gaza. Ramadan begins Sundown on Wednesday, I think. Denny Cormier and my young Palestinian friend both left Gaza. #GoingtoGaza

Day #286 – What is the difference between me wearing my “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt and Rachel Dolezal changing her hair, eye color and skin pigment to look like she is African American? Answer: I’m not trying to be someone I’m not. I’m standing in solidarity with African Americans. I’m acknowledging the injustices. But I’m not pretending to step into their shoes and understand their life experience, their reality, their oppression. Same goes for the Palestinians. I won’t pretend to stand in their shoes, but I wonder if some zealous activists have tried to cross that line. #GoingtoGaza

Day #287 – First day of Ramadan. I de-activated my Facebook page. Started listening to the audiobook The Haj by Leon Uris. #GoingtoGaza

Days #288-289 – Going cold turkey from Facebook might not be as hard as I thought.  I’m checking Twitter more often and don’t really miss the FB clutter. Today I submitted application for UN Human Rights Officer in Gaza.  I really, really, really hope I’m selected. #GoingtoGaza

Day #290 – The closer one is to realizing his Personal Legend, the more the Personal Legend becomes his true reason for being. There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: fear of failure. The Alchemist #GoingtoGaza

Day #291 – Felt very good today to talk with Basya and, later, Jeremy.  Connecting with family is the glue that keeps us all together! #GoingtoGaza

Day #292 – Spent the day reading the UN Human Rights Investigation into the war in Gaza last summer. Utterly devastating to read. I can’t begin to imagine what it must have felt to live through it. #GoingtoGaza

Days #293-294 – Taking a month off of Facebook is a good thing. But I may have substituted one addiction for another. Now I find myself checking Twitter every few minutes. Uh-oh! Finished reading the UN’s report on the Gaza 2014 war. Devastating words! #GoingtoGaza

Days #295 – 298 – Disconnected from Facebook is a really good thing.  But it also feels good when friends from Gaza and NM reach out to me to find out if I’m OK because they’re worried that I’m not on FB.  #GoingtoGaza

 

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Civil society in Amman

An invitation to meet the teachers and volunteers at the Syrian Women’s Association (SWA) in Amman was a golden opportunity to see the Muslim faith in action — thanks to Eman (from Gaza) and Maryam (from Malaysia).

My friend in Amman braved the crazy city traffic, including a fender bender, to take me to the center and translate for me.

This was a special day at the SWA — they were celebrating the good work of the many volunteers who teach Syrian women how to sew, style hair, or cook — all with the goal of learning skills that can be used to earn a living to support themselves and their families. They also teach English lessons.

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Volunteers at the Syrian Women Association in Amman, Jordan

The SWA’s model is a very smart way to make a big difference in the lives of many Syrian refugees fleeing to Jordan. The women learn how to sew and make new garments on an electric sewing machine. When they finish, each refugee can keep her sewing machine. Later, she returns to the SWA with the clothes she’s made at home. The SWA pays her for each item she has made and then turns around to sell the hand-made clothes in Amman to support the work of the SWA.

It appears to be a very solid, sustainable model that gives each refugee new skills, independence and self-respect — a much better way to help than the model of dependency and donations that many larger NGOs use. (I heard whispers about the corruption that exists in some of the foreign NGOs.)

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SWA founder shows her appreciation to Maryam, a volunteer from Malaysia.

The SWA is run by a woman who fled Syria many years ago because she was facing imprisonment there. I think she traveled alone to Jordan, studied religious teachings and ended up marrying another Syrian she met in Amman who is now a doctor. She started the SWA ten years ago before the current fighting but now, of course, there is a much greater need for assistance.

She runs it with a few employees but most of the teachers are volunteers. In addition to the women who receive training, the SWA provides an after-school program for Syrian orphans. My friend from Amman, a retired teacher, was so impressed with the organization that she offered to volunteer!

 

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Hadith on the wall – teaching the children how to read the Qu’ran

I was reminded again how small and interconnected our world is when a Syrian woman at SWA asked me where I’m from. “New Mexico, USA,” I told her, half expecting that she might confuse New Mexico with Mexico. She smiled and told me “My Uncle lives in Gallup, New Mexico.”

The take-away message for me — after my short visit at the SWA — is that small organizations run by big hearts can make a huge difference in the lives of many. The world needs to look closely at the model used by SWA — local, hands-on, self-sufficient, respect and sustainable. Women helping women — one stitch at a time.

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Wedding dresses for young brides from Syria

 

 

 

 

 

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#GoingtoGaza – May 2015

I was in Baltimore in May 2015 as the community was in turmoil. The following entries are from my journal for that month on my pilgrimage back to Gaza. Check my blog for the previous months’ entries.

Days #242-243 – Sitting in Baltimore now, watching the #Baltimoreuprising and #Baltimoreriots. The thread that runs between Gaza and Baltimore is giving me pause to think about 1) how I communicate and 2) how I can best use my gifts (privileges) to change the status quo. #GoingtoGaza

Day #245 – Met Tom Hayden at the Baltimore Library today where he was talking about his new book “Listen, Yankee!” He’s 75 years old and human. I imagined him younger and verging on super-hero. Some people fit into their skin early in life. Others (me) still haven’t. #GoingtoGaza

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Tom Hayden and Lora in Baltimore (May 2015)

Days #246-247 – Shifting my focus from Egypt to Israel and the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip. I crossed through Erez in 2004 (before Hamas was elected) and remember the feeling I had walking through the long cage between Israel and Gaza. It felt inhumane then. Wonder what it must feel like now. #GoingtoGaza

Day #248 – I learned this morning that a very good friend from Gaza has been accepted into a program this summer in DC. !*!*!*! Now he must apply for a Visa to travel which requires an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. No big deal, right?  Except that Israel will either allow him to travel to Tel Aviv, or not. Israeli apologists – PLEASE don’t tell me that Israel doesn’t occupy Gaza. That’s bull shit. I wish The New York Times would finally come clean on that point. #GoingtoGaza and praying that my friend is #GoingtoUSA

Day #249 – Nearly reached my fundraising goal for the #Gaza5K to support UNRWA’s work with children in Gaza. And making progress on getting books for the backpacks that will be shipped to Gaza. Feeling very jazzed!! #GoingtoGaza

Day #250 – Feeling more hopeful today. There are more ways than one to skin this cat…..and get back to Gaza. #GoingtoGaza

Day #251 – ISIS (aka Daesh) in Gaza?! I just read this short article that says ISIS is battling Hamas in the Gaza Strip. If true, my plans for returning to Gaza just took a sharp detour. #GoingtoGaza maybe

Days #252-253 – Spending time with family is like taking the car into the shop for a tune-up or recharging the batteries. This weekend with family recharged my personal batteries. #GoingtoGaza

Day #254 – I know I’m not alone. I’m trying to return to Gaza and my friends in Gaza are watching and waiting and hoping I’m able to return. Thank you my friends. #GoingtoGaza

Day #255 – Watched a video on Netflix last night called #ChicagoGirl about how citizen journalists are using technology to organize the revolution in Syria. I thought about the occupation of Palestine. Finished reading Tom Hayden’s book today – “Listen, Yankee! Why Cuba Matters”. I thought about the blockade of Gaza. Everything seems connected to Gaza, at least in my mind. #GoingtoGaza

Days #256-257 – Spent Thursday preparing for meetings in DC. Friday is Nakba Day (Catastrophe) when Palestinians remember 1948 – the beginning of their forcible expulsion from their homes, lands and communities at the hands of the Zionists. More than 750,000 Palestinians were expelled and more than 500 villages were destroyed to make room for the new State of Israel. Today I’m meeting with staff in Senators Udall and Heinrich’s offices, and staff in Rep. Lujan-Grisham’s office to tell them about the Nakba and give them some papers. #GoingtoGaza

Day #258 – Walked the #Gaza5K in 1:03:34. Met some new friends — a retired doctor from Pittsburgh who worked in the West Bank and Gaza for a time, and a new young eye doctor who visited Jordan and the West Bank for a few days. The energy at this UNRWA event was very positive with 900+ signed up. I took pictures and posted them online because I want my friends in Gaza to see how many Americans care about them. #GoingtoGaza

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Day #259 – I’ve been walking so much the past few months that my big toe seems to be permanently bruised. I wonder if I’m going to lose the toenail. At least I don’t have any blisters. Whew! #GoingtoGaza

Day #262 – After a couple of recent trips to Capitol Hill, there’s no doubt in my mind that the pro-Israel lobby has almost every member of Congress in a head vise. Senate and House staff have the jargon down pat — “Hamas is a terrorist organization” and “Israel has a right to defend herself.” I don’t think they understand that their worldview of Israel-Palestine doesn’t match how most countries view Israel-Palestine. How does a constituent have a conversation about the occupation in a 15-30 minute meeting?  #GoingtoGaza

Day #263 – A Palestinian friend from Gaza decided not to participate in a program in DC that brings Palestinians and Israelis together to listen and learn from each other.  Her decision is based on a concern, I think, about “normalization“. “It is helpful to think of normalization as a “colonization of the mind,” whereby the oppressed subject comes to believe that the oppressor’s reality is the only “normal” reality that must be subscribed to, and that the oppression is a fact of life that must be coped with. Those who engage in normalization either ignore this oppression, or accept it as the status quo that can be lived with.” #GoingtoGaza

Day #264 – Memorial Day weekend – when Americans remember those killed in combat, those maimed and disfigured, and those who committed suicide because the horrors of war are too much to bear. Families will be BBQing, waving flags and drinking beer!  While the Obama Administration has approved a $1.9 Billion sale of weapons to “replenish” Israel’s stock depleted last summer in Gaza.  Kill, kill, kill, die, die, die, $$$, $$$, $$$ — the credo of the Military Industrial Complex. And we play along like good suckers! #GoingtoGaza

Day #265 – I walked 13.2 miles today and finished listening to an audible book on my iPod called “A Flowering in Palestine” written by Andrew Reilly. A true story about an American Jew who grew up during the 1960s and 1970s. When his daughter has finished school and is ready to leave home, he decides to visit Israel. (1999). There, he learns the story of the Nakba and the Occupation and is so moved by the injustices he sees that he decides to accept a short-term teaching job in Bethlehem. Within a few weeks, he is shot and killed by an Israeli soldier while walking and singing with Palestinians who are peacefully protesting the murder of a Palestinian. Walking for fitness or walking to change the world—–as a Pilgrim I feel I’m doing both.  #GoingtoGaza

Day #266 – Beginning a new day. Nothing that a little Aleve won’t fix. Thinking a lot about tribalism and its destructive impacts. Is Memorial Day an opportunity for Americans to share one form of tribal affiliation? #GoingtoGaza

Day #267 – When will “service to our nation” refer to Americans doing good deeds at home and abroad, instead of Americans killing and dying? Answer: When our defense budget is aligned with our values, not our fears, and not what the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) demands. Take a look. The MIC is actually making us less secure. #GoingtoGaza

Day #268 – Rocket fire from Gaza provoked a response from Israel. And the cycle of violence continues. Two thoughts: Mainstream media is quick to report about the rocket fire from Gaza but has failed to report about Israel’s persistent violations of the truce over the past 10 months, and there have been many. There’s a new acronym that applies to nearly every child in Gaza. PPTSD = Permanent Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. #GoingtoGaza

Day #269 – Currently reading “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” (a 2012 social psychology book by Jonathan Haidt). He makes the point that Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (forming the acronym WEIRD) people see the world full of separate objects, rather than relationships. People in a non-WEIRD society are more likely to see relationships, contexts, groups, and institutions — not focused on protecting individuals. Today I heard that Bernalillo County Commissioners are likely to approve a badly-conceived development plan and have conveniently divided the land use / water issues.  Reminds me of what I read in Haidt’s book last night. #GoingtoGaza

Day #270 – Surprised and disappointed by 3 recent posts on Facebook — (1) a plea by a long-time American activist for Palestine that people stop a whispering attack against her, (2) a response to her plea that maybe the criticism against her is justified, and (3) a petition today asking people not to engage in such divisive attacks online against fellow activists. I’m surprised because I was unaware of this “internal” strife until recently. I’m disappointed because pro-Palestine activists are human after all. Maybe everyone has good intentions but we’re individuals with our own ideas and ways of doing things.  May all activists (regardless of your goals) model peace, tolerance and compassion. #GoingtoGaza

Days #271 – 272 – A new insight came to me yesterday as I was sharing with a friend. As a Pilgrim, I’ve been feeling some measure of discomfort about not being able to see the future. Where will I be this time next year? What will I be doing? Pre-Pilgrim days, I had a vision and greater certainty about my path, and felt some comfort in knowing what lay ahead. Now I realize, those days were really a delusion — a false sense of security but not reality. As a Pilgrim, I’m living a life more appreciative of the present. #GoingtoGaza

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Fundraising fatigue

There are many urgent needs in Gaza; and many people and organizations are soliciting funds for worthwhile projects.  I’m personally asked nearly every day to contribute to one campaign or another to help Gaza.

I can appreciate that the same universe of potential contributors receive multiple requests for assistance and a fundraising fatigue sets in — “Not again!” 

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Boat with Free Gaza flags at the beach.

In a fair and just world, the Palestinians in Gaza would have the opportunities and advantages that you and I have, without relying on donations from abroad. Without a doubt, I believe they would be very successful.

In a fair and just world, the one who breaks it should be the one who repairs it.

In a fair and just world, the government of Israel and the citizens of Israel would be required to pay for the damage they have wrecked upon the Palestinians in Gaza.

We don’t live in a fair and just world, and so the need for my GoFundMe account.

Please read my short message and contribute if you can.  I would be very grateful if you would share my GoFundMe link https://www.gofundme.com/b3kbdaf8 with your friends and networks.

Thank you for helping to build a fair and just world.

WeAreOne-Med

 

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#GoingtoGaza – April 2015

 

My journey to return to Gaza began more than 200 days ago in September 2014. Every day I’ve jotted down a note about my progress (or lack of progress) and I’ve compiled these notes by month on my blog.  This post includes my notes from April 2015 when I traveled to Minneapolis and Rochester, Minnesota and then to Baltimore, Maryland.

 

Day #213 – In my email inbox was a note recommending that I buy burial insurance. Since I’m traveling today — getting on an airplane in a few hours headed to Minneapolis — I hope that email was only Spam.  I deleted it.   #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #214 – Yesterday in Minneapolis, the high of 83 F broke record from 1880s.  Today, the expected high is 63 F. And tomorrow, the expected high will be 43 F.  Thank you, Fossil Fuels.  #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #215 – A 90-year-old friend asked me today how she could keep in touch with me when I’m in Gaza. She doesn’t have a computer. And I told her snail mail delivery to Gaza is impossible. So we decided that her son or daughter could help her send and receive emails.  My friend seemed shocked that there was no mail delivery in Gaza. #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #216 – I think today is the first day in this long 200+ days journey that I haven’t talked with someone about Gaza. I focused my entire day on my 8 year old nephew. His Serpentine Lego fighter protected us all day … at the library, riding the bus around Rochester, and chasing squirrels. When I showed him the school building where I went to 2nd grade, I think he was amazed that I was ever that young. I love this little guy.  #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #217 – Easter Sunday. I attended Easter services in the same small church I attended as a child in Rochester, where I sang in the choir, and taught Sunday School to the young children when I was a teenager.  This was my first time back in nearly 45 years!  I looked around and saw “my tribe” and thought how good it feels to be part of a tribe.

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Mayo Clinic in background; Calvary Episcopal Church in foreground. Rochester, Minnesota

 

Hopefully, everyone begins life in a tribe that grounds the individual in the mores and traditions of the tribe, but as we mature, we learn the important lesson that we’re all connected. We are one. My tribe and your tribe and his tribe are all one.  Unfortunately, many people cannot lift their heads or hearts up above their tribal affiliations. #GoingtoGaza

 

Days #218-219 – Yesterday I reached out to one of the organizers who is pulling together the next flotilla to Gaza.  Since entry to Gaza from Israel and Egypt is so difficult, maybe I can get a seat on a boat.  Haven’t heard any response yet but keeping my fingers crossed for good luck. #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #220 – Learned a new factoid today. Thomas Jefferson had purchased a copy of the Qu’ran 11 years before he wrote the Declaration of Independence. If nothing else, it indicates that he was interested in learning about “others”.

 

On NPR this morning, I listened to a program about the religion of Scientology and how its leaders discourage members from reading any critique of Scientology. Thomas Jefferson would never have been a good Scientologist. His mind was too open to new ideas and ways of looking at the world. Netanyahu, on the other hand, would make a good Scientologist. #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #221 – On this pilgrimage I meet old friends and new. Yesterday I saw an old friend at the Rochester library whom I haven’t seen in 10+ years. She’s a librarian. I was surprised to learn that she knew about my travel to Gaza in 2012-2013 (I think my cousin must have shared my story with her) and she’s very interested in my future travel to Gaza. We agreed to connect on Facebook so that we can follow each other. The younger generation may be leaving Facebook, but the older 60+ generation is finding each other there. Yeah!  #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #222 – Listening to a family member tell me with certitude that “Hamas are terrorists who want to destroy Israel”. He believes I met the “happy Hamas” during my visit to Gaza — those people who perform social welfare actions.  Maybe the “bad Hamas terrorists” were hiding behind children or in schools.

 

I had absolutely no words and no energy to respond. Sitting there I thought “where does he get his information?”  “Doesn’t he realize that the Israeli occupation has continued for 67 years but Hamas has existed only about 1/2 that time?”  So many Americans are living in a bubble and I’m sad because I don’t know how to burst it. #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #223 – Last month a good friend was trying to warn me about my Facebook posts which focus on the Holy Land.  By way of example, she told me that her adult daughter doesn’t like my posts. Was that meant to help me “tone down” my messages? I’m not sure, but I immediately responded: “I don’t care what your daughter thinks about my FB posts on Israel and Palestine.” That ended the discussion right away.

 

In hindsight, I think my response was too curt. But do people really think I am interested in pleasing 3300+ friends on Facebook?  The beauty of FB is that anyone can “unfriend” or “unfollow” anyone else.  I highly recommend it. #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #224 – Friday morning in Minneapolis I grabbed my camera to capture a picture of the snow falling. This morning, I’m watching many friends in Gaza posting their pictures of the snow falling. Thankful for the beautiful white stuff from heaven that captures the imagination of so many. #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #225 – Hillary Clinton has visited Palestine, and specifically the Gaza Strip. But is she capable of speaking the truth? Apparently she has some harsh words about the occupation in her new book. I’m going to read it. #GoingtoGaza

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Deir Yassin Memorial in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Day #226 – The Massacre at Deir Yassin has not been forgotten in Minneapolis, Minnesota. On April 9, 1948, Zionist terrorists killed more than 100 Palestinian men, women and children in the village of Deir Yassin. Today I rode my bicycle along the Midtown Greenway, an old abandoned railroad line, and was surprised to find a memorial to Deir Yassin. I don’t know who was responsible for erecting the memorial. I wonder how many cyclists understand its significance.  Surprise on the Midtown Greenway | لماذا غزة؟ Why Gaza? #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #227 – Arrived in Baltimore last night, the next leg of my pilgrimage.  My friend and I went walking along the Inner Harbor today — his pedometer measured about 5 miles — when I took a tumble and landed on my . . . face!  Except for a swollen lip, I don’t seem to be worse for wear. Very lucky I didn’t break my nose or chip a tooth. Just the thought makes me cringe! :-(   #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #228 – A good friend said he was looking seriously at Rand Paul for President because, among other reasons, Rand Paul supports “right to life.” I shared with him the candidate’s position on Israel and Palestine.  I’m pleased that he decided it was a deal breaker and he can’t support Rand Paul now. Rand Paul – “I’m proud to support Israel, America’s longtime friend and ally in the Middle East. Israeli cafés and buses are bombed, towns are victimized by hundreds of rockets, and its citizens are attacked by Palestinian terrorists.”  Currently, Rand Paul has introduced a bill to defund Palestine as long as they continue to seek justice at the International Criminal Court.  #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #229 – Life and death. When I was younger, those two seemed like black & white. Here & there. Over the past 18 months, I’ve had the honor to watch life passing to death in slow motion. Now they seem more like a continuum — a journey — a gentle breeze between a fluid membrane. Thank you my friend.  #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #230 – Contacted the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC via email to ask about the procedure for getting permission to cross Erez into Gaza. Was surprised to receive a response in about 30 minutes that said they don’t handle such matters. I should check with http://www.cogat.idf.il/894-en/Matpash.aspx Going to check this website tomorrow.  #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #231 – Today a friend told me that he was on “auto-pilot” most of his life (he’s 72) but he’s now really living and engaged with life. I think about where and what I was doing 10 years ago, compared to where and what I’m doing today — and I’m so thankful this path opened up for me. But I don’t feel I was ever on auto-pilot.  Just on another path.  #GoingtoGaza

 

Days #232-233 – Propaganda is alive and well inside the DC Beltway metro stations.  http://sayyestopeace.org  I wonder if our elected leaders are getting much truth in their diet.  #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #234 – Received some cold, hard reality news today that has forced me to stop and reassess the journey I’m on. #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #235 – Learned yesterday that the Palestinian Youth in Gaza are planning a day of protest at home and around the world on Wednesday, April 29. I contacted one of the organizers and now I’m planning to protest in front of the Israeli Embassy. Might be a protest of one. I wonder if anyone will join me. #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #236 – At the grocery store in Baltimore, a sign over the door as I left  — “Thank you” “Merci” “Gracias” and the Arabic letters for Shukran.  I was really pleased that I could read it. I should pick up my Arabic vocabulary cards and start practicing again. #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #237 – What can we get for $2 trillion per year? Answer: A world beyond war.     #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #238 – A friend told me today that my strength is talking one-on-one or with small groups because people trust me and I’m a good listener. He said I should use that skill when I get to the Middle East. Maybe I should use that skill with the officials at the Egyptian Embassy and Israeli Embassy.  My yelling and kicking and screaming don’t seem to work. LOL #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #239 – “Diversity” and “Pluralism” — the first is a census factoid and the second is an achievement of building an inclusive community. It takes hard work to achieve pluralism.  “Sacred Ground” – by Eboo Patel. Israel’s occupation has created the opposite. A Jews-only state is neither diverse nor an example of pluralism. Israel supporters would feel great sadness if they understood their lost.  #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #240 – I’m in Baltimore when rioting breaks out after young black man died in police custody. FB friends draw parallels between Baltimore and Gaza. They see “good” guys and “bad” guys — so simplistic!  I wonder if they (and others) misunderstand my advocacy about Palestine. I don’t see Palestine-Israel as “good” vs “bad”. #GoingtoGaza

 

Day #241 – I’m feeling very grateful this morning. I’m walking the 5K for Gaza in middle of May to raise $$ for UNRWA. The resources are needed to help the children suffering from trauma in Gaza. Thank you! Merci! Gracias! Shukran!  #GoingtoGaza

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, Nakba, People, Uncategorized, US Policy, Video