#GoingtoGaza – August 2015

On my journey back to Gaza, I spent the summer in Baltimore with a visit to Albuquerque in August. I wish I could travel without adding to my carbon footprint.  The following entries are from August 2015. I started my journey one year earlier.

Day #332 – I shared a bit about my experience in Gaza yesterday with the Baltimore Women-In-Black group.  The lunch meeting was in a house of worship shared by 5 different congregations (including both Christian church and Jewish synagogue) and lasted until 5:00 pm because everyone was so engaged and interested in learning more. I realized that I can only share the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to share. How?  #GoingtoGaza

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The House of God is the Home of five congregations. Rev. Carol Lynn Cook.

Day #333 – Jewish/Zionist/settlers/terrorists burned a Palestinian baby to death 2 nights ago. The Israeli collective guilty conscience is feeling a twinge of remorse. But the IDF killed 521 children (including many babies) in Gaza last summer and that was greeted by Israelis as a source of national pride. Can’t have your cake and eat it too.  Thx Mati Milstein for putting it so succinctly. #GoingtoGaza

Day #334 – While waiting and exploring options for returning to Gaza, I’ve decided Plan B is walking Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.  (500 miles – 5 weeks) Sept/Oct timeframe. #GoingtoGaza

Day #335 – My roommate and I each received emails this morning. His urged him to call Congress and tell them to defund Planned Parenthood. Mine urged me to call Congress and tell them to support Planned Parenthood.  We both made our calls and canceled each other out. Fortunately, Congress sided with me this afternoon. Abortion is an emotional issue but my roommate and I remain civil and respect each other (I think). #GoingtoGaza

Day #336 – ISIS (aka Daesh) proclaims jihad in the name of Islam. They want to establish a caliphate in the Middle East. Netanyahu and the Knesset fight terrorists (aka Palestinians) in the name of Jews worldwide. The want to establish a Homeland for the Jews in the Middle East. Simple question: What’s the difference?  #GoingtoGaza

Day #337 – Learned today of another Palestinian from Gaza who was denied a student Visa to pursue her education in the U.S. despite the fact that she had been accepted to a university and received a scholarship. Stated reason? Because the embassy officer doesn’t think she has enough ties to Gaza to ensure that she will return home! The same reason given for the denials of all the others. This reminds me of the Palestinian student who was granted a Visa and is currently studying in the U.S.  He is now seeking asylum and does not wish to return to Gaza despite having family there. I wonder if his asylum request has harmed the chances of other Palestinians who wish to study here. :-(   #GoingtoGaza

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Professor Noam Chomsky (r.) and Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj (l.) in Gaza, October 2012.

Day #338 – Recalling Noam Chomsky’s visit to Gaza in October 2012. Chomsky is a Jew. Some Americans are puzzled because of the hate-filled venom they’ve been fed by the Zionists.  Jews (not Zionists) are welcomed in Palestine. Jews (not Zionists) are treated respectfully by Hamas and other Palestinian factions. I believe Jews (not Zionists) have a secure future in the Middle East. #GoingtoGaza

Day #339 – I’m puzzled why professional journalists don’t connect the dots. This week they should’ve connected the dots between the nuclear weapons used 70 years ago, and Israel’s current threat to unilaterally and preemptively bomb Iran to prevent that country from getting nukes. Haven’t we learned any lessons? Really?  #GoingtoGaza

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Red Emma’s in Baltimore

Day #340 – Just following my heart today I ended up @ Red Emma’s in Baltimore, a self-proclaimed radical bookstore.  Pleased to see copies of “Gaza UnSilenced” on the table!   #GoingtoGaza

Day #341 – I’m seeing very little difference between the Jewish extremists/Rabbis/settlers and the Muslim extremists (aka ISIS) except for the way that the mainstream media portrays them. Oh, another difference — one acts under the cloak of legitimacy by a nation-state while the other doesn’t. Oh, another difference — one receives protection (both $$ and security) while the other doesn’t.  #GoingtoGaza

Day #342 – The Egyptian Embassy in DC informed me today that they will process my Visa application to travel through Egypt to Gaza.  Al-hamdulillah!   Doing the happy dance tonight. Of course, “process” doesn’t necessarily mean “approve”. But this is a big improvement. A few months ago, they wouldn’t even consider an application.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #343 – Searching for travelers’ health insurance while abroad, I came across this program online that compares different policies and prices depending on the variables you input. Travel destination is one variable. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Palestinian Territories is a destination option in this program. I was not surprised to learn that there are absolutely no health policies available for travelers to that destination. #GoingtoGaza with or without travelers’ health insurance.

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President Jimmy Carter signing his new book

Day #344 – Learned today that Jimmy Carter has liver cancer that has spread to other parts of his body. First thought: I wish he could live long enough to see peace in the Middle East, something he’s worked tirelessly to achieve. Second thought: I wish Congress would act on my petition and request that Carter address a joint session. He deserves their respect. Third thought: I’m going to write to Jimmy Carter. THANK YOU!  #GoingtoGaza

Day #345 – Submitted my Visa application with the Egyptian Embassy in DC today.  Purchased my ticket to Cairo.  Feeling like the roller coaster ride is just beginning.  A friend asked me “Why apply to Egypt, not to Palestine, for a Visa to visit Gaza?” Answer: Gaza, Palestine does not control its own borders because it is OCCUPIED by the State of Israel. You can’t fly to Gaza. You can’t take a ship to Gaza. You can’t drive to Gaza.  Either Israel or Egypt must grant you permission to enter Gaza. #GoingtoGaza

Day #346 – I think I may understand why some Jews can’t accept the truth about Israel’s occupation of Palestine. It’s human nature to want to be right – not wrong – and to be on the winning side – not the losing side. So when Israel is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, it’s human nature to turn eyes and hearts away from the Occupation. Just a thought. #GoingtoGaza

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Lora with the Blue Crab on the Baltimore Inner Harbor

Day #347 – On this journey as a pilgrim, I need to learn how to be grateful today and every day.  My current grade is probably D-   #GoingtoGaza

Day #348 – “He who has a why can endure any how.” ~ German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. WHY am I going to Gaza? Because my heart calls me and because Justice and Human Rights demand it. HOW am I going to Gaza?  Only Allah knows. #GoingtoGaza

Day #349 – I think I know the biggest anti-Semite of them all. It’s Netanyahu. Palestinians = Semites, and Bibi is killing them with impunity. Jews = Semites, and Bibi’s actions are delegitimizing the State of Israel, “the home of the Jews”. Yep, Netanyahu is the biggest anti-Semite today. #GoingtoGaza

Day #350 – People have preconceived notions about their neighbors hardwired into their brains. Two examples today. On Facebook, a Zionist responds to my post from an Israeli newspaper about Palestinians building new tunnels into Gaza — “Only one logical reason . . . to kill Israelis.” It never occurs to him that there may be other reasons for building new tunnels—-a military defensive measure (Gaza’s version of the Iron Dome) is one example. I’ve never seen or read any evidence that showed Palestinians used the tunnels to enter Israel to kill Civilians. But this Zionist won’t acknowledge the humanity in the “other”. Second example happened to me on the bus today. Waiting at the bus stop, I sat on the bench next to a young Native American man who appeared inebriated. I was in the sun, he was sitting in the shade. He stood up and said “Sit in the shade.” I moved over and thanked him and held out my hand to introduce myself.  He took my hand and we had a very cordial conversation until the bus came. You can imagine the stereotype I had in my head, and the reality I learned after I met him. #GoingtoGaza

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Federal Hill, Baltimore

Day #351 – I often told my Palestinian friends in Gaza, when they asked me my religion, that I simply live my life by the Golden Rule (treat others how you wish they would treat you). A fact of life – not everyone follows the Golden Rule, and I can’t expect others to treat me the same way. That’s where the challenges lie. #GoingtoGaza

Day #352 – Writing today — putting pen to paper — trying to figure out the best way to share my pilgrimage with the most # of people.  Any ideas? Thinking of sharing a sample “column” with local newspaper to see if they might be interested in a regular monthly column. #GoingtoGaza

Days #353 & 354 – A friend I hadn’t seen in 10-15 years told me yesterday that she’s very confused about the Israel-Palestine conflict. One person tells her to read about one side and avoid the other side. Another person recommends she read the other side and avoid books about the first side. I told her “Read books from ALL sides and sit quietly and meditate about the questions those authors raise inside you.” It took me 10+ years of actively reading and searching for answers before I started seeing some clarity about Israel-Palestine. #GoingtoGaza

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Delicious meal at Cyndie Tidwell’s house

Day #355 – Attended a presentation tonight at the Jewish Community Center in Albuquerque about environmental peace building in Israel & Palestine. Lots to share in a blog post soon, but the take-away message for me was: There are people (Americans, Israelis and Palestinians) working together on some exciting joint environmental projects in Israel and the West Bank (including plans for a regional sewage treatment plant, rainwater harvesting, and more.) The people on the ground want the projects, the technocrats want the projects, the politicians on both sides (Israel and the PA) do not. I asked if they had worked in Gaza, and they said “No, because we can’t get access to Gaza!” #GoingtoGaza

Day #356 – I rode my yellow bike with the cute basket all around town today.  Downtown, then up 4th Street to Menaul, back downtown, over to Rio Grande, and back to my old neighborhood. When the sun went down, my friend showed me how to turn on the flashing lights on the front and back of the bike. (I never knew how!) If we could import 1000s of bikes into the Gaza Strip, we could (1) reduce reliance on fuel, (2) reduce air pollution, and (3) improve physical health.  I wonder . . . #GoingtoGaza

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New Mexican jeweller in Old Town showing off his beautiful jewellry

Day #357 – Today I sat with an old neighbor (96 years old) and we talked. His eyesight is bad but he can hear very well, and his mind is as sharp as a tack. He lives with his daughter who has cared for him for many years. My friend and his daughter remind me of many of the Palestinians I met in Gaza. Family caring for family. He built his adobe house with his own hands just as many Palestinians build their own homes. I can sit and talk with my old neighbor for hours about my experience in Gaza, and he “gets it”. Is there wisdom with age or is it something else? #GoingtoGaza

Days #358 & 359 – This Spring an American was told by the Egyptian Embassy that he would not receive permission to travel to Gaza through the Rafah border unless he got a letter of approval from the U.S. Consulate’s office in Cairo.  But that office told him they would not issue any such letter. The typical Catch-22. Me?  The Egyptian Embassy accepted my Visa application two weeks ago and said they would process it.  No mention of needing any letter from the U.S. Consulate in Cairo. #GoingtoGaza

Day #360 – Had lunch with a long-time reporter from the local newspaper of record. She acknowledged that the industry is changing drastically. And I have serious disdain for the Editors’ politics.  Thinking about which media venue to approach with my idea for a monthly column about Palestine.  Maybe ABQ Free Press. www.freeabq.com #GoingtoGaza

Day #361 – I walked an hour for a great candidate running for Albuquerque City Council knocking on doors and telling people about why Pat Davis will serve them well. Palestinians haven’t had an election in 8 years I think. The people are stuck with the same old farts with no way to boot them out of office. Americans take our elections for granted. Most of us don’t even bother to vote.  Shame on us! #GoingtoGaza

Day #362 – Sitting in the Houston airport today watching travelers walk past me to their next flight. There’s no fear here, no despair, no humiliation, as there is in Rafah or Erez — the ONLY two checkpoints where Palestinians may travel in and out of Gaza, IF Israel grants permission. #GoingtoGaza

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Day #363 – Trying to figure out why it’s so frustrating to talk with some people with whom I disagree. 1) a very good long-time friend finds #BlackLivesMatter offensive and divisive. 2) a Zionist I’ve never met in person refuses to see the impacts of the Israeli occupation, and the Apartheid system of laws and regulations. Spending time trying to explain my position just ends in frustration. #GoingtoGaza

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#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 entries 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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Filed under Gaza, People, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy, Video

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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Filed under Climate Change, Gaza, Uncategorized, Video

#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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