#GoingtoGaza August 31 – September 30, 2014

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I’ve been marking the days of my journey back to Gaza by writing daily notes.  I started 460 days ago and I’m still waiting to return.  My notes might interest some. I’m going to post them (month-by-month) on my blog, starting with my decision to leave my home in Albuquerque, New Mexico in preparation for the journey to Gaza.

August 31, 2014 – September 30, 2014

Day #1 – Must divest myself of so many things. Some is junk; some of it meant something to me at one time but not so much now; some things I really want to pass on to special people in my life; and some things I really struggle with (I don’t want to give them up).
Then I sit and remember all of the 1000s of families in Gaza who had no time to decide what to keep. They were lucky to get out with their lives.
Puts my task into perspective.
Day #2 – Recycling is good for the soul. Cleaning out the laundry room and kitchen of many things I didn’t even remember I had acquired. They will get a “new” life in my neighbors’ homes, not the landfill.
Day #3 – The most important possession I had in Gaza (September 2012 – May 2013) was a good pair of walking shoes because I did ALOT of walking . . . in Gaza, in Cairo and in Istanbul. Those shoes are now threadbare so today I purchased a new pair at REI at a great Labor Day Sale.
Day #4 – Getting the house ready for someone else is not an easy task. Today I’m very grateful for my friends helping me negotiate this transition.
Day #5 – Eyesight is very important. I have a greater appreciation for good eyesight today than I did 18 months ago. The week after I returned from Gaza in 2013, I experienced a partially detached retina requiring emergency surgery. Then a very serious cataract developed, requiring more surgery.
Today I returned to the eye doctor and told him my new glasses don’t work. After much sleuthing around, they finally discovered the problem and now they’re going to make me a new pair of glasses. Al-hamdulillah!
#GoingtoGaza with good eyesight
Day #6 – She put her fingers in each of my ears and said she could feel my jaws clicking as I opened and closed my mouth.
I went to my dentist yesterday because my left jaw has been hurting for the past couple of months. She asked me if I was stressed about anything. I told her I watched the massacres in Gaza in July-August and was worrying about my friends there.
She said I was probably grinding my teeth when I slept, hurting my jaws. So she made something for me to wear at night in my mouth.
The Palestinians living, studying, working abroad must be VERY worried about their families in Gaza!
Day #7 – Thinking a lot today about how to get into Gaza. The New York Times insists that Gaza is not “occupied” but what is the correct term to use when Israel controls who goes into Gaza and who may leave Gaza? Imprisonment?!

A young Palestinian in Gaza told me today he’s a “fixer” and can help get people in. Lololololol Sorry! I haven’t had a good belly laugh in many months!



Day #8 – Two realities, which one is correct? Today I skimmed through two books. “A Soldier’s Life – Inside the Israeli Army” is a black & white photography book by Xeriqua Garfinkel (2002) — the commentary and photos honor and glorify the young men and women who serve in the Israeli army. Photos of their training, their checkpoints, their time on and off duty. Their comradeship. No photos of Palestinians or actual battle.

The second book was written by two Norwegian doctors who volunteered in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, Mads Gilbert and Erik Fosse “Eyes in Gaza”. Not as many photos, thick with commentary about their first-hand experience in Gaza during war time. This new edition includes a Forward written by Noam Chomsky after his visit to Gaza October 25-30, 2012. I met Chomsky in Gaza. Neither of us knew then that Israel was planning another assault on Gaza for 8 days in November.

Professor Noam Chomsky (r.) and Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj (l.)

Each of these books share a reality that is very different from the other. I know people who will appreciate reading one or the other but not both. I’m not sure if I have many friends who would accept and appreciate both books in equal measure.
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil —- read no evil?
Day #9 – Thinking today about the “critique” or “criticism” or “words of advice” I’ve received from family and friends about my Middle East advocacy. It’s been all over the map.

Some believe I haven’t been strong enough. By that, they mean I haven’t been as strident or belligerent as they are in support of Palestine.
Others have expressed their sadness and hurt about my condemnation of Israel. Some have expressed alarm and worry that I’m damaging my credibility.
A few have thanked me.
I’m thankful that I have friends and family who sit on all sides of this political map —- pro-Palestine, pro-Israel, and pro-humanity.
I’ll continue educating myself about the issues and sharing what I learn with everyone.
Day #10 – No progress today because I’m suffering from a very bad reaction to allergies. Spent most of the day in bed remembering how the Palestinian family in Gaza took good care of me when I was sick. I miss them.

Day #11 – How does any ordinary average American learn the truth about what’s going on in the world?

Today, I wrote a letter to the editor for a tiny newspaper in New Mexico in response to the canned talking points that the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of NM had cut and pasted from Israel’s Hasbara.
Ten years ago I didn’t know enough to see through such bullshit. I really can’t fault most Americans who fall for it because Israel’s propagandists have perfected the art. Even the mainstream media falls for it.
Day #12 – The US State Dept issues another travel advisory for Israel, West Bank and Gaza.
Day #13 – Today I stopped by my public library and learned that I will be able to “borrow” library books on my Kindle when I’m in Gaza!

Al-hamdulillah !
Day #14 – Today I started to sort through my books, lots and lots of books. I’m making piles — some to donate, some to give away to special people, some to sell, and most to save.  I have many, many boxes!

Scaling down my “things” has been fairly easy thus far but I think my books are my prized possessions. It’s difficult to part with my library, even when I know I haven’t touched some of these books for many years. I’m really kicking up the dust taking these books off the shelves.  Someday, I hope I can return and just have hours and hours to sit and read.
Day #15 – Another busy day packing boxes of books. Can’t stop sneezing and coughing — so much dust. A friend suggested I explore possibilities of writing while I’m in Gaza and getting paid for my writing. Nice thought but not sure how to make that happen.

I made a promise to myself months ago when I started contemplating a long-term move to Gaza, that I would not go to Gaza and accept any job that a qualified Palestinian might have. The unemployment rate is so high in Gaza — nearly 50% or higher for recent graduates with higher education — that it breaks my heart.
I’m exploring several options about how to sustain myself while I’m in Gaza. I have faith it will all work out.
Day #16 – Woke up to learn some discouraging news.  The Egyptian Embassy is not even accepting Visa applications at this time for travel to Gaza because, they say, of the security concerns in the Sinai.

Day #17 – I’m shipping some boxes of books to friends and it feels really good to be able to share them with others. As I lifted one very heavy box up to the counter at the Post Office, I heard the man behind me tell another man “Wow! She’s strong!”. I guess my gray hair fools people.

One reason I’m going to Gaza now is because I AM STRONG!
Day #18 – Today a friend taught me a new technique for taking showers. Place a bucket in the shower to catch a lot of the H2O which would typically go down the drain. Then reuse that water in the garden. Makes a lot of sense in this arid southwest climate. But as she was telling me her story, I was thinking that it sounds like a useful technique for showers in Gaza where H2O is even more scarce than in New Mexico.  I’m going to try it tomorrow.

Days #19 and #20 – Why do we spend so much time talking to the choir?

Last night I attended an event sponsored by groups and activists I admire.
Josh Ruebner spoke at the Mennonite Church. He’s the author of “Shattered Hopes” about Obama’s failure to negotiate peace in the Middle East.
Samia Assed made a delicious traditional Middle Eastern dinner, enough for everyone who came (est. 50-75) and Josh’s presentation was very informative — although I have a hunch most everyone in the audience were already well-informed about the occupation and the massacres in Gaza this summer. It’s nice to have a supportive audience (the choir) and hopefully Josh’s presentation will be heard on David Barsamian’s Alternative Radio in the near future.

Josh Ruebner

We certainly need to expand the “choir” if we’re going to change US policy in the Middle East. I’ve been mulling over the question — was last night’s program successful if it didn’t change a single mind or influence a single person to take action re. the Israel/Palestine issue?
A non-political, non-activist Jewish friend of mind attended Josh’s presentation. I’m thankful she was willing to step out of her comfort zone and attend, but she was uncomfortable. Josh’s presentation did not persuade her to engage further in the issue.  But I’m really glad she came. I learned a lot from her afterwards.

 Day #21 – Photos! I’m looking through photos my friend Denny (Santa Fe resident currently living in Gaza) has taken of the destruction there. I’m going to choose 5-6 photos and make enlarged copies to share with my Congresswoman when I meet with her on Monday. I’m also going to share Denny’s words. I really believe that a picture shares 10,000 words.

I remember when I shared a photo of Sami from Gaza with then-Congressman Heinrich in his first term in DC. I’ve since concluded that Heinrich is uneducable about Israel-Palestine, a captive of the AIPAC lobbyists. He must be removed from office.
Day #22 – Climate March in ABQ. This morning I joined a crowd in downtown Albuquerque (est. 250-350 people) and after hearing some speeches and singing some songs, we marched.

It reminded me of the climate march in Gaza in 2012 ahead of the UN climate talks in Qatar. About 50 University students (male and female) marched from the campus down a busy street to the central square in Gaza City, carrying signs and chanting. The local media interviewed them.  Their message was that they wanted Qatar to be a leader in taking concrete steps to address climate change.
I didn’t see any media today in ABQ but our message was similar — WE WANT ACTION NOW!
Day #23 – Climate adaptation – what does it mean in Gaza where clean water, shelter, food and electricity are on the top of the list? A friend asked me this question yesterday as we marched in ABQ at the climate march. If I could wave a magic wand, I would ask the reconstruction team to do the following:

1)  Repair the power plant but also build solar power in each community, and give each house solar panels. Gaza needs to be independent from Israel and Egypt for its power.
2)  Repair some (not all) of the roads that were destroyed but also plan and build a modern electric rail transit system that encircles the entire Gaza Strip. Get those dirty polluting taxis and buses off the roads.  And maybe off-road bike paths so more people will be encouraged to ride bikes.
Day #24 – Meeting with Rep. Lujan-Grisham. Joined a group today to talk with Representative Michelle Lujan-Grisham about Gaza. Shared Denny’s photos from Gaza and the letter he’d written. Also shared a report about the situation in Gaza following Israel’s massacres this summer.
I’m still puzzling over some very troubling news I heard after the meeting. The Albuquerque Academy, a private school, refused to allow Josh Ruebner to speak on campus about his new book re. Israel-Palestine, but the school allowed an AIPAC-sponsored presentation. I find this news very disturbing. Very!
Day #25 – Woke up this morning to learn that a friend has decided to make a campaign to get Denny’s letter into the hands of every member of Congress (435 of them). Yeah!  If you want to read his letter and help in this effort, check it out on my blog at www.loralucero.wordpress.com and send me a message.

Day #26 – This evening I sat in a meeting and listened to a dedicated group of activists discuss a crazy proposal to build a very large new community on the far West Side of Bernalillo County.  We’re talking 13,700 acres and 100,000 new residents.

I didn’t have much to say. All I could think of — wouldn’t it be a win-win for everyone if we could send the developer to Gaza? He could help rebuild the communities that Israel leveled to the ground this summer. And then he wouldn’t be causing any grief in New Mexico. I must have been dreaming.
Day #27 – There’s SO much that has to be completed before I can go to Gaza. Some days it feels overwhelming. I make long lists to help me stay focused and organized.  On the 27th day, I felt especially satisfied with the progress I’ve made in getting my yard ready for my departure. It’s looking pretty good.

Day #28 – What we don’t know.

A few nights ago, at the invitation of a friend, I went to a presentation about the  Landmark Program.  I’ve been thinking about the “pie shape” diagram that was discussed.
Imagine a pie with a slim slice cut out that represents everything we know we know. K/K (for example: I know I have 3 sons)
Another slice of the pie is cut out for the things we know that we don’t know. K/DK (for example: I know I will never be an astrophysicist)
The remaining pie (the vast majority of it remains) can be marked as DK/DK (everything we don’t know that we don’t know!)
Think about it!  Gaza fits into the DK/DK section for most Americans.
We all think we know Hamas is a terrorist organization, and there’s no chance for peace because the Palestinians aren’t capable of living peacefully with Israelis.  We put Gaza into the K/K category.
In fact, Gaza and the Middle East really belongs in the DK/DK category but we’re not willing to even entertain the notion.
Day #29 – Hearing bad news!  Or at least very discouraging news!

The Egyptian government is not allowing people to travel to Gaza through the Rafah border. Only people attached to an aid convoy are given permission and then they can only stay in Gaza for 3 days!
Would someone please tell the New York Times that the Gaza Strip is indeed occupied!
Day #30 – Feeling anxious and discombobulated.

Yesterday I attended a day-long symposium about public banking which convinced me that we’re headed towards the cliff — the global economy and especially our form of capitalism.
This morning I learned that a Palestinian activist was badly beaten up and will be traumatized for a long time. This world seems so much scarier now than it was when I was younger.
Day #31  –  I usually check my email and Facebook first thing in the morning, even before I get my coffee.

This morning I woke up to find Richard Falk’s blog post. He doesn’t mention Israel or Palestine but writes about the changing paradigm in international relations and international law. A long read, but he ends by saying that  “citizen pilgrims” are the new hope for the future we have in this world of climate change.
Now I have a new “label” to describe myself.  A citizen journalist is now a citizen pilgrim. 🙂


Day #32 – Pilgrimage

Spent the morning sitting in my patio chatting with a friend who spends half the year here in Albuquerque and half the year in India. She’s about my age, retired, and exploring herself and the world around her.
A lot of our discussion was about religion — Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jews — and she had good questions about how Arab Muslims and Arab Christians live together in Gaza. I’m looking forward to going to her family’s home later this month and sharing with family members who are very interested in Gaza.  I think she and I are both pilgrims.


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4 responses to “#GoingtoGaza August 31 – September 30, 2014

  1. Michaele Scott

    Although I’ve seen many of your entries before it is neat to read them all together…gives a real sense of your progress on this, your, journey. The ups and downs. The decisions, large and small, that you are faced with and the letting go in order to go. I’m glad you have shared so much with so many, Lora, and count myself lucky to be among them. Thank you.

    • This process of compiling them for the blog helps refresh my memory, and gives me encouragement because I can see how much progress I’ve made.

      Often when we’re on a journey, we’re looking forward and seeing only obstacles. But looking back can be very good.

  2. i have a great deal of respect for you , Your dedication ,commitment and faith is outstanding.Please do not give up you will get there in the end(Gaza).The likes of Maurice Boland (Zionist Jew) and his comments on his blog site about you are the words of a bigoted Zionist . He has never even visited Israel, yet he is the expert on all things.Regards the Israelis and Palestinians.He gets his information from the mossad propaganda machine which is geared to suppress and intimidate.Be of good heart lora you will win out in the end and so will the Palestinians if you have anything to do with it .MAY YOUR GODS GO WITH YOU.

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