#GoingtoGaza – January 2015

Haven’t made it back to Gaza yet, but four out of five resolutions isn’t bad. What follows is my daily log for January 2015 in my journey.

Day #124 – My 2015 Resolutions

1) Get to Gaza

2) Say “thank you” more often

3) Smile more often

4) Listen more deeply

5) Get to Gaza


Day #125 – I saw a list today of the top 25 censored stories in 2014. See here. Gaza is on the list. The 1.9 million inhabitants of Gaza will run out of drinking water in 2016. The article doesn’t explain why this story has been censored. Maybe it just hasn’t made it on MSM’s radar screen.


Day #126 – Today 2 young children died in a house fire in a refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Their family (as most families in Gaza) were forced to use candles because there is only 4 hours of electricity per day available in Gaza. Tragically, these deaths by candles are not uncommon in Gaza. The Israeli 8-year siege on the Gaza Strip is the proximate cause of these deaths and American taxpayers are complicit because we subsidize the illegal military occupation over $3 Billion/year.


Day #127 – Took a friend to the train station tonight. As he said “goodbye” to me, he added “I hope you make it into Gaza!” I know I have many friends and family sending me positive vibes on this Pilgrimage. I don’t feel alone.



Day #128 – Friends and family ask me “Why are you always writing the President and other elected officials. It does no good! They don’t even read your letters.”

Today I wrote Obama + my two US Senators + my Congresswoman again.

Will they read my letter? Probably not personally but I bet a staff member is assigned to read all constituent correspondence and keep a tally.

My voice counts! My opinion matters! It helps shift his/her consciousness on a topic. One drop in the bucket, added with many other drops, adds up. I have no excuse for keeping silent.

So here is my letter. Will you read it?

The status quo in the Israel-Palestine conflict must end. Through our policies, U.N. vetoes and significant financial support, the U.S. has been enabling Israel’s destructive settlement activity in the West Bank and genocidal assaults on the Gaza Strip for years!

Not in my name. I join thousands of Americans who oppose our government’s counterproductive actions in the Middle East, and call upon you to oppose AIPAC’s demand to punish the Palestinians for signing on to the Rome Statute and seeking the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

When did America lose its moral compass so that our leaders actually oppose attempts by the Palestinians to abide by, and to seek the protection of, international law?

I call on you to support the Palestinians in their efforts to use lawful measures in their quest for peace and justice.


Day #129 – I don’t understand the crazy machinations in foreign affairs.

Why is my country opposed to the Palestinians’ actions to abide by international law and seek redress through the International Criminal Court? Why is Israel aiding and abetting ISIS?

Has the world turned upside down, inside out? All of the norms I took for granted appear to have been thrown out the window.


Day #130 – Skyping with my friends in Gaza requires some planning and coordination. Today I learned I could talk with my friend using the Messenger App on my iPod. At 61, I really don’t understand all of this technology, but I think it’s very exciting to hear my friend’s voice on this little device. Just like he’s in the next room.


Day #131 – Sent a message to the young woman I met who works at the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations.  I congratulated her for the recent step Palestine has taken to sign on to the Rome Statute. Obama’s Administration says Palestine is not a state and so it can’t claim the protection of the ICC.  But it really doesn’t matter what Obama or anyone else thinks. The ICC Prosecutor has already announced that Palestine will formally be part of the ICC on April 1, 2015. Yeah!!



Day #132 – Tonight a good friend died peacefully surrounded by family. He was a sincere and gentle soul. He always thought about others. When he heard I was returning to Gaza, he asked me “why do you want to do such a dangerous thing?” and warned me to be careful. I’m saying a prayer for him tonight.


Day #133 – My Facebook feed has been blazing today with articles from mainstream and alternative Western media spinning what I should think about the terrorist attack in Paris this week. My FB friends have also weighed in — some quite vociferously — and I’m left wondering.

Why doesn’t the US drone strike in Pakistan that killed innocent civilians? – or the Israeli missile that targeted and killed 2 Palestinian journalists in Gaza? – or the firebombing of the NAACP offices in Colorado Springs?or the myriad of other terror attacks around the world? – consume the same raw energy and emotions?

The only answer I can see: Westerners know terror and terrorists when we see them — and they ain’t us!

God, Allah, Hashem must be sorely disappointed with the whole lot of us.


Day #134 – I’m hearing rumors that Egypt may be opening the Rafah crossing on a permanent basis. Is it true? Can I get my hopes up now?

Someone reported that Abbas is in Paris sharing his solidarity with the French. I’m resentful that he can apparently travel with ease while so many Palestinians are prevented from setting foot outside of Gaza.  #WhereistheJustice ?


Day #135 – A little shocked that some highly educated Palestinians in Gaza are opposed to working with (collaborating with) other Palestinians, Israelis, and Americans who they believe are advocates for “normalization.” I want to learn what “normalization” means in this context. I also want to understand how this insularity “protects” them or serves their goals. If Palestinians cannot compete in the exchange of ideas, are they capable of building a nation-state?


Day #136 – Sitting in the local library today, I heard an old man talking to himself — loudly. He went on and on for some time. He was sitting alone on the floor between book shelves.

Nothing unusual about emotionally-disturbed people seeking respite in public libraries. But when he started talking in an angry voice about “Muslims” and “Allah” and “death”, I started thinking he was going off the deep end.

I informed the librarian, and then returned to my work. Crazy people do crazy things.



Day #137 – A friend suggested I keep pen and paper next to me when I fall asleep so I could write down my first thoughts in the morning when I wake up. I never, ever remember dreams.

This morning, my first thought on waking was “I’m cold.” My second thought was “The children and families in Gaza who are living in makeshift shelters now are freezing and dying from the cold.”1948


Day #138 –  from “The Art of Pilgrimage” by Phil Cousineau.

Pilgrimage is a transformative journey to a sacred center.

Pilgrimage is a spiritual exercise, an act of devotion to find a source of healing, or even to perform a penance. Always, it is a journey of risk and renewal. For a journey without challenge has no meaning; one without purpose has no soul.

Mark Twain – “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindless.”

Uncover what you long for and you will discover who you are.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge” said Albert Einstein. The art of pilgrimage is the art of reimagining how we walk, talk, listen, see, hear, write, and draw as we ready for the journey of our soul’s deep desire.

“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts.” – philosopher Soren Kierkegaard.


Days #139-140 – I’m feeling very tired. In October, United Blood Services rejected my blood donation because I was too low in iron. My doctor tested my blood and found my iron level was very low so I’ve been taking heavy duty iron pills for 3 months now. I still feel tired. 😦


Day #141 – Does anyone know of any foundations or organizations that would be interested in funding my work in Gaza?  Here’s the catch. The last time I went to Gaza, I volunteered my time. I can’t afford to do that this time. I’m also committed to not accepting a job or $$ that a qualified local Palestinian would be eligible for.

And I really want to do 3 things:  1) Work with Palestinian lawyers in Gaza on Rule of Law projects. 2) Help with the reconstruction or building resiliency into the community. AND 3) Observe and write about what’s happening on the ground in Gaza to share with Western audiences.

Anyone want to fund my efforts? :-). I’m committed to remaining in Gaza for the long-term (years). Putting it out there to the universe.


Day #142 – Thinking about the similarities between the civil rights struggle in the U.S. in the 1960s and the Palestinians struggling against the Israeli military occupation today.

Both seem impossible to overcome because there is a whole infrastructure built to constrain the struggle.

Both have a dominant people intent on dehumanizing another people.

Both have leaders advocating and working for justice using nonviolence.

Both have members of the dominant people who reject the values and actions of the dominant people, choosing to stand on the side of justice.

Go see Selma.



Day #143 – Feeling sad after learning that a friend from Gaza is seeking asylum in the U.S. when his student Visa expires.

— Sad, because there are no job opportunities in Gaza and not much hope for the future.

— Sad, because his wife and children have been separated from him for so long, and will they ever be reunited?

— Sad, because if he’s granted asylum, Gaza will be losing a bright and talented young man.

— Sad, because I think this is exactly what Israel is planning — to expel Palestinians via attrition.

— Sad, because future Palestinians may have a difficult time obtaining Visas to study in the U.S. if the State Department sees a trend in students seeking asylum.


Day #144 – Words matter!

I’ve been chastised for my words on Facebook that demonstrate “lack of empathy”.

I’ve also called Hamas “either stupid or indeed a terrorist organization” for its praise of the lone Palestinian who stabbed innocent Israeli civilians.

Words have consequence. I may lose a friendship over “lack of empathy”. I may lose my chance to return to Gaza over my criticism of Hamas.

I will live with the consequences.

#GoingtoGaza maybe

Day #145 – “You are welcome”

Every Palestinian from Gaza with whom I have talked (Skype, Facebook, in person) tells me “You are welcome.”  Everybody. Old, young, English-speaking or not. They all know “You are welcome” and they all say that to me.

It means something different in Gaza than it does when an American says “You’re welcome.”

A Palestinian is welcoming me to his/her home or land. “Please come visit and share in our hospitality.”

An American uses that phrase almost like “Afwan”.


Day #146 – I just had a diplomatic brainstorm about airports!

Passengers traveling through Ben Gurion airport cannot mention the words Palestine, West Bank, Gaza without fear of being strip-searched and deported. (Seriously!)

A friend told me that there is a map on the wall in the Cairo airport that omits Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. I know that the airport authorities routinely put Palestinian passengers into a large holding cell below the airport where they spend hours or days waiting for their connecting flight.

My brainstorm!  Airport authorities at Ben Gurion and Cairo should treat their neighbors with dignity and respect. They might receive some in return.


Day #147 – Watching 8 episodes of “An Honorable Woman” (BBC) on Netflix with a friend in Gilroy.

A wealthy Jewish Baroness from the UK inherits the family’s empire after her father is killed by a Palestinian. She leads her family company with the goal of transcending Israeli-Palestinian tensions and borders which takes her to Gaza and the West Bank. A lot of death, suspense and intrigue. If the Middle East politics even remotely resembled this drama, I would avoid the area.  I won’t share how it ends, but not as you would expect.



Cairo Skyline

Day #148 – Four years ago, I remember clearly where I was and what I was doing.  I was sitting on my couch at home mesmerized with the Egyptian revolution in Tahrir Square on Al Jazeera TV 24/7. I watched it day after day … and also followed events on Facebook. An autocratic dictator was toppled.

Today? The revolution is dead and buried. The military has regained control of their country and installed one of their Generals (Al-Sisi) as President. The millions of youth who succeeded 4 years ago are either 1) dead or 2) in prison or 3) in hiding for fear of being arrested or 4) walking Zombies.

Yep, the Zombies have come to Egypt. Mindless, soulless, cheerless robots who have been thoroughly indoctrinated and fed propaganda so they won’t question authority ever again.

And since the Egyptian economy is in tatters (unless you’re a member of the military), the Zombies sit quietly in their rooms or in the alleys smoking.


Day #149 – Just shy of 3,000 friends on Facebook. 2,937 to be exact.

Don’t know most of my “friends” personally but I have one piece of advice to anyone who sends me a friend request.

If I accept your request, don’t send me a private message that reads “I hate America”.  Not a good first impression. LOLOL


Day #150 – The Great Turning (From Empire to Earth) by David Korten.

40+ years ago – I started on the path of sustainable communities, urban planning.

30+ years ago – I started on the path of peace-building, ending nuclear war.

20+ years ago – I started on the path of climate change education, mitigation & adaptation.

5+ years ago – I started on the path of seeking justice in the Middle East.

I never left one path to pursue another.

Today – all of these paths have converged. “The Great Turning” helped me understand that humanity has been on a destructive path for the past 5,000+ years and I need to help humanity shift to a new path.


Day #151 – Who started it? Here’s the chronology.

Last Sunday Israel launched an air strike that killed 11 people in the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. Six were Hezbollah leaders and 5 were Iranian.

On Wednesday, an anti-tank missile killed 2 Israeli soldiers and wounded 7 near the border with Lebanon. Hezbollah claimed responsibility.

Israel responded and during the tit-for-tat a Spanish UN Peacekeeper was killed. No one knows if Israel or Hezbollah killed him.

Who started this skirmish? Keep the chronology in mind when you read how the media portrays it.


Day #151 (again) – More news

Seems like a full scale war is breaking out in the northern Sinai today. Egyptian officials claim its Muslim Brotherhood terrorists, with absolutely no evidence provided to support that claim.

At least no one has blamed Hamas — yet. When will I ever get across the Sinai into Gaza?


Day #152 – Noticing that several FB friends who were/are vociferous climate deniers have been silent about climate change the past few months. Is reality catching up?

And I’m feeling very, very pleased that a friend from Gaza has been invited to participate in a training with Al Gore on the Climate Reality project in India next month.  Alhamdullilah!


Day #153 – Feeling so terribly helpless and ineffectual. So many people in Gaza asking me for help ($$ and other types of help to pursue graduate education).  Many, many, many Palestinians.

I know from experience how devastating it can be to try to help and fail. Devastating for the Palestinian whose hopes are dashed, and devastating for me.

What is the best response when someone asks: “Please help me. My life is very difficult in Gaza. There are no jobs. We don’t have any hope.” How do I respond?




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