#GoingtoGaza – February 2016

In February, I traveled from Amman, Jordan to Jericho in the West Bank, and then to Jerusalem and ended on a kibbutz in southern Israel. I didn’t make it through the Erez Crossing between Israel and Gaza. I’ve been on this journey to return to Gaza for more than 500 days. Since the Israeli border security have taken an interest in my blog, in an effort at full transparency, my daily journal entries for the month of February are republished below.

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Lora and Anjon from Bangladesh

Day #518 – Thinking a lot today about the accident of birth. Human souls can be born in Bangladesh, in Amman, in Cairo, in Gaza and in Albuquerque. Each soul is given the same spark of life but planted in different gardens with very different opportunities. The differences would be so wonderful if only we all lived by the Golden Rule: “Treat others as I wish they would treat me.”  The world seems to have forgotten the Golden Rule.  #GoingtoGaza

Day #518 (again) – SCREAMING! Can anyone hear me?  When I arrived in Jordan, the US Embassy in Amman told me that they have nothing to do with the procedures to cross Erez into Gaza. They advised me to check with Israel. Today, an American carrying an invitation from Gaza tried to cross Erez. The Israeli military turned him away and told him he must first have approval from the US Embassy to travel to Gaza. Truly Machiavellian!  The governments of Israel, Egypt and the US are all playing us for SUCKERS! They just keep sending us in circles hoping we will give up. BULLSHIT!  #GoingtoGaza

Day #519 – Past midnight in Amman, Jordan and I can’t sleep. Late afternoon in Iowa.  That might explain it. I can #FeeltheBern half way around the planet. #GoingtoGaza

Day #520 – A good friend questions my “objectivity” about Israel-Palestine, and “holding firm opinions” and “not brokering disagreement.” I agree that I have firm opinions but I think I’m a good listener and willing to modify my opinions based on the facts. I don’t think anyone is objective – although it’s a noble goal, especially for judges and journalists. But my friend says it’s hard to give me “honest feedback” because I turn it around into an “abstract discussion of objectivity” and “deflect” the criticism. I’m having a tough time figuring out what to do with this information. #GoingtoGaza

Day #521 – I visited the Syrian Women’s Center in Amman. The goal is to help Syrian women learn skills to become self-sufficient and earn some $$ — cooking, sewing, hairdressing. Women learn to sew on a sewing machine and then the machine is theirs to keep.  They bring the clothes they make at home to the Center which buys them and turns around to sell them in Amman to support the Center. The refugees prefer this arrangement rather than handouts or gifts from donors. Self-respect and pride! The Center also has an after school program for 75 Syrian orphans. One of the volunteers at the Center has an Uncle living in . . . Gallup, New Mexico!  Again, I’m reminded how small this world is and how interconnected we are with one another. #GoingtoGaza

Day #522 – Jews, Christians, Muslims — it doesn’t matter in the eyes of the One, as long as you act in a way that is consistent with the teachings of your religion. There are too many Jews, Christians and Muslims who wear their faith on their sleeve for the world to see, but fail the test. Treat your neighbor as you wish they would treat you. #GoingtoGaza

Day #523 – Palestinians are on Amman TV tonight. The news includes extensive reporting about the violence in the West Bank and interviews Palestinians, not Israelis. Later, a singing talent contest includes a Palestinian boy from Beirut who has never visited Palestine. Even though I don’t understand much of the Arabic, it’s clear the Palestinians are not going to forget the Nakba and they’re not going away. Israel and Israelis had better wake-up.  #GoingtoGaza

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Star of David painted on the road in Amman, Jordan

Day #524 – Pondering the Star of David I saw painted on the street pavement in Amman yesterday. Clearly a sign of hatred and disdain towards the State of Israel. Israelis may not like the message but they really should listen to the messenger.  #GoingtoGaza

Day #525 – Watched a movie with my friend in Amman called “Face Off” starring Nicholas Cage and John Travolta.  The plot involves an FBI agent and a bad criminal surgically switching their faces and identities.  Wonder what would happen if Netanyahu and Abbas switched their identities so the world was fooled? That would shake-up the status quo!  #GoingtoGaza

Day #526 – Sometimes a writer’s pen can strike the perfect prose — as in “the convenient rapture of Orwellian realities.” I read this today and it has stuck with me. Thanks to Noura Erakat who was writing about Israel’s argument of “Legitimate self-defense” when it’s bombing the shit out of a defenseless civilian population in Gaza. #GoingtoGaza

Day #527 – Read a report today that Netanyahu plans to surround the entire State of Israel with a fence to keep the ‘carnivorous animals’ in neighboring countries out. I think he’s building his very own prison to keep the Zionists in.  #GoingtoGaza

Day #528 – Can Gaza be a Livable Community? That’s the $10 million question. And the one I’ve been pondering for awhile. #GoingtoGaza

Day #529 – Do you know who Ash Carter is? I didn’t know until a Jordanian friend pointed him out to me on TV news in Amman. Hint: It was a long segment about Daesh. I’m certainly feeling humbled. #GoingtoGaza

Day #530 – One of the most frustrating experiences about traveling abroad is watching TV news while images of tanks & the military dominate the screen for 15-30 minutes but I can’t understand the Arabic except for Daesh “this” and Daesh “that”.   #GoingtoGaza

Day #531 – My desire to travel and see “the world” began when I was a child, continued as a young adult, through middle age, and was constantly postponed because I never had time, never had $$, and never had the courage I thought I needed. Still no $$, a wavering courage, and plenty of time = the 3 perfect ingredients for experiencing “the world” in a much more meaningful way.  #GoingtoGaza

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Day #532 – After 5 hours (about 3.5 hours of questions) I finally was given permission to enter Palestine – Israel. My notoriety preceded me … my name was flagged in the computer at the border with Jordan. And the Israeli security officials were aware of my blog … WHY GAZA?  Thankful to all the friends who helped me and my red suitcase get to the West Bank. #GoingtoGaza

Day #533 – My first full day in Jericho; visited the waqf office and learned about the Islamic legal system of perpetual trusts. Cannot sell Waqf land. My host keeps the TV turned on to the recitation of the Qur’an when she’s away from home. #GoingtoGaza

12748143_10208766190218001_4289558625012703185_oVisiting 3 sisters who are Catholics and have lived together their whole lives in Jericho

Day #534 – We are one! Three elderly spinster sisters living together in Jericho are Catholics but obviously feel at home in a Muslim-majority community. The caretaker at the small mosque shows me his hand and fingers. He tells me that just like the 3 joints in each finger, the 3 religions are attached as one. The hand works because all 3 joints work together. Same with Judaism, Christianity and Islam. #GoingtoGaza

Day #535 – Time slows considerably. There is time for sitting with neighbors, with friends, with family and drinking coffee, tea and sharing stories, lessons, and gossip. Making time for each other might be the key to their resilience. Their sumud. I’m learning to slow myself down and just listen. I learn a lot even without understanding Arabic.  Ramallah, on the other hand, is full of youthful frenetic energy. And everywhere in the West Bank I see construction. The Palestinians are building. The Israelis are building. And I think all of the Holy Land is under construction. I wonder what it will look like when (if) it’s ever completed. #GoingtoGaza

The next generation in Jericho, Palestine

Day #536 – Friday is the day focused on the family in Palestine. I spent the day sitting and listening to lots of conversations in Arabic, wondering if there will ever be a breakthrough when I understand the language. Babies can pick up the language. Why not me? #GoingtoGaza

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The Grand Mufti of Jericho taught himself how to stitch while he was in Israel’s prison for 6 years.

Day #537 – Saturday we visited extended family and I saw old photographs on the wall that reminded me of my ex-husband’s family in Maxwell, New Mexico. The big difference: extended family in the US can hop in the car, bus, train, plane and visit each other.  Not in Palestine.  I have friends in Gaza who haven’t received permission from Israel to visit family in Jericho for many, many years. So I’m taking photos to share with them.  #GoingtoGaza

The Israeli checkpoint between West Bank into Jerusalem & the Old City

Day #538 – Today I traveled from Jericho to Jerusalem, as the crow flies maybe 25 km, but it’s not easy. Two cars, one taxi, a tram and much walking, I finally made it to Ecce Homo Pilgrim House in the Muslim Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. Listening to the Muezzin Call to Prayer followed by many bells calling Christians to pray. What is everyone praying for in this militarized city that looks like a prison when you cross the border control?  Everyone I’ve asked (Palestinian – Israeli) says they believe the situation is going to get worse.  #GoingtoGaza

Day #539 – Always need a Plan B. Today it is raining and chilly in Jerusalem – not good for walking through the Old City as I had hoped. So I’m going to sit inside the warm Ecce Homo Pilgrim House and read and write. Listening to the Call to Prayer, the bells ringing for the noon mass and the Israeli jets flying overhead. Life is about being flexible and going with the flow.  #GoingtoGaza

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Laila and Lora with the red suitcase of books headed to Gaza

Day #540 – The red suitcase full of books made it to Gaza yesterday. Al-hamdulillah. I wish I was with the suitcase. Friends from Gaza are asking me to take a picture of Al Aqsa. A Jewish friend from Australia is posting exuberant messages on FB about raffling off free tickets to Israel.   Jerusalem is a special place for so many people. I think it’s easier to travel from Australia to Jerusalem (13,707 km) than it is from Gaza to Jerusalem (97.2 km). #GoingtoGaza

Day #541 – Visited the Town of Abu Ghosh today near Jerusalem. An Arab town with a very interesting history. My friend introduced me to a number of interesting people in the community. Perhaps the one who struck me the most was a young Palestinian Christian woman from the Galilee who is a mother of 3 young children, married to an American Jew. Both are lawyers. They’ve decided to leave Israel and move to DC this summer because they believe the situation in Israel is too dangerous for them to raise a family. #GoingtoGaza

Day #542 – Rode the light rail around Jerusalem today to see different parts of the city.  General impressions: guns and uniforms everywhere; motorized bikes are the rage with both the young and the old; the Jews and the Muslims inhabit very different parts of the City for the most part; and everyone I spoke with (Muslim and Jew) felt “the situation” will not get better.  Bibi and the country’s leaders are not instilling hope. I wonder if the IDF “regrets” the loss of life in Gaza as the Irgun did with the 92 people they killed 70 years ago at the King David Hotel?  #GoingtoGaza

Children in Jerusalem are growing up with mixed signals 

Day #543 – Going on a 4-hour tour today in East Jerusalem organized by Ir Amim. I wish my Zionist friends and family could join me. When they visit Israel, I feel they are protected from the truth in their bubbles of denial, but I understand that denial better now. Even some progressive-leftist American-Israeli Jews prefer to avoid the “discomfort of discussion.” I want to yell – “What about the discomfort of death and dying under occupation?” #GoingtoGaza

Day #544 – Watched “Inherit the Wind” tonight with an Israeli friend who lives on a Kibbutz. The 1960 film is about the true story of the 1920s Scopes Monkey Trial where a young teacher was put on trial by God-fearing ignorant bigots for teaching about Darwin’s theory of evolution.  My friend and I noted the similarities between the USA of 1920s, the USA of today, and Israel today. Freedom of thought and critical thinking skills seem to be dangerous commodities. #GoingtoGaza

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Day #545 – Walked around this kibbutz in southern Israel surrounded by two barbed wire fences. My Kibbutz friend shared a poem with me. It’s called “Walls”.

Man is

a great wall builder

The Berlin Wall

The Wailing Wall of Jerusalem

But the wall

most impregnable

Has a moat

flowing with fright

around his heart

 

A wall without Windows

for the spirit to breeze through

 

A wall

without a door

for love to walk in.

-Oswald Mtshali, Soweto poet

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And Lora’s poem:

Walls or bridges?

Walls divide, bridges connect

Walls despair, bridges aspire

Walls close, bridges open

Walls inhabit the small minds of the rejectionists,

Bridges fill the creative dreams of the future.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #546 – Some friends are asking why I was so bummed out about my visit to Jerusalem.  I suppose part of the reason is because I got so close to Gaza but still didn’t get permission to enter. I’m also shocked with the level of denial that is so pervasive in the City. I would expect the orthodox and conservative religious Jews to turn a blind eye to the injustices in their midst because they are the privileged beneficiaries of the occupation. But even the self-identified left and progressive Jews prefer to avoid a critical discussion. They tell me they have no hope. And some prefer to leave Israel rather than try to change the horrid situation from the inside.  #GoingtoGaza

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11 Comments

Filed under Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Occupation, Politics, Uncategorized

11 responses to “#GoingtoGaza – February 2016

  1. Interesting story. Since you mentioned Egypt, have you tried entering via the Rafah crossing? I wonder how the experiences compare.

    By the way, the Irgun did not regret the loss of life at the King David hotel. They did mourn the Jewish victims. Most Israelis, many Brits as well as military historians see the King David hotel bombing as a legitimate attack on a military target. http://www.columbia-current.org/terrorism-then-and-now—dore-feith.html

    The Irgun has given a warning of the bomb and the British had ample time to evacuate – how does that compare with indiscriminate missile barrages launched from Gaza?

    • Thanks Michael. I’ve crossed the Rafah border several times in the past, but now the Sinai is a military zone. The Egyptians won’t give me (or anyone) permission to travel across the northern Sinai into Rafah.

      Re. the King David Hotel —- there is a plaque in front of the hotel that says “Irgun regrets the lost of life” which I find incomprehensible. It was a deliberate attack with well-planned targets and consequences. The similarity between the “warnings” given to families in Gaza before the IDF destroys their homes and the warning given by the Irgun is chilling.

      The Irgun and the IDF and anyone else that deliberately murders innocents cannot feel “regret” — that’s only Hasbara.

      • Sad that I don’t hear voices raised against the Egyptian blockade of Gaza. Everyone seems too preoccupied with Israel to remember that Egypt has a border with Gaza.

        I find the plaque incomprehensible as well. Especially since as far as I know, the Irgun and its heads (Begin, Shamir and others) never regretted attacking the military headquarters of the British in Mandatory Palestine.

        In my opinion, planting a bomb in the enemy’s HQ, with an advanced warning, is a courageous and noble way to wage war on the occupation forces. I’m glad the IDF keeps up the practice, even when this means calling off a strike against a Hamas operative.

        Its not just me who thinks so. The High-Level International Military Group on the Gaza Conflict in 2014 found that: “in some cases Israel’s scrupulous adherence to the laws of war cost Israeli soldiers’ and civilians’ lives.” And these words come from senior military leaders and officials from NATO and other democratic countries.

      • I’m not aware of the IDF calling off any strikes in Gaza but …. maybe they did. However, there are too many documented cases where the IDF bombed housing and hospitals and schools and beaches knowing full well there were innocent men, women and children who were going to die. Nothing noble about the conduct of war under any circumstances.

      • Not too difficult to find examples of IDF calling off a strike – just Google it.

        There are multiple examples of Israel investigating and prosecuting its soldiers, including senior officers, for alleged criminal behaviour in combat.

        http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-opens-first-investigation-of-senior-idf-officer-over-gaza-war/

        http://www.haaretz.com/idf-probes-top-officers-on-gaza-war-strike-that-killed-21-family-members-1.320505

        I don’t know of any other country that goes thus far in prosecuting its own military for decisions made in battle. Goes without saying that Hamas prosecuting its members for breach of the laws of war is an unimaginable situation.

        I agree with you that war is hell and its downright ugly. However, “Law of Armed Conflict does not prohibit all harm to civilians or their property. Where civilians or civilian locations are involved in hostilities they can lose their protected status, and subject to the concept of proportionality, become legitimate
        military targets or, where such persons or objects are not legitimate targets according to the law, become accepted collateral damage.”

        These are not my words, that comes from the High Level Military Group report – people like General Klaus Dieter Naumann, the former Chief of Staff of the Bundeswehr and Colonel Richard Kemp, who was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan. I am rather inclined to believe their judgement, and they say Israel has done far more than is required by Law of Armed Conflict and more than any other country ever did to protect civilian population in armed conflict. Even at the cost of harm to its own troops.

      • I’m not going to play tit for tat ….. and I’m not going to look for examples of the IDF calling off air strikes. It doesn’t interest me in the least. The report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 war is factual and well-documented. I read it cover to cover. If it interests you … here’s the link. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/CoIGazaConflict/Pages/ReportCoIGaza.aspx#report

      • Yes, I am familiar with this report. I’ve read it as well. So has Colonel Richard Kemp, who expressed this far better than I ever could:

        “It is as though the drafters of the report believe that any civilian death in war must be illegal. […] no attempt has been made to judge Israeli military operations against the practices of other armies. Without such international benchmarks, the report’s findings are meaningless.”

        In short, Israel went after legitimate military targets, with excessive measures of precaution to limit civilian casualties. It is Hamas strategy to cause the MOST casualties on its OWN side – so who’s to blame for the civilian deaths?

      • Michael – you’re playing the good little Hasbara troll. I appreciate your interest, as misguided and nonsensical as it may be. Adios!

      • Good luck getting into Gaza, as misguided and nonsensical as it may be. And I mean it, I see it means a lot to you and I don’t see a reason to prevent you from going there. Hope to get a serious response from you some day.

    • My blog post about the IDF warning Palestinians in Gaza before destroying their homes. https://loralucero.wordpress.com/2012/11/22/a-polite-war-part-2/

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