Tag Archives: Egypt

Medical aid convoy to Gaza

Gaza boys flag beach

Friends and readers of this blog know that I’ve been searching for ways to return to Gaza since I left in 2013.

In the past 6 years, Israel has tightened the blockade, making it virtually impossible for anyone to pass through the Erez crossing in the north.

In the summer of 2014, the IDF launched Operation Protective Edge, a massively disproportionate military campaign against the civilian population trapped within the largest open air prison in the world.

In the summer of 2015, the Freedom Flotilla III carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza was forcibly detained in international waters by Israel, the participants were jailed, and the supplies were confiscated.

Change ThingsI’ve been to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo several times in recent years asking for their help. In 2012, the Embassy provided me with the requisite paperwork to the satisfaction of Egyptian authorities but now my government refuses to assist Americans wishing to travel to Gaza.

If not by the Erez crossing in the north, or by sea to the west, the only other possibility is from the south, through the Rafah border between Gaza and Egypt.

Through Rafah it will be.

I’ve been invited to join a medical aid convoy bringing urgently needed medicines and medical supplies to Gaza. Alhamdulillah!

My contribution of $10,000 is critical to the success of the mission, and that’s why I’m turning to friends to crowdfund donations for this convoy.

Please read my GoFundMe campaign, contribute if you can, and most importantly, please share the campaign with your friends.  Here’s the link.

I’m financing my travel expenses myself. Every dime I raise in this campaign will be used to purchase medicines and medical supplies for Gaza.






Filed under Egypt, Gaza, Uncategorized

Having a meltdown!

I’m sitting in Cairo in the midst of a meltdown. Yes! It’s damn hot and humid, but the bigger issue seems to be the political meltdown at home in the USA, across the Mediterranean in Turkey and Greece, and on the other side of the planet in Venezuela.

The whole world seems to be falling apart; instability is wrecking the lives of millions.

Maybe the heat is effecting my brain and I can’t think straight. Things used to be so much simpler, so much clearer, so black and white.

Now I really don’t know what to make of it all.

  • The U.S. election in November appears to be shaping up as a contest between an egomaniac, fascist, misogynist dolt on the one hand, and a smart cookie beholden to the corporatocracy and Wall Street interests (aka the 1%), and the military industrial complex that has brought ruin to every corner of the planet. What appears clear is that voters in the U.S. have been shoehorned into making a decision in November which won’t turn this ship of state around. No real democracy there.
  • The failed coup attempt in Turkey this week has generated so many conspiracy theories that my head is spinning. Did Erdogan stage the coup? Did the US/Israel/Saudi have a hand in fomenting the coup? Did a Muslim cleric residing in the U.S. orchestrate the coup? Or did the military simply say “enough is enough” and take things into their own hands, albeit rather clumsily? Social media is abuzz with innuendo supporting all of the above. What appears clear is Erdogan is now taking advantage of the failed coup to round up (execute?) thousands of his opponents. No real democracy there.
  • Venezuelans are running to the border with Colombia to buy food!  No food or medicines on the shelves in Caracas, no money in the state treasury, oil prices plummeting. It appears clear that the bus driver turned President Maduro has no support and no options for turning his failed state around. No real democracy there.
  • The refugees I met in Greece are stuck in limbo, a world not of their making or desire, but trapped nevertheless because life in a wretched camp is preferable over death at home. What appears clear is that their future depends on the generosity and empathy of nations willing to accept the refugees, but now the borders seem to be closing. No democracy there.
  • Egypt. Well all of my notions about democracy flew out the window in July 2013 when the military coup ousted President Morsi. Some Egyptians try to justify the coup by pointing to Morsi’s mistakes. No doubt, he made many, but in a true democracy, the voters can oust the fools from office at the ballotbox, not with guns on the streets. What appears clear is that thousands of Egyptians are “disappearing” into the prisons and cemeteries while the streets remain calm. No democracy there.
  • The hopes and dreams == the very lives == of many friends in Gaza are being squeezed out of them, day after day, by the deliberate actions of Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the U.S.  A friend in Gaza told me “I want a new world, a new life.” I’m ashamed of my country. I’m ashamed of the apparent Democratic nominee for President and her “democratic values”, and I’m ashamed of our complicity in all of these wretched meltdowns. What appears clear is democracy is a term of art with no substance.


Democracy has about as much meaning as the term “terrorist” — overused to the point of nonsense. Truly Orwellian.

FUCK Democracy!  The experiment failed. Time to admit it and create something new. Seriously!



Filed under Egypt, Gaza, Israel, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy

Knowledge is power!

Following in the footsteps of Alexander the Great, I traveled from Greece to Egypt this month (July 2016) and visited the magnificent library in Alexandria, the city which he founded.  More than 2300 years ago, the ancient library on this site was the world’s largest repository of ancient knowledge. By 400 A.D. the library had vanished. The new library opened in 2002.

The idea of a universal library, like that of Alexandria, arose only after the Greek mind had begun to envisage and encompass a larger worldview. The Greeks were impressed by the achievements of their neighbours, and many Greek intellectuals sought to explore the resources of “Oriental” knowledge.

The cruise ships have stopped coming to Alexandria, citing concerns about violence, and so I suspect that this port city is suffering under the same economic woes as Cairo and the Red Sea resorts from the lack of tourism. There were many Egyptians visiting the library on the day I was there, but I saw only a handful of foreigners.


Egyptians taking their selfies in front of the Library of Alexandria

Knowledge is power; making knowledge univerally accessible to anyone with a computer is a powerful act of generosity and love.

I learned from our tour guide that the Library of Alexandria is part of the World Digital Library started by the US Library of Congress. The library has a very active project to digitize resources from many countries, and our guide asked us which country we would like to search in the library’s database as an example. I said “Palestine.” She smiled and typed in Palestine, and up came the list of books and manuscripts that have been digitized to date.


Permanent art exhibits at the Library of Alexandria

Libraries and librarians have always been special in my heart, and that might explain why I think the CPDS Library in Gaza is so extraordinarily important. Israel can stop the flow of people, concrete and sugar, but it can’t stop the flow of information. Israel’s 20th century strategies — occupation, siege, blockade and humiliation — will backfire in the 21st century.  Now anyone in Gaza connected to the Internet will be able to access:

The Digital Assets Repository, the Wellcome Arabic Manuscripts Online, the Institut du Monde Arabe Book Collection, the Digital Library of Inscriptions and Calligraphies, the President Mohamed Naguib Digital Archives, the President Gamal Abdel Nasser Digital Archives, the Science Supercourse Project, the Encyclopedia of Life, the Universal Networking Language Project (my favorite), and much more.


World’s largest public reading room.

I can imagine space aliens from the future uncovering this library in Alexandria one day, very much as we’ve uncovered the archaeological treasures from the past, and thinking “a society that valued books and knowledge must have been very enlightened.”

Unfortunately, Israel’s occupation and siege of the Gaza Strip prove otherwise. An enlightened society does not treat Palestinians as inhumanely as Israel does. Israel is building a legacy of a very different sort.

I bought a postcard at the library’s gift store, addressed it to the orphanage in Gaza, and then stepped outside into the blazing heat of the afternoon sun to mail it. Maybe Israel will allow my postcard to enter Gaza, maybe not, but that won’t stop the Postcard Brigade.



Filed under Egypt, Gaza, Israel, Peaceful, Uncategorized

Egyptian postal service doesn’t serve Palestine

“We don’t have any service to Gaza or Ramallah,” two different government clerks told me today at the main post office in Cairo. “Remove Palestine from the mailing label and replace it with Israel.”

Egyptian policy has changed since the first time I mailed a box from Cairo to Gaza in 2011.


Walking to the main post office in Cairo

As the crow flies, Gaza is only 346.29 km (215.17 miles) from Cairo, but they are the longest miles I’ve ever traveled. I haven’t succeeded in crossing that distance in the past six months I’ve been in the Middle East.

Politics.  Just stupid politics, and the Israeli-Egyptian-U.S. blockade of Gaza.

In 2011, I sent a similar box of books and small gifts to Gaza from the very same post office a few blocks from my hotel in Cairo. I couldn’t have managed that transaction without the capable assistance of Eid who navigated us from one part of the complex to another, up staircases, through noisy lines, and finally to the clerk who dutifully inspected everything in the box and then processed the delivery instructions to Gaza, Palestine.  No questions asked.

Five years later, Eid helped me again.  In 2016, the first postal clerk told us that there are no post offices in Gaza. No postal service in either direction — from Cairo to Gaza or from Gaza to Cairo, he said.

We walked across the street to another office within the same complex.


A section of the Main Post Office in Cairo

The second clerk we spoke with was sitting beneath a sign that read “Customs Office” in English and Arabic.  He looked inside the box, asked if there was any medicine inside, seemed satisfied with the contents, and directed us to tape up the box. Al-hamdulillah! We were making progress.


Taping up the box following inspection

Then we proceeded to another line and waited to complete the shipment with the third clerk. He looked at the label, saw “Gaza, Palestine” and directed us to cross out Palestine, and insert Israel. Eid and the clerk exchanged a few words, but it didn’t seem that the clerk would budge.

Eid asked me if I had a pen.  “None of my pens will erase Palestine,” I told him.  He replied, “We’re not going to be able to send the box unless we write Israel.”

So we left and Eid was kind enough to carry the box back to the hotel. Maybe there’s another way to skin this cat.

Shame on Egypt for collaborating with Israel on this economic, social and political siege of Gaza.  Shame on you President El-Sisi.

El Sisi

President El-Sisi

March 20, 2016 UPDATE

I returned to the main post office in Cairo today with a smaller package addressed to my friend in Jericho, Palestine.  I capitulated and wrote “Israel” on the label.  The address was written in Arabic on one side and in English on the other.  Small, innocuous, and clearly labelled. There should have been no problems.


Inside the main post office in downtown Cairo

Again, the postal clerk told me he would not accept my package for Jericho. He spoke good English and I showed him where I printed “Israel” on the label, but he said there is no service to Palestine. Instead, the package would go to Tel Aviv and sit there for 3 weeks, he thought, and then the Israeli officials would return the package to Egypt. I asked him how I could send anything to friends in Palestine and he just shrugged and threw up his arms. My gut told me he was as frustrated with the stupid politics as I was —- and that he wished he could have helped me.


Lora in front of the main post office in Cairo on March 20, 2016









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Filed under Egypt, Gaza, Uncategorized

#GoingtoGaza – March 2015

My previous posts in this series are Sept. 2014, Oct. 2014, Nov. 2014, Dec. 2014, Jan. 2015, and Feb. 2015.

Day #181 – Karen Armstrong writes that war is a psychosis caused by the inability to see relationships. Seems to me that Israel is trying its best to keep its citizens blind to what’s going on the occupied Palestinian Territories. Building a separation wall. Forbidding Israeli citizens from visiting the oPT.  Deleting the history of the Palestinians from Israeli textbooks. Is it official Zionist policy to nurture this psychosis?



Karen Armstrong

Day #182 – Never before have I had any interest in Israeli elections. That’s changed. With the election about 3 weeks off, I’m pleased to see that Netanyahu’s polling numbers are dropping. A 4th term would be appalling. Netanyahu prides himself as the guardian of Israel’s security. He needs another assault on Gaza to help his polling.


Day #183 – Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu disagrees with Obama’s negotiations with Iran. So Netanyahu will try to persuade Congress tomorrow. So imagine President Obama stopping by the Knesset tomorrow and sharing his two cents about the illegal settlements.  No disrespect intended.


Day #184 – Watched Netanyahu’s campaign speech to Congress this morning. My thoughts:

1) too bad members of Congress can’t vote in Israel – I lost count of the # of standing ovations.

2) Bibi must think Obama, Kerry, and most Americans are stupid. He recycled his previous scare threats from 2002 onward about the evil monsters devouring Israel. Looked like members of Congress proved Bibi right — they ARE gullible.

3) The lightbulb turned on for me when Bibi mentioned Moses and other religious passages. We have 2 leaders in the Middle East threatening an apocalyptic vision.  One has nukes and the other has global recruits. #Bibi #Isis

4) Pleased to see that the Editors of The New York Times and The Washington Post and others have panned Bibi’s speech.



Day #185 – Watching members of Congress yesterday genuflect . . . er give standing ovations . . . to the Israeli Emperor . . . er Prime Minister, I was struck with how WHITE, MALE, and OLD our leaders in DC are. They were fawning all over the old, white, male lecturing them from the podium. Heaven help us!


Day #186 – After reviewing these graphs and charts about exports/imports and the movement of people and goods into / out of Gaza, how can the Editors at The New York Times claim with a straight face that “Israel doesn’t occupy Gaza”? If they are that myopic about Israel/Palestine, in what other ways is the NYT warping reality for its readers?


Day #187 – Thinking about the women in my life and that I’m a very lucky gal.  So many have had such a profound impact on the path I’ve journeyed. Especially thinking about Kay who turns 80 next week. She came into my life about 30 years ago and opened the entire spiritual universe to me through Beyond War. The key that unlocked the door.

Thinking about Luria who died in December. She came into my life about 20 years ago and shared with me her gift of listening without judgment, the first time I’ve experienced that. I hope I can model that with my friends and family. Thinking about Pam. She came into my life last year. She has shown me how the spark of an idea coupled with a ton of good will can make a big difference.  I’m looking forward to learning more from Pam.


Day #188 – News posted today that the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza will be open for two days in both directions. And an American friend reported that the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza is now open, at least for people trying to exit Gaza. Are things improving?



Middle East

Day #189 – Feeling the weight and burden of all of the mistakes I’ve made and — having reached 61 years — there are many, many mistakes to remember. I wonder if the State of Israel was a sentient being, would she be feeling the burden of her mistakes? 66 years old — she has made many. She acts like a teenager telling the world she knows everything and refuses to listen to anyone. Hopefully, I’m a bit wiser and have learned from my mistakes.


Day #190 – I really, really, REALLY want to meet Raja Shehadeh from Ramallah. Palestinian Walks – Notes on a Vanishing Landscape | لماذا غزة؟ Why Gaza?


Palestinian Walks

Day #191 – A felony, charge these 47 Senators with treason.  We clearly have at least 47 members of Congress who are aligning themselves with the extremists in both Iran and Israel — they are threatening the security of the U.S. Their letter to Iran is a violation of the Logan Act. How should Obama respond?

1) ignore them and hope that the public’s condemnation will bring them to their senses.

2) publicly rebuke them and hope that is enough to bring them to their senses.

3) direct Attorney General Holder to investigate and bring charges if he deems appropriate.

I’ve never been so embarrassed to be an American.

#GoingtoGaza   #GettingthefuckoutoftheUSA

Day #192 – A friend shared a thought-provoking article that points out the danger that many social activists on the left succumb to – a sense of self-righteousness! I’m going to keep it and mull over it because there are valuable tidbits to digest.

I’ve been surprised and shocked by the attitude of some activists working on peace & justice issues in the Middle East. Never thought of it in terms of “self-righteousness” but it fits. Now I’m worried if I exhibit some of the same behavior and attitudes.


Day #193 – There are international travelers getting across the Rafah border into Gaza. I wish I knew how they did it. I can’t think of another international border that is as difficult to cross. The border between Mongolia & China requires the train car be lifted by a crane and different gauge wheels be installed. But the government bureaucracy is a piece of cake compared to the two crossings into Gaza.


Day #194 – #AskHamas is Hamas’ attempt to use social media to answer questions from the civilized world. Uncivil Zionists are spewing venom and hatred on Twitter, exposing their deep ignorance about Hamas, Palestinians and the Occupation. People don’t realize the power their own words have in creating their reality.  I feel great pity and sadness for those Zionists.


Day #195 – Walked only 4 miles today. Planned to walk 8 miles but forgot to bring water and it was a hot 82 F. Also need to remember to wear sunglasses because the sun is bright. Maybe tomorrow.


Day #196 — About to board a plane. Leaving California with mixed feelings. The last 18 months have been some of the hardest, yet most fulfilling. I couldn’t have done it without the lessons I learned in Gaza. #Samud thank you!


Day #197 – I’m a Pilgrim in my hometown and it feels a bit strange. Good friends have taken me in and I accomplished some important tasks today. Felt very honored when one friend asked me if I was interested in putting my name in the hat to fill the vacancy left by Senator Griego’s resignation. The only vacancy I’m interested in filling is the one in my heart left when I departed Gaza in May 2013.


Day #198 – Election Day in Israel and I’m watching it closely this year. The exit polls say it’s very close. Commentators on public radio say it may be weeks before we know who the next Prime Minister is. But Netanyahu has already declared victory. Just like his delusional rants about the Hamas “terrorists” … he believes if he says it often enough, it will be the truth. On another note, a Hamas official has provided answers to questions about the #AskHamas Twitter campaign that Hamas launched 5 days ago.


Day #199 – Netanyahu has won either by the skin of his teeth or by fraud. Was anyone monitoring this election?

1) Bibi drove the nail in the coffin of the two-state solution

2) A single, bi-national state is the future for the Holy Land.

3) The only question remains: by violence or peaceful means? Given Bibi’s leadership—I predict the former.


Day #199 (again) – Couldn’t sleep last night because my mind won’t turn away from the Israeli elections. WAR CRIMES and WAR CRIMINALS get elected.  The institutions that I once had faith in bringing peace & justice to the Middle East (UN, ICC, EU, U.S. Congress) are incapable or uninterested.



Day #200 – I must be back-tracking just like Netanyahu. The day before the election he said unequivocally that there will be no State of Palestine while he is Prime Minister. Two days after his election, he says he still supports the 2-state solution.

Likewise, before the election, I said it would be unbelievably horrible if Netanyahu won reelection. Two days after the election, I’m convinced his re-election was the best thing that could have happened for the prospects of long-term peace & justice in the region. Netanyahu has been unmasked. Alhamdulillah!


Day #201 – A good Arab-American friend and I were talking this morning about the Israeli election. Although she is very curious about my travel to Gaza and learning more about the occupation and the plight of the Palestinians, she admits she is not particularly political. But she says she now feels it’s time to go into the streets and protest. Bibi’s racist comment about “those Arabs coming by droves to vote” was the RED LINE for my friend.


Day #202 – Is there a “right” way and a “wrong” way to open one’s heart and mind to the injustices in Palestine? Are some pro-Palestine activists more worthy than others?  I’ve observed Palestinians condemning international activists. I’ve heard American activists criticizing their fellow activists and newbies. Seems to me, we need to treat each other the way we wish to be treated, and recognize that everyone has compassion in their hearts even if we don’t see eye-to-eye with them.

#Respect #GoingtoGaza

Day #203 – Friends today suggested I take a job teaching in Cairo so that I could be closer to lobby the Egyptian authorities for permission to enter Gaza. They also suggested I try to join an NGO like Doctors Without Borders who might be traveling to Gaza. Have you ever heard of anywhere else on the planet where visitors had to make such convoluted plans just to enter?


Day #204 – Smoking was considered acceptable in public at one time not so long ago. I recall sitting in the back row of an airplane with 3 middle seats for me and my two young children. On either side of us were men smoking! It was perfectly acceptable to smoke on planes and I couldn’t ask them to stop.  Same with Zionism I hope.

Today it is perfectly acceptable for people to proudly announce they are Zionists, and the community accepts it (even applauds them in some circles).  I hope in the not-too-distant future, Zionism will be a stigma and no one will make a public announcement even if they continue to believe such things privately at home.



Days #205-206: As a wandering nomad / pilgrim, my friends and family may find it challenging to keep track of me. We want to tie people to a place — and that is one reason “place” is so important.  Today, Bernalillo County Commissioners will consider a proposal which I believe will irretrievably ruin this place in central New Mexico.  I hope they deny Santolina Master Plan.


Day #207 – Feeling very frustrated. ABQ-Bernalillo County screwed up and commingled “planning” and “zoning” many years ago. We’re all paying the price today. This #Santolina master planning process is so screwed up. And those who should know better (the public planners) are clueless because they grew up with this dysfunctional system. Years ago, I tried to educate key players. Now, I just want to throw up my hands.

Thankful I’m #GoingtoGaza

Day #208 – The colonoscopy went well. Same doctor who performed it 10 years ago was my doc today. He told me he’s grown older. I told him I have too. Lolol Glad I’m in good health for my pilgrimage to Gaza.


Day #209 – Sometimes I feel sorry for myself when I tell people how difficult it is to get into Gaza. Then I think about Palestinians in Gaza who have been unable to leave, and I feel ashamed for my own troubles.  Middle East Children’s Alliance is arranging a U.S. speaking tour for Dr. Mona, including Albuquerque and Santa Fe, but she may not be allowed to leave Gaza. This situation is so diabolical. I want to scream.


Day #210 – I must be very, very careful (and probably a lot more circumspect) about jumping to conclusions when I read the “news” from Palestine/Israel.

Case in point: several different sources are reporting that an aide to President Abbas announced that Arab countries should attack Gaza. The “aide to Abbas” is a Muslim cleric using his bully pulpit to rouse antipathy towards Hamas. Yikes!

When I was in Gaza (2012-2013) I remember hearing about the political sermons coming from the Mosques every Friday. Since nearly every male goes to listen to these Friday sermons, I wonder how much influence/power/authority these clerics have over the population.


Day #211 – When I decided to become a pilgrim months ago, I thought my travels required that I leave behind many of my passions and interests. I realized this week that that’s not true. I don’t have to physically be in ABQ to remain actively engaged in some of the issues I’m concerned about, like the Santolina master plan. It’s much easier to be a pilgrim in the 21st century than it must have been in the 18th or 19th centuries.  Al-hamdulillah!


Day #212 – I’m hearing reports that a third flotilla will be sailing to Gaza during the first half of 2015.  I wonder if I could join it.



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Filed under Egypt, Gaza, Hamas, Israel, People, Politics, US Policy

People speak out – “Open Access to Gaza”

I have a meeting scheduled at the U.S. Embassy on Tuesday. Going to hand-deliver my petition and try to speak with Deputy Chief of Mission Goldberger about my request to travel across the Rafah border.

January 12, 2016

Deputy Chief of Mission Thomas Goldberger

Embassy of the United States of America

5 Tawfik Diab Street

Garden City, Cairo


Dear DCM Goldberger,

I’m an American citizen, currently in Cairo, attempting to return to Gaza to teach.

As you know, the U.S. Embassy in past years provided a notarized release of liability and responsibility to Americans wishing to travel to Gaza. This year, your office has refused to assist me or even meet with me to discuss this matter.

Your experience on the Israel/Palestine desk at the U.S. State Department in DC as well as your years of service as Deputy Chief of Mission in Tel Aviv would certainly provide me with very valuable insights. Perhaps you could give me some guidance about how to get permission from Israel to cross the Erez Checkpoint into Gaza.

As of Monday, January 11, 2016, 972 people have signed a petition urging the U.S. Embassy not to block Americans from traveling to Gaza.  The comments are very informative about how Americans feel about the 10 year siege on Gaza.  A sample of the 291 comments are reprinted below. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Americans-travel-gaza

“Freedom to travel is, or should be, a right of all Americans.”

“Dear Ambassador Beecroft and Deputy Chief Goldberger:

I am a Jewish American who is very concerned about the state of affairs in Gaza and the Middle East generally. While we can never abandon our commitment to the State of Israel, we need to adopt a more even handed policy that will truly promote peace and not just enable extreme elements in Israel if we want to stem the tide of violent Islamists. Citizens like Lora Lucero help to promote good will, inform the American public, and create pressure for a resolution of the Palestinian dispute, which has gone on for far, far too long. Please resume issuing waivers to American citizens like Ms. Lucero who wish to travel to Gaza.”

“Don’t prevent anybody form going in and out from Gaza. Stop the inhumane treatment of Gazans. They are pushing Gaza to more violence and bloodshed.”

“It’s so important to have an international presence in Gaza. Please provide documents for those Americans wanting to travel there.”

“I am appalled that Lora Lucero cannot travel to the Gaza strip BECAUSE, as I understand it, the US Embassy in Cairo refuses to grant the necessary documentation.”

“We as Americans want to be able to cross the borders, to bring aid, and let the world know what the Palestinian plight is about.”

“U.S. citizens should not be blocked by the U.S. OR Israel from traveling to the Palestinian Occupied Territories and Gaza. Our work and witness in extremely important to Palestinians living under occupation.”

“Please assist Lora Lucero and other Americans who want to in going to Gaza and showing that Americans can help those in need. If Americans are to be truly safe and true to our professed values, we need to help make the world a better place instead of approaching everything as a military issue.”

“In November 2012, I traveled to Gaza from Egypt, and I received the written waiver from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Also, the Egyptian Press Office at that time provided press credentials to travel to Gaza, which I also received. It was so important that we (a delegation organised by Code Pink and Free Gaza) were able to witness and to share what we experienced. It is frightening to think that U.S. citizens will be denied the ability to show support and report on the situation in Gaza. The current U.S. policy is an outrage and only serves to further isolate the people of Gaza.”

“Stop supporting the blockade of Gaza Strip. Lora Lucero is a most peaceful person and she and others should be allowed entrance.”

“Palestine/Gaza is occupied territory and is being isolated by Israel. There is no valid excuse for this. Allowing teachers to help out is the least that can be done.”

“Whatever can be done to help support people in Gaza must be done – they are in an open air prison. The world needs witnesses and the US must change its , or the US will be considered a terrorist.”

“I’m ashamed of the US government’s discrimination against Palestinians and the activists who want to help those in need.”

“If an American University teacher teaches in Gaza, this is effective personal Peace work. The US Consulate in Cairo should do everything helping her to finish her job!”

“The consulate’s refusal to provide support to Lora Lucero’s decision to travel to work with the people of Gaza, who are suffering from bombs and other munitions supplied by the U.S. is an unacceptable infringement on her rights as an American and a shocking failure of our government to stand for freedom and compassion.”

“All Israelis should be banned from entering the USA until this illegal siege is ended!”

“Urge you to do all within your power to end Israeli boycott of Gaza — please.”

“Humane and productive policies should define our country. Isolating, blockading, and punishing the people of Gaza is neither. Act like an American and allow volunteers to help with the humanitarian crisis there. It’s truly the least we can do.”

“I’ve been to Gaza — perhaps the most important travel of my life.”

“As an American Jew I find your blocking people from entering Gaza abhorrent. It is reminiscent of Hitler’s behavior toward Jews.”

“Our American passport says: the cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity.”

“Lora Lucero and many other Americans are doing great humanitarian work by bearing witness to the reality of life in Gaza. Preventing them from travelling looks bad.”

“The U.S. Embassy in Cairo should at the very least meet with American citizens wishing to travel to Gaza, and resume the issuance of waivers to travel there.”

“Give people what they need to enter Gaza!”

“Ridiculous that I have to sign this (PETITION). Shame on you.”

“For how long are you planning to keep this inhuman practice?”

“These people have been collectively punished continuously for over a decade. Unbelievable.”

“It’s so sad that Egypt complies and buckles to Israeli pressure. Please allow those willing to dedicate their time helping humanity to enter Gaza. God bless.”

“By preventing people from going to Gaza, you’re showing the world that you condone all the hardships that the Gazans go through everyday of their lives. As long as some American citizens want to go for humanitarian purposes, I don’t think it’s wise to prevent them.”

“The U.S. Embassy in Cairo is totally neglecting their responsibility to an American citizen.”

“Do let people in to areas they wish to travel. It is their life and choice. If they do not intend any illegal activities toward other human beings, let them be.”

“It is good that persons with big Heart as Lora go to Gaza, it will help people in their “open jail”!


Lora A. Lucero


Filed under Egypt, Gaza, People, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy

#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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Filed under Gaza, Uncategorized

Do not prevent Americans from traveling to the Gaza Strip


US Embassy in Cairo

I started an online petition yesterday directed at the US Ambassador to Egypt and his Deputy. The goal is to convince them to resume issuing waivers to Americans who wish to travel to Gaza – like me – so that the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will approve our crossing the Rafah border.

My friend, Eric Maddox, posted my petition on Facebook and shared some important insights which I copy below.

No matter what your politics are, or your interest in geopolitics or the affairs of states, it is a fundamental right of all nationalities that we should be unhindered by our governments in our desire to travel freely and experience other cultures through direct experience. The ignorance that leads to fear that leads to hate that leads to violence is reinforced by policies that restrict freedom of movement and freedom of intercultural experience.

Whether it concerns access to Cuba, Gaza, Iran, etc, small groups of politicians (themselves with no direct experience of the cultures in question) have no business telling any of their constituents how large their worlds are allowed to be. Life is full of risks and accidental revelations. I demand the right to assess those risks and seek edification from wherever in this big messy world that I choose to throw myself.

Besides, anyone who has ever traveled anywhere that is on the U.S. State Department’s travel warning list realizes what an absolute joke our political establishment is at assessing security risks, and how little risk actually has to do with informing most U.S. “security” policies. If I listened to the U.S. State Department’s travel warnings on Lebanon, I would have spent close to a year of my life hiding in my bathtub in Beirut, with a blast blanket over my head waiting to get air lifted at any moment.

When I went to Gaza in 2013 I had to pay $50 to my own embassy for the privilege of having them notarize a document that said they took no responsibility for my safety if I entered Gaza. I am firmly convinced that a lot of travel restrictions (no matter the country) overwhelmingly exist for the purpose of preventing people from piercing the bubble of their state propaganda machines.

If more Americans traveled to places where we are told that we won’t be safe more of us would be outraged by the truths that we discover, and these policies quickly revealed for the farces that they are. Please sign this, even if you don’t agree with my views on Palestine. While I have a particular passion for that issue, this petition addresses a much larger and more fundamental right than travel to Gaza. Thanks for putting this together, Lora Lucero.

Please review my petition, sign and share with others.


border 6

Outside of the Rafah border crossing gate on the Egyptian side.



Filed under Egypt, Gaza, Peaceful, People, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy

My Travails Crossing the Rafah Border

Lora's passport stamp from Palestinian Authority.

Lora’s passport stamp from Palestinian Authority.

Travel to Gaza has never been easy.

In 2004, my friend and I made it through the Erez Checkpoint between Israel and Gaza only after answering a ton of questions at Ben Gurion airport. Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj, a world-renowned Palestinian psychologist in Gaza, was not so fortunate. Israel wouldn’t allow him to travel abroad to accept an international award from his peers, so we journeyed to Gaza to bring the award to him.

My next attempt to visit Gaza came in July 2011. I had an invitation to meet with colleagues at the university and planned to stay only a few days. I wanted to see how Israel’s Operation Cast Lead (08-09) had impacted the Gaza Strip. I thought I was prepared. I’d done my homework and read the entire Goldstone Report. My reading list was growing.

I suspected it might be dangerous. Hamas was now in control of the Gaza Strip. Vittorio Arrigoni, an Italian journalist and ISM volunteer, had been abducted and killed a few months earlier. But I wasn’t deterred.

I took the bus from Cairo to El-Arish in the northern Sinai. The 4-5 hour trip passed quickly without interruption. Hopping into a taxi for the final 50 km. to the Rafah border, I found myself sitting next to a journalist, a friend of Vittorio Arrigoni. I offered my condolences. When he heard about my plans to cross the Rafah border, he laughed at my naivety. No security clearance? No official paperwork giving me permission to cross the border? Good luck!

I recall thinking:

“I have permission from the Gaza side to enter, why would Egypt have any control on who LEAVES Egypt?”

Sign at the border between Egypt and Gaza.  I took the picture in July 2011.  Now I can read and understand the Arabic!

Sign at the border between Egypt and Gaza. I took the picture in July 2011. Now I can read and understand the Arabic

I was turned away.  لا لا لا  No – No – No! The Egyptian border agents spoke very little English but it was clear they didn’t see my name on their list and so I was not going to enter. I could stamp my feet and shake my head all I wanted, it made no difference. So I returned to Cairo and started knocking on government doors. It took about a month, but I finally received the approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a day before my flight was scheduled back to the United States. I was teaching and expected to be in my classroom the following week. So with my “approval” in hand, I returned home, deflated but not defeated.

I signed up for an Arabic Language class at my university and continued with my “homework” to learn as much as I could about the Israel-Palestine conflict. And I made plans to return to Gaza.

In the Spring of 2012, I contacted the Egyptian Embassy in Houston. I sent them my invitation from Gaza to teach a climate change seminar, along with my passport and the fees for a Visa. Several phone calls to follow-up, and I finally received my passport with the Visa and an official-looking paper giving me permission to cross the Rafah border. I flew to Cairo in September 2012 and made an uneventful crossing at Rafah.

Rafah border gate between Egypt and Gaza in the summer of 2011.

Rafah border gate between Egypt and Gaza

The next three months in Gaza were an amazing education for me. I can’t begin to summarize it here but take a look at my blog. I wrote alot about my experience. I was the student, my students were my teachers. In November 2012, Israel launched another military assault on Gaza which I’ve dubbed the Polite War. See here, and here, and here. The active shelling lasted 8 days and nights but the human trauma and scars will last another generation.

Silly me. I decided I needed a break and would spend the New Year holiday in Cairo before returning to Gaza. I left Gaza the day after attending a beautiful Christmas Eve mass in the Holy Family Church in the Old Town in Gaza City. Two weeks later, in early January 2013, I shared a taxi with a Palestinian friend who was returning to Gaza from his studies in Malaysia. On the ride across the northern Sinai, my friend showed me his manuscript that he wanted to get published. When we got to Rafah, I watched him skate through the checkpoint with no problem, while I was told لا لا لا again. No – No – No!

“Wait!  You let me cross 4 months ago and I have all the same paperwork. You’re mistaken. I must return to Gaza.”

Nothing I said made a difference. I returned to Cairo and spent the next 4+ weeks knocking on official doors, meeting and having my picture taken with the Egyptian Minister of Interior, the Egyptan Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Palestinian Ambassador to Egypt. Finally, I received a phone call about 10 PM one night in mid-February 2013 from the assistant to the Palestinian Ambassador. She told me that my name was on “the list” and I had permission to cross the Rafah border on Sunday.


I returned to Gaza and solidified friendships, continued to learn more about the reality of Israel’s occupation and siege, and decided I wanted to make a difference … but how? In May 2013, I left Gaza determined to return. I wasn’t sure when or what I might be doing when I got back, but I left my heart in Gaza.

Ahmad and me at the Rafah border crossing on Gaza side.

Ahmad and me at the Rafah border crossing on Gaza side.

Fast forward to November 2015. I’m back in Cairo trying to return to Gaza.

I’ve packed up my house, put my things into storage and hired a property manager to take care of my home in the U.S. I’ve been a nomad or pilgrim for the past year, living with friends, waiting for the Egyptian Embassy in the U.S. to process my application to return to Gaza. For many, many months, the Egyptian Embassy wouldn’t even accept my application. “No one is allowed to cross the Sinai,” they told me. “It’s too dangerous.” I waited patiently.

In August, I called again. This time they said they would accept my application but didn’t make any promises about whether it would be approved. I submitted all of the paperwork to the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, DC and held my breath.

Al-hamdulillah! The Egyptian Embassy in DC notified me that my Visa application had been approved with the security clearance to cross the Rafah border. I picked it up on September 11 and left the U.S. on October 14 fully expecting that I would walk across the Rafah border without a hitch. My biggest concern was the weight of my luggage. I’m carrying a ton of books to the library and to friends in Gaza. I had to ditch most of my clothes and personal things to stay within the airline’s weight limit. [Side note: Israel must consider books a threat because these are one of the many prohibited items that Israeli officials will not allow into Gaza.]

When I arrived in Cairo, I learned that the security clearance marked in my Visa was probably not sufficient to get me across the Rafah border. Given the increased tension and violence in the northern Sinai, I don’t want to make an aborted trip and be turned away. I’ve had too much experience with that scenario.

Today I had a long phone conversation with an official in the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He received my fax (Visa with security clearance) and confirmed that it doesn’t give me permission to cross the Rafah border. It only gives me permission to enter Egypt.

I complained and told him the Egyptian Embassy in DC said I had permission to cross the Rafah border. I told him I don’t need security clearance to enter Egypt. I can just fly to Cairo and purchase a Visa at the airport.

He said there are new rules since the war in Gaza in the summer of 2014, the one Israel dubbed Operation Protective Shield. The U.S. Embassy in Cairo must fax a letter with my documentation to the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

I told him I would not have left the U.S. and traveled to Cairo unless I was told I had permission to cross the Rafah border.

He repeated that I need to talk with the U.S. Embassy in Cairo about faxing my papers to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  He said he would expedite my request as soon as he receives the fax from the U.S. Embassy.

Last Thursday I sent an email to the U.S. Embassy requesting a meeting. Today I’m going to send a message to my U.S. Senator asking for his help to arrange the meeting.

I’m also going to try to contact the Palestinian Ambassador in Cairo.

The reality of Rafah: this border was open 264 days in 2013 when I last crossed.  It was open 124 days in 2014. It’s only been open 19 days in 2015. Lora Lucero has options. I can sit and wait in Cairo. I can return to the U.S. I can hike the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. But the Palestinians in Gaza have no options. They can’t travel abroad for work, for higher education, for medical treatment or for pleasure, which is the basic right of any human being.

Americans – Ask yourselves if this seige on Gaza (going on 8 years now) is something you want your government and your tax dollars supporting.

Outside of the Rafah border crossing gate on the Egyptian side.

Outside of the Rafah border crossing gate on the Egyptian side.


Filed under Egypt, Gaza, Israel

Why Gaza? Answering the question.

10682305_10205074594490415_7766625559446625498_o (1)“Why Gaza?” a friend asked in disbelief. Truthfully, everyone is asking me the same question. With the special security clearance finally stamped on my Egyptian Visa and my plane tickets in hand, the reality is now settling in. I’ll be leaving home in mid-October, headed for the Middle East and my new home for the indefinite future in the Gaza Strip, Palestine.

This isn’t my first time to Gaza. In 2004, a friend and I passed through the Erez Checkpoint from Israel in the north. We were on a mission. Israeli authorities had refused to allow a local Palestinian psychologist to travel abroad to receive an international award and recognition from his peers, so we were carrying the award to him. That was my first taste of life under Israeli occupation – freedom of movement was greatly restricted, even for the most respected professionals in Gaza.

On that visit, we drove to Rafah in the south to see where Rachel Corrie, an American volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), had been killed a year earlier by the Israeli Defense Forces. She was crushed under a military bulldozer while trying to protect a Palestinian doctor’s home from demolition. I stood on the barren site and saw no evidence of the house or the family but many children came up and asked me to take their photographs and I happily complied.

Then an old Palestinian man, maybe in his 60s and wearing the traditional long white galabiyya, came up to me and began to emphatically tell me something in Arabic. I had no clue what he was saying but I didn’t turn my eyes away from his withering verbal assault. Finally, he threw his arms up in the air, disgusted, and walked off. Our driver shared his translation of the old man’s words for me on our drive back to Gaza City.

“People from around the world come to Gaza all the time. They look, they take pictures, they cry big crocodile tears, and then they leave and nothing changes here. The same is going to happen with you. You will leave and nothing will change.”

That encounter was the turning point for me — from a mildly curious observer of the Middle East to a serious student of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine. I’d been steeped in the Israeli narrative all of my adult life without appreciating that there was another side to this coin. I never had a reason to question the mainstream media’s reports about the Middle East, but now my eyes were telling me a different story.

10603961_10204698724733906_7149256136853381628_oThe past decade has been my personal graduate education on the Middle East, including books, films, lectures and personal contacts to learn about the colonial history, the Nakba (the “catastrophe” of 1948 continuing to the present) and the failed “peace process.” I studied Arabic for a year at the University of New Mexico but must admit my failure to learn the language. Then I returned to Gaza for nine months (2012-2013) where my real education took place. (More about that visit in the future.)

Some family and friends have chided me for my “obsession” with only one side of this “very difficult conflict.” Their caution is well-intentioned but they fail to acknowledge that Americans haven’t received fair and balanced news coverage since the creation of the State of Israel sixty-seven years ago. My framing of the issues and events in Israel and Palestine only provides a more complete and (I would argue) more accurate picture. My obsession is for the truth.

“Why am I going to Gaza?” I want to witness and report what is happening on the ground. The United Nations predicts that the Gaza Strip will be uninhabitable by 2020. Israel’s stifling blockade, combined with its lethal military operations (3 in the past 6 years), have created an enclave of de-development (not only hindering but actually reversing development) with the highest unemployment rate (43%) in the world, according to the World Bank. The current population of 1.8 million Palestinians is expected to reach 2.1 million by 2020. The coastal aquifer which supplies most of their clean water is now 95% polluted. They are in the dark more often than not, with electricity available only a few hours each day. This tragedy has endless statistics but one simple fact remains: this tragedy is man-made as well as a foreseeable outcome of Israel’s very deliberate policies, funded and supported by American taxpayers.

So I’m going to Gaza to be a bridge between the Palestinians and people in the West (especially Americans) who cannot visit the Gaza Strip and don’t get the whole picture from the Western mainstream media. We have a responsibility not only to search for the truth and educate ourselves, but then to take action. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Desmond Tutu




Filed under Egypt, Gaza, Israel, People