My journey to return to Gaza began more than 200 days ago in September 2014. Every day I’ve jotted down a note about my progress (or lack of progress) and I’ve compiled these notes by month on my blog. This post includes my notes from April 2015 when I traveled to Minneapolis and Rochester, Minnesota and then to Baltimore, Maryland.
Day #213 – In my email inbox was a note recommending that I buy burial insurance. Since I’m traveling today — getting on an airplane in a few hours headed to Minneapolis — I hope that email was only Spam. I deleted it. #GoingtoGaza
Day #214 – Yesterday in Minneapolis, the high of 83 F broke record from 1880s. Today, the expected high is 63 F. And tomorrow, the expected high will be 43 F. Thank you, Fossil Fuels. #GoingtoGaza
Day #215 – A 90-year-old friend asked me today how she could keep in touch with me when I’m in Gaza. She doesn’t have a computer. And I told her snail mail delivery to Gaza is impossible. So we decided that her son or daughter could help her send and receive emails. My friend seemed shocked that there was no mail delivery in Gaza. #GoingtoGaza
Day #216 – I think today is the first day in this long 200+ days journey that I haven’t talked with someone about Gaza. I focused my entire day on my 8 year old nephew. His Serpentine Lego fighter protected us all day … at the library, riding the bus around Rochester, and chasing squirrels. When I showed him the school building where I went to 2nd grade, I think he was amazed that I was ever that young. I love this little guy. #GoingtoGaza
Day #217 – Easter Sunday. I attended Easter services in the same small church I attended as a child in Rochester, where I sang in the choir, and taught Sunday School to the young children when I was a teenager. This was my first time back in nearly 45 years! I looked around and saw “my tribe” and thought how good it feels to be part of a tribe.
Mayo Clinic in background; Calvary Episcopal Church in foreground. Rochester, Minnesota
Hopefully, everyone begins life in a tribe that grounds the individual in the mores and traditions of the tribe, but as we mature, we learn the important lesson that we’re all connected. We are one. My tribe and your tribe and his tribe are all one. Unfortunately, many people cannot lift their heads or hearts up above their tribal affiliations. #GoingtoGaza
Days #218-219 – Yesterday I reached out to one of the organizers who is pulling together the next flotilla to Gaza. Since entry to Gaza from Israel and Egypt is so difficult, maybe I can get a seat on a boat. Haven’t heard any response yet but keeping my fingers crossed for good luck. #GoingtoGaza
Day #220 – Learned a new factoid today. Thomas Jefferson had purchased a copy of the Qu’ran 11 years before he wrote the Declaration of Independence. If nothing else, it indicates that he was interested in learning about “others”.
On NPR this morning, I listened to a program about the religion of Scientology and how its leaders discourage members from reading any critique of Scientology. Thomas Jefferson would never have been a good Scientologist. His mind was too open to new ideas and ways of looking at the world. Netanyahu, on the other hand, would make a good Scientologist. #GoingtoGaza
Day #221 – On this pilgrimage I meet old friends and new. Yesterday I saw an old friend at the Rochester library whom I haven’t seen in 10+ years. She’s a librarian. I was surprised to learn that she knew about my travel to Gaza in 2012-2013 (I think my cousin must have shared my story with her) and she’s very interested in my future travel to Gaza. We agreed to connect on Facebook so that we can follow each other. The younger generation may be leaving Facebook, but the older 60+ generation is finding each other there. Yeah! #GoingtoGaza
Day #222 – Listening to a family member tell me with certitude that “Hamas are terrorists who want to destroy Israel”. He believes I met the “happy Hamas” during my visit to Gaza — those people who perform social welfare actions. Maybe the “bad Hamas terrorists” were hiding behind children or in schools.
I had absolutely no words and no energy to respond. Sitting there I thought “where does he get his information?” “Doesn’t he realize that the Israeli occupation has continued for 67 years but Hamas has existed only about 1/2 that time?” So many Americans are living in a bubble and I’m sad because I don’t know how to burst it. #GoingtoGaza
Day #223 – Last month a good friend was trying to warn me about my Facebook posts which focus on the Holy Land. By way of example, she told me that her adult daughter doesn’t like my posts. Was that meant to help me “tone down” my messages? I’m not sure, but I immediately responded: “I don’t care what your daughter thinks about my FB posts on Israel and Palestine.” That ended the discussion right away.
In hindsight, I think my response was too curt. But do people really think I am interested in pleasing 3300+ friends on Facebook? The beauty of FB is that anyone can “unfriend” or “unfollow” anyone else. I highly recommend it. #GoingtoGaza
Day #224 – Friday morning in Minneapolis I grabbed my camera to capture a picture of the snow falling. This morning, I’m watching many friends in Gaza posting their pictures of the snow falling. Thankful for the beautiful white stuff from heaven that captures the imagination of so many. #GoingtoGaza
Day #225 – Hillary Clinton has visited Palestine, and specifically the Gaza Strip. But is she capable of speaking the truth? Apparently she has some harsh words about the occupation in her new book. I’m going to read it. #GoingtoGaza
Deir Yassin Memorial in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Day #226 – The Massacre at Deir Yassin has not been forgotten in Minneapolis, Minnesota. On April 9, 1948, Zionist terrorists killed more than 100 Palestinian men, women and children in the village of Deir Yassin. Today I rode my bicycle along the Midtown Greenway, an old abandoned railroad line, and was surprised to find a memorial to Deir Yassin. I don’t know who was responsible for erecting the memorial. I wonder how many cyclists understand its significance. Surprise on the Midtown Greenway | لماذا غزة؟ Why Gaza? #GoingtoGaza
Day #227 – Arrived in Baltimore last night, the next leg of my pilgrimage. My friend and I went walking along the Inner Harbor today — his pedometer measured about 5 miles — when I took a tumble and landed on my . . . face! Except for a swollen lip, I don’t seem to be worse for wear. Very lucky I didn’t break my nose or chip a tooth. Just the thought makes me cringe! 😦 #GoingtoGaza
Day #228 – A good friend said he was looking seriously at Rand Paul for President because, among other reasons, Rand Paul supports “right to life.” I shared with him the candidate’s position on Israel and Palestine. I’m pleased that he decided it was a deal breaker and he can’t support Rand Paul now. Rand Paul – “I’m proud to support Israel, America’s longtime friend and ally in the Middle East. Israeli cafés and buses are bombed, towns are victimized by hundreds of rockets, and its citizens are attacked by Palestinian terrorists.” Currently, Rand Paul has introduced a bill to defund Palestine as long as they continue to seek justice at the International Criminal Court. #GoingtoGaza
Day #229 – Life and death. When I was younger, those two seemed like black & white. Here & there. Over the past 18 months, I’ve had the honor to watch life passing to death in slow motion. Now they seem more like a continuum — a journey — a gentle breeze between a fluid membrane. Thank you my friend. #GoingtoGaza
Day #230 – Contacted the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC via email to ask about the procedure for getting permission to cross Erez into Gaza. Was surprised to receive a response in about 30 minutes that said they don’t handle such matters. I should check with http://www.cogat.idf.il/894-en/Matpash.aspx Going to check this website tomorrow. #GoingtoGaza
Day #231 – Today a friend told me that he was on “auto-pilot” most of his life (he’s 72) but he’s now really living and engaged with life. I think about where and what I was doing 10 years ago, compared to where and what I’m doing today — and I’m so thankful this path opened up for me. But I don’t feel I was ever on auto-pilot. Just on another path. #GoingtoGaza
Days #232-233 – Propaganda is alive and well inside the DC Beltway metro stations. http://sayyestopeace.org I wonder if our elected leaders are getting much truth in their diet. #GoingtoGaza
Day #234 – Received some cold, hard reality news today that has forced me to stop and reassess the journey I’m on. #GoingtoGaza
Day #235 – Learned yesterday that the Palestinian Youth in Gaza are planning a day of protest at home and around the world on Wednesday, April 29. I contacted one of the organizers and now I’m planning to protest in front of the Israeli Embassy. Might be a protest of one. I wonder if anyone will join me. #GoingtoGaza
Day #236 – At the grocery store in Baltimore, a sign over the door as I left — “Thank you” “Merci” “Gracias” and the Arabic letters for Shukran. I was really pleased that I could read it. I should pick up my Arabic vocabulary cards and start practicing again. #GoingtoGaza
Day #237 – What can we get for $2 trillion per year? Answer: A world beyond war. #GoingtoGaza
Day #238 – A friend told me today that my strength is talking one-on-one or with small groups because people trust me and I’m a good listener. He said I should use that skill when I get to the Middle East. Maybe I should use that skill with the officials at the Egyptian Embassy and Israeli Embassy. My yelling and kicking and screaming don’t seem to work. LOL #GoingtoGaza
Day #239 – “Diversity” and “Pluralism” — the first is a census factoid and the second is an achievement of building an inclusive community. It takes hard work to achieve pluralism. “Sacred Ground” – by Eboo Patel. Israel’s occupation has created the opposite. A Jews-only state is neither diverse nor an example of pluralism. Israel supporters would feel great sadness if they understood their lost. #GoingtoGaza
Day #240 – I’m in Baltimore when rioting breaks out after young black man died in police custody. FB friends draw parallels between Baltimore and Gaza. They see “good” guys and “bad” guys — so simplistic! I wonder if they (and others) misunderstand my advocacy about Palestine. I don’t see Palestine-Israel as “good” vs “bad”. #GoingtoGaza
Day #241 – I’m feeling very grateful this morning. I’m walking the 5K for Gaza in middle of May to raise $$ for UNRWA. The resources are needed to help the children suffering from trauma in Gaza. Thank you! Merci! Gracias! Shukran! #GoingtoGaza