Tag Archives: UNRWA

#Gaza5K — a Success!

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I didn’t have any doubts that I would finish the #Gaza5K in DC this morning, but I had expectations I didn’t know for sure that I could fulfill.

#1 — Could I meet my fundraising goal of $1,000?

#2 — Could I get to the park in DC by 7 AM?

#3 — Could I cross the finish line without any aches and pains?

This was my third year participating in UNRWA-USA’s #Gaza5K.  These races are scheduled in several cities around the USA to raise funds to provide mental health services for the refugees in Gaza.  The next #Gaza5K is in San Francisco on October 14.

Tshirts

Picking up our t-shirts prior to the race

Thanks to my friends in Albuquerque, Seattle, Chicago and elsewhere, I met my fundraising goal just a day before the race. I carried the names of each of my 16 contributors on a 3×5 card with me during the race to honor their generosity in fulfilling expectation #1.

Morning snacks

Nourishment before the race

Since I don’t drive and I’m about 40 miles from DC, I wasn’t sure how I could make it to the race by the 7 AM check-in time. Good friends had my back. One offered me a place to sleep in DC if I wanted to travel the night before the race; and another offered to pick me up at my doorstep in Baltimore at 6 AM so we could drive together. Alhamdulillah! Expectation #2 was met.

 

 

When the crowd lined up — I’m guessing 125-150 people — we learned that we had collectively raised over $115,000 and everyone cheered.

Whether we ran or walked or strolled along this #Gaza5K course, we were all there for the same purpose — to support the Palestinian refugees in Gaza who are trapped inside Israel’s suffocating blockade and military bombardments.

The unemployment rate is over 40%; the restriction on travel has created the largest open air prison in the world; suicide rates are increasing; and in 2012, the United Nations predicted that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020 (now the UN says Gaza is de-developing faster than it earlier predicted).

start race

Off we go …. at 8 AM

I had no intention of running this 5K and, fortunately, many others didn’t either. I felt quite at ease walking along, first at a good clip, but then slower and slower as we ticked off the kilometers.

 

The runners seemed to be having a good time. It was the perfect weather, and the perfect course (FLAT) for this #Gaza5K.

Jeff and Sammy

Jeff and Sammy from Baltimore

I’m pleased to report that my final expectation, making it across the finish line without any aches or pains, was fulfilled, and my friend Jeff won a medal for the fastest runner in his age bracket!  Alhamdulillah!

 

“Thank you” to each of my friends who contributed to this campaign. Together we made a world of difference in the lives of many Palestinian refugees who will benefit from UNRWA’s mental health services.

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay area, consider signing up and joining the fun on October 14 at Lake Merced Park.  If you can’t join, but want to contribute, check this link here. Shukran!

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#Gaza5K – where every step and $$ counts

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In a couple of weeks I’ll be walking, not running, in the #Gaza5K to raise funds for UNRWA-USA to support the Gaza mental health progran for Palestinian refugees.  This will be my 3rd year and I’m really looking forward to it.

My goal is $1000 this year.  As of August 21, I’m 1/4 of the way there so I really need to focus on my fundraising and would appreciate any donation of any size. Donations are tax deductible, and I’m confident that the funds are spent wisely.  Please check out my story here.   And here’s my story and photos from the #Gaza5K last year when I exceeded my goal of $2,000. To make a safe and secure donation, please click here.  Thank you!

 

 

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Day #27 – The reality of Operation Protective Edge

Three years ago, in the middle of Israel’s murderous onslaught in Gaza, the reality was seeping through in the U.S. media.

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The best documented occupation … Palestine

As I’ve read through the 50 stories of Palestinians who have lived under military occupation for 50 years (each carefully compiled by OCHA), I’ve come to the conclusion that this must be the best documented Occupation in the history of international law. The evidence is meticulously preserved.

Why haven’t the politicians and world leaders been able to force an end to this occupation? (Books have been written in response to that question.) The short answer, the status quo benefits the State of Israel, and the U.S. helps Israel maintain the status quo.

All 50 stories can be found on OCHA’s website here along with the reports and additional documentation.  I’ve divided the 50 stories into groups of 5 to share them over time, hoping that Americans will spend the time to read each story if they’re presented in smaller bits.

MAHMOUD KA’ABNEH

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Mahmoud Ka’abneh from EIN AL HILWA | JORDAN VALLEY

When the Israeli authorities appeared at the Um al Jamal area of Ein al Hilwa (Jordan Valley) on 30 January 2014, they told residents to evacuate their homes as they were slated for demolition, said 43-year-old resident, Mahmoud Ka’abneh.

However, he added, little time was given to them to collect their belongings from inside the structures.

Mahmoud, a father of 10 children, said he pleaded with the authorities to leave at least one animal pen for the newborn sheep standing, to no avail.

That day, 36 structures belonging to a dozen Palestinian families were demolished, displacing 66 people.

When the community rebuilt one structure, Israeli forces returned and destroyed it.

Mahmoud told us that the authorities kept monitoring the area to ensure that no one rebuilds.

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YUSEF ALI KADOS

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YUSEF ALI KADOS from Burin with his grandson

In July 2011, an EAPPI team met Yusef, to hear from him about multiple incidents where his trees had been set on fire, reportedly by settlers.

Yusef’s family has lived in Burin for generations. For thirty years he worked as a primary school teacher, and raised ten children.

Between 2000 and 2010, his olive trees were set on fire on three occasions, following which he was left with only the 45-50 trees that are planted in front of his house.

❝For ten years now,❞ he said, ❝we have been suffering from settlers burning the trees. We have also been attacked when we try to harvest the olives.

❝When the trouble started ten years ago, we went to harvest the olives and we were told by the settlement security not to come there anymore.

❝When the olive trees were burned this last time [a few days before the meeting took place], I sent my son to see because I am too old. He told me afterwards that everything was gone, destroyed…

Burin

Burin (Photo by Patrick Zoll, 2010)

❝The army supports and provides cover for the settlers. We want them to arrest the settlers. They see the settlers and know what they are doing. If one of us hits a settler then we will be arrested, if a settler hits one of us nothing is done. To defend yourself you must stay silent.

❝I have not made any official complaints. The village council has taken the names of all of those who lost trees and report this to the agricultural ministry in Nablus in the hope of compensation.

❝These trees provided extra income for the family. We could produce 40-50 jerry cans (18L each) of oil, which we could then sell.

❝Every year, there is less oil produced as more and more trees are burnt. These trees took 60 years to grow, if we plant new ones it would take 10 to 15 years to have them mature enough for harvesting. But we cannot plant again because the land is so near the private settlement road.

Trees for me are life. I am 77 years old. I planted these trees myself in 1952. After school, I would go straight to the olive trees before I would go home.

❝It pains us in our hearts to see the trees destroyed. The earth is the life of the farmer. My blood is boiling with anger because I see my land burning and I can do nothing.❞

MANAL SUBAIR 

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Manal Subair from AL ATTATRA TENT CAMP | GAZA

We met Manal in a tent camp, in 2009, a few months after the “Cast Lead” offensive. She was 35 years old back then.

A year before, she still lived in a large house with many rooms and modern conveniences.

During the hostilities, she left her home after leaflets were dropped by the Israeli military warning people to leave the area.

The family took no possessions from their home except white flags that they waved as they walked to an UNWRA school to seek refuge. At the time, the family expected to return home shortly.

Once at the school, she had to use flip chart paper that she found in a classroom as makeshift blankets to cover her children: ❝I had nothing for my daughter, who was five months at the time,❞ she told us, ❝and I could not keep her warm.❞ The following day, food and blankets were distributed.

She heard stories of widespread damage to houses in her community, and she gradually gave up hope of returning to a house that was still standing: ❝We are grateful to UNWRA for providing us with food and water, but the conditions were very cramped and it was not home. We just yearned for home.❞

As soon as military forces had left the area, the family returned to their home to find that it had been flattened to the ground by rubble from a neighbouring apartment building that had been directly hit by an Israeli military strike. The blacksmith business of Manal’s husband was completely destroyed.

She then took her children to stay at her sister’s house. She registered with the local authorities and, two weeks after the ceasefire agreement, was told that she had been allocated a tent in the new tent camp in Al Attatra, several kilometres from her home.

Restrictions on the import of goods, including basic construction materials, imposed by Israel as part of its blockade, have complicated, delayed and, in some cases prevented reconstruction and repair of destroyed or severely damaged homes.

In other cases, where goods are available, families lack the financial resources to purchase them due to the poor economic situation in Gaza caused largely by the years-long blockade.

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School in Beit Lahia destroyed during the “Cast Lead” offensive (Photo by JCTordai, April 2009)

The family received financial assistance from UNWRA and the local authorities, and continued to reside in the tent camp, in very difficult conditions:

❝The first tent leaked and it was very cold, it was later replaced with a better tent, but it gets very hot and is full of flies.❞

The camp had temporary, pre-fabricated bathrooms, one for women and one for men, and water supply was sporadic.

For a while, her nine-year-old son continued attending the same school, but the distance proved a challenge. Manal told us that he also suffered from bedwetting and exhibited other psychological problems. His school work suffered, his grades were lower and he was disconnected from his friends.

When we talked to Manal, she no longer saw her friends and neighbours. Her social network and support system had broken down and she believed that she no longer had an existence.

❝My day starts with me hoping it will finish. I am worried and I don’t know what the future will bring.❞

She and her family were on the UNRWA shelter caseload list to have their house rebuilt. However, due to the ongoing blockade of construction materials, there had been no reconstruction by the time we met.

SA’EED AS’AD 

Saeed
Sa’eed As’ad from KHALLET SAKARIYA | BETHLEHEM

Sa’eed is the owner of a plant nursery near Bethlehem, in Area C.

On 8 September 2015, Israeli authorities demolished his business and confiscated most of the saplings and flowers.

The nursery lacked Israeli-issued building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain.

About a year before the incident the Israeli autorities handed to him a ‘stop work’ order for the nursery.

As a consequence of the incident, 17 people, including nine children, from Sa’eed’s family and his sons’ families, suffered great financial losses.

This was their main source of income.

ZAKIA ABU ALYA

Zakia

Zakia abu Alya from AL MUGHAYYIR | RAMALLAH

❝This land was our only source of income. We worked hard on it, my husband, our sons, and I. We planted olive trees, almonds, figs. After 20 years of hard work, when it was time for our investment to pay off, the outpost was established and we began to suffer from recurrent losses.❞

These were the words of Zakia, when we met her in 2013.

Her village, Al Mughayyir, has faced humanitarian impacts as a result of the establishment of a nearby settelement outpost in 1998.

Palestinian families whose agricultural land is in the vicinity of the outpost have been subject to violent attacks by Israeli settlers when accessing their plots.

Attacks have included physical assault and the damage to trees and property.

The Israeli army has also imposed restrictions on the access of Palestinians to some of the agricultural and grazing lands in the vicinity of the outpost.

 

 

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Senators should not build unity on the backs of Palestinians

When do U.S. Senators stand lockstep together?

When the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convinces them that the United Nations is biased against the State of Israel.

The Wall Street Journal notes:

It’s rare, especially these days, for all 100 U.S. Senators—from Bernie Sanders to Ted Cruz, from Elizabeth Warren to Mitch McConnell—to agree on something. But the scourge of anti-Israel bias at the United Nations is such an issue.

So all of them, including Senators Warren, Sanders, and my two Senators from New Mexico signed on to the letter undoubtedly written by AIPAC, the pro-Israeli lobbying operation ensconced in Washington DC.

The letter is a warning note to Secretary-General Guterres – “reform your agencies from within or pay the consequences.”

Although, as Republicans and Democrats, we disagree on many issues, we are united in our desire to see the United Nations improve its treatment of Israel and to eliminate anti-Semitism in all its forms.

My response sent to my two U.S. Senators follows.  I hope they hear from many other constituents.

May 10, 2017

RE:   April 27 letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres – Israel & Palestine

Dear Senators Udall and Heinrich,

I’m very disappointed with your signatures on the letter (likely drafted by AIPAC) to the United Nations regarding Israel.

Senator Martin Heinrich

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM)

You, along with your colleagues in the Senate, have adopted Israel’s strategy of deflecting legitimate and worldwide criticism of Israel’s brutal 50-year occupation by focusing criticism on the messenger, the United Nations. We’ve all seen this same “strategy of deflection” coming from the White House in the form of childish Tweets. Your letter is just as childish.

Threatening the United Nations and demanding internal “reforms,” based on false assertions that the U.N. is unfairly targeting Israel, belies the fact that the community of nations stand together in their condemnation of Israel’s long-term, illegal occupation of Palestine.

A quick online review of recent actions in the United Nations reveals that the U.S. stands alone with the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau (and sometimes Canada) in supporting Israel in the U.N. General Assembly. Every other nation is united in speaking the truth about Israel’s continuing violations of international humanitarian law and the law of occupation. Your letter’s bullying demands to the Secretary-General reflect poorly on the United States, but it’s certainly a testament to AIPAC’s power over the U.S. Senate.

I particularly want to draw your attention to the letter’s outrageous claim about “UNRWA’s troubling anti-Israel bias and activities.” You write that “UNRWA must pursue reforms or risk significant consequences.” I’m personally familiar with UNRWA’s solid work in the Gaza Strip and I find this characterization and threat totally unacceptable. The Senate’s blind loyalty to Israel’s hasbara must end.

Udall

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)

I’m also astonished that you oppose the international call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as stated in the letter to the U.N.  Peaceful, nonviolent methods to end Israel’s occupation deserve your strong support, not condemnation.

Please learn the facts about the occupation, beginning with the fact that the Gaza Strip will be unlivable by 2020.

Israel’s leaders have proven over many decades that they are incapable or unwilling to end the occupation. If the United States cannot play a constructive role, then please support the United Nations and its constituent agencies in the work they are doing in the Middle East.

Finally, I invite you and your staff to join me in UNRWA-USA’s 5K run in Washington, DC in September.  Your support for this worthy cause would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Lora A. Lucero

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#Gaza5K rain or shine in DC

IMG_4417Saturday, May 21, proved to be a real soaker and not the best conditions at Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC for a 5K.  That didn’t stop hundreds from showing up bright and early (7 AM) to run or walk in solidarity with the children in Gaza.

IMG_4411The successful fundraiser supports UNRWA’s psycho-social programs for children suffering from PTSD. Tragically, more than 50% of the children in Gaza suffer from PTSD.

IMG_4423This was my second #Gaza5K. Thanks to generous donors, I exceeded my $2,000 goal. I’m waiting to hear the final stats from UNRWA-USA but I heard they exceeded their goal too. Yeah!

Honestly, I thought about not rolling out of bed at 5 AM to drive to DC to walk in the rain, but I’m glad I did it ….. for me, for the people who donated to my campaign, and for the children in Gaza.

I met some really cool new friends, and received some great advice about my personal journey to return to Gaza.  I’m contacting the National Lawyers Guild this week.

Thank you to the UNRWA-USA staff who inspired all of us to do our best for the children in Gaza.  You are truly making a difference!

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CROSSING THE FINISH LINE

 

 

 

 

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#GoingtoGaza – May 2015

I was in Baltimore in May 2015 as the community was in turmoil. The following entries are from my journal for that month on my pilgrimage back to Gaza. Check my blog for the previous months’ entries.

Days #242-243 – Sitting in Baltimore now, watching the #Baltimoreuprising and #Baltimoreriots. The thread that runs between Gaza and Baltimore is giving me pause to think about 1) how I communicate and 2) how I can best use my gifts (privileges) to change the status quo. #GoingtoGaza

Day #245 – Met Tom Hayden at the Baltimore Library today where he was talking about his new book “Listen, Yankee!” He’s 75 years old and human. I imagined him younger and verging on super-hero. Some people fit into their skin early in life. Others (me) still haven’t. #GoingtoGaza

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Tom Hayden and Lora in Baltimore (May 2015)

Days #246-247 – Shifting my focus from Egypt to Israel and the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip. I crossed through Erez in 2004 (before Hamas was elected) and remember the feeling I had walking through the long cage between Israel and Gaza. It felt inhumane then. Wonder what it must feel like now. #GoingtoGaza

Day #248 – I learned this morning that a very good friend from Gaza has been accepted into a program this summer in DC. !*!*!*! Now he must apply for a Visa to travel which requires an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. No big deal, right?  Except that Israel will either allow him to travel to Tel Aviv, or not. Israeli apologists – PLEASE don’t tell me that Israel doesn’t occupy Gaza. That’s bull shit. I wish The New York Times would finally come clean on that point. #GoingtoGaza and praying that my friend is #GoingtoUSA

Day #249 – Nearly reached my fundraising goal for the #Gaza5K to support UNRWA’s work with children in Gaza. And making progress on getting books for the backpacks that will be shipped to Gaza. Feeling very jazzed!! #GoingtoGaza

Day #250 – Feeling more hopeful today. There are more ways than one to skin this cat…..and get back to Gaza. #GoingtoGaza

Day #251 – ISIS (aka Daesh) in Gaza?! I just read this short article that says ISIS is battling Hamas in the Gaza Strip. If true, my plans for returning to Gaza just took a sharp detour. #GoingtoGaza maybe

Days #252-253 – Spending time with family is like taking the car into the shop for a tune-up or recharging the batteries. This weekend with family recharged my personal batteries. #GoingtoGaza

Day #254 – I know I’m not alone. I’m trying to return to Gaza and my friends in Gaza are watching and waiting and hoping I’m able to return. Thank you my friends. #GoingtoGaza

Day #255 – Watched a video on Netflix last night called #ChicagoGirl about how citizen journalists are using technology to organize the revolution in Syria. I thought about the occupation of Palestine. Finished reading Tom Hayden’s book today – “Listen, Yankee! Why Cuba Matters”. I thought about the blockade of Gaza. Everything seems connected to Gaza, at least in my mind. #GoingtoGaza

Days #256-257 – Spent Thursday preparing for meetings in DC. Friday is Nakba Day (Catastrophe) when Palestinians remember 1948 – the beginning of their forcible expulsion from their homes, lands and communities at the hands of the Zionists. More than 750,000 Palestinians were expelled and more than 500 villages were destroyed to make room for the new State of Israel. Today I’m meeting with staff in Senators Udall and Heinrich’s offices, and staff in Rep. Lujan-Grisham’s office to tell them about the Nakba and give them some papers. #GoingtoGaza

Day #258 – Walked the #Gaza5K in 1:03:34. Met some new friends — a retired doctor from Pittsburgh who worked in the West Bank and Gaza for a time, and a new young eye doctor who visited Jordan and the West Bank for a few days. The energy at this UNRWA event was very positive with 900+ signed up. I took pictures and posted them online because I want my friends in Gaza to see how many Americans care about them. #GoingtoGaza

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Day #259 – I’ve been walking so much the past few months that my big toe seems to be permanently bruised. I wonder if I’m going to lose the toenail. At least I don’t have any blisters. Whew! #GoingtoGaza

Day #262 – After a couple of recent trips to Capitol Hill, there’s no doubt in my mind that the pro-Israel lobby has almost every member of Congress in a head vise. Senate and House staff have the jargon down pat — “Hamas is a terrorist organization” and “Israel has a right to defend herself.” I don’t think they understand that their worldview of Israel-Palestine doesn’t match how most countries view Israel-Palestine. How does a constituent have a conversation about the occupation in a 15-30 minute meeting?  #GoingtoGaza

Day #263 – A Palestinian friend from Gaza decided not to participate in a program in DC that brings Palestinians and Israelis together to listen and learn from each other.  Her decision is based on a concern, I think, about “normalization“. “It is helpful to think of normalization as a “colonization of the mind,” whereby the oppressed subject comes to believe that the oppressor’s reality is the only “normal” reality that must be subscribed to, and that the oppression is a fact of life that must be coped with. Those who engage in normalization either ignore this oppression, or accept it as the status quo that can be lived with.” #GoingtoGaza

Day #264 – Memorial Day weekend – when Americans remember those killed in combat, those maimed and disfigured, and those who committed suicide because the horrors of war are too much to bear. Families will be BBQing, waving flags and drinking beer!  While the Obama Administration has approved a $1.9 Billion sale of weapons to “replenish” Israel’s stock depleted last summer in Gaza.  Kill, kill, kill, die, die, die, $$$, $$$, $$$ — the credo of the Military Industrial Complex. And we play along like good suckers! #GoingtoGaza

Day #265 – I walked 13.2 miles today and finished listening to an audible book on my iPod called “A Flowering in Palestine” written by Andrew Reilly. A true story about an American Jew who grew up during the 1960s and 1970s. When his daughter has finished school and is ready to leave home, he decides to visit Israel. (1999). There, he learns the story of the Nakba and the Occupation and is so moved by the injustices he sees that he decides to accept a short-term teaching job in Bethlehem. Within a few weeks, he is shot and killed by an Israeli soldier while walking and singing with Palestinians who are peacefully protesting the murder of a Palestinian. Walking for fitness or walking to change the world—–as a Pilgrim I feel I’m doing both.  #GoingtoGaza

Day #266 – Beginning a new day. Nothing that a little Aleve won’t fix. Thinking a lot about tribalism and its destructive impacts. Is Memorial Day an opportunity for Americans to share one form of tribal affiliation? #GoingtoGaza

Day #267 – When will “service to our nation” refer to Americans doing good deeds at home and abroad, instead of Americans killing and dying? Answer: When our defense budget is aligned with our values, not our fears, and not what the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) demands. Take a look. The MIC is actually making us less secure. #GoingtoGaza

Day #268 – Rocket fire from Gaza provoked a response from Israel. And the cycle of violence continues. Two thoughts: Mainstream media is quick to report about the rocket fire from Gaza but has failed to report about Israel’s persistent violations of the truce over the past 10 months, and there have been many. There’s a new acronym that applies to nearly every child in Gaza. PPTSD = Permanent Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. #GoingtoGaza

Day #269 – Currently reading “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” (a 2012 social psychology book by Jonathan Haidt). He makes the point that Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (forming the acronym WEIRD) people see the world full of separate objects, rather than relationships. People in a non-WEIRD society are more likely to see relationships, contexts, groups, and institutions — not focused on protecting individuals. Today I heard that Bernalillo County Commissioners are likely to approve a badly-conceived development plan and have conveniently divided the land use / water issues.  Reminds me of what I read in Haidt’s book last night. #GoingtoGaza

Day #270 – Surprised and disappointed by 3 recent posts on Facebook — (1) a plea by a long-time American activist for Palestine that people stop a whispering attack against her, (2) a response to her plea that maybe the criticism against her is justified, and (3) a petition today asking people not to engage in such divisive attacks online against fellow activists. I’m surprised because I was unaware of this “internal” strife until recently. I’m disappointed because pro-Palestine activists are human after all. Maybe everyone has good intentions but we’re individuals with our own ideas and ways of doing things.  May all activists (regardless of your goals) model peace, tolerance and compassion. #GoingtoGaza

Days #271 – 272 – A new insight came to me yesterday as I was sharing with a friend. As a Pilgrim, I’ve been feeling some measure of discomfort about not being able to see the future. Where will I be this time next year? What will I be doing? Pre-Pilgrim days, I had a vision and greater certainty about my path, and felt some comfort in knowing what lay ahead. Now I realize, those days were really a delusion — a false sense of security but not reality. As a Pilgrim, I’m living a life more appreciative of the present. #GoingtoGaza

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