It's part of
my our grieving process, which seems to be getting more emotional as the years pass by.
I deeply thank you for your indulgence.
I would have posted it on the 16th, but before I was out- of- range at that time, the site crashed and didn’t allow me to schedule it beforehand.
Thankfully and gratefully, beautiful brother BubbaSan, who places lovely flowers on Rachel’s grave every year in all our names posted this thoughtful diary. www.dailykos.com/…
And…. a trigger warning for my equally sensitive brethren.
I don’t like to bring sadness here when there is already so much.
Especially now, where with the advent of social media, the horrors of violence are up close and personal, live and in colour, to everyone, not just those down on the ground and in the trenches.
We are witnessing the trenches from the comforts of our home.
Everyday in Ukraine, we are becoming familiar with those civilians, volunteers, grandmothers, veterans…. warriors all…. who are sacrificing their lives to help and heal those victims of the madness invading them.
Sisters like 26-year-old Anastasiia Yalanskaya who refused to evacuate Ukraine with her family because she wanted to help others.
And was killed with deliberation as she strived to feed the abandoned animals at her local shelter.
Today, my goal is to share what I witnessed, to an entire peoples, and to one empathetic warrior and sister who sacrificed her young life for her global family.
I want you to know her.
This is who she was.
At two o’clock in the afternoon, on Sunday March 16th, 2003, Rachel Corrie received a phone call from a comrade from the International Solidarity Movement.
Saying that the Israelis were heading to Dr. Samir’s house.
Samir Nasrallah was a Palestinian pharmacist who lived with his wife and three children yards from the Egyptian border in the Gaza Strip town of Rafah, and had befriended many of the activists, mostly young people that came from a dozen countries from around the world.
Many were Jewish.
Rachel and other activists had frequently spent the night in Samir’s home, acting as human shields against the Israeli tanks and bulldozers clearing a security zone around the border. Almost every other structure had been knocked down.
Samir’s home now stood alone.
It wasn’t just homes that she and her comrades protected.
They acted as human shields as municipal construction workers were rebuilding a well that was vital to the area, and destroyed by the IDF. Municipal workers were killed by IDF snipers...hence the need for a human shield.
Wearing a bright orange jacket and with a megaphone in her hand, she was killed whilst standing in the path of a bulldozer that was about to demolish the Nasrallah home. She was run over...twice...by the bulldozer.
Fractured skull. Punctured lungs. Shattered ribs.
She died in pain.
Surrounded by her stunned comrades and numb locals.
A dozen witnesses from four countries insisted that the driver, a Russian immigrant, smiled as he came for her, with deliberation. When he ran over her for a second time, he turned his head and, through the rear view window, gave the horrified spectators a thumbs-up.
Her parents filed a civil lawsuit in 2005 against the state of Israel, charging Israel with not conducting a full and credible investigation into the case. That she was intentionally killed or that the soldiers had acted with reckless neglect.
For a symbolic one dollar.
No one was surprised when the court upheld the military investigation’s decision.
Judge Oded Gershon called Corrie's death a "regrettable accident.” "She (Corrie) did not distance herself from the area, as any thinking person would have done. She consciously put herself in harm's way. The accident had been self inflicted”, he added.
He also mentioned that the US had issued an Israel travel advisory warning to its citizens to avoid Gaza and the West Bank.
In my perspective, the travel advisory warning was issued for, among other reasons, so Americans and Europeans could not see the incredible injustice.
So they would be few outside witnesses. And without these witnesses to needless brutality to innocents, and without regulation and without outcry...it could commence.
Same warnings were placed in Soweto in my time there. I ignored both warnings and witnessed what I shall never forget.
In South Africa.
Rachel went to Rafah to connect it with her home town of Olympia, Washington. In a sister-cities project as part of her senior- year college assignment.
She witnessed injustice on a scale unknown to her.
I can relate.
As an American Jew, my initial visits to my ancestral homeland sobered me entirely.
I was right there in Rafah, twenty feet away from a seven-year-old boy when his arm was shot off his body by an IDF sniper for having the temerity to show his face in the sunshine.
I was right there when his parents looked at each other the moment after it happened.
And as his father went forth to grab his son and reach for the tiny arm laying in the dust and blood, he too was shot, in the shoulder.
The screams that I still hear 20 years later.
The screams that still wake me up at night.
The indescribable feeling of doom and evil....of hell.
The indescribable feeling of impotence for not being able to stop it.
Wearing my yarmulke and an American-flag armband that signified me as an ‘international’, I ran out to help them back.
Reciting the Shema over and over as I did so.
I knew that being killed was possible. Israeli troops had shot and killed several peace activists including but not limited to British United Nations worker Iain Hook, Dr. Harald Fischer from Germany, cameraman Rafaeli Ciriello from Italy.
I knew that from October of 2000 to that day in March of 2003, over 2000 Palestinians…. almost half of them children… had been killed by armed settlers and the IDF. And over 20,000 injured.
Should I be grateful that I wasn’t shot?
I still occasionally wonder about that sniper.
What was he aiming at? Why was he aiming at it? Did he not have a little brother? Was he human? Was he a demon masquerading in the flesh of a human?
I was shaken to my core… the fact that the perps were fellow Jews I am still trying to reconcile.
As did my white South African friends as they tried to reconcile their feelings at that time and in that place.
I’ve been an International Aid/Relief worker for over half my life, and by that time in 2003, I had seen and tried to relieve the suffering and plight of many brothers and sisters trying to survive the aftermath of armed conflict and flight, famine and natural disasters in locales with little infrastructure to rebuild...but I had consciously avoided the injustices in the I/P conflict, until the stories relayed by trusted comrades and friends made that impossible.
I started venturing into the Strip.
There was understandable mistrust of me in the beginning.
Because of my yarmulke….. the symbol of the enemy.
But I came with their allies, and after I put myself as shield and advocate time and again against young Israeli soldiers.… getting manhandled, spit-on and beaten by IDF batons until the colour of my kippah turned different colors from the blood…. well, that sealed the deal.
They too, have been manhandled, beaten and spit on.
Sleeping in the homes of members of the community, I was there when tanks came.
When explosions shook the homes.
When awoken by screams. I saw the terror in the eyes of the old and young alike.
My brothers and sisters were in a great plight.
And now it was my plight.
I knew what Rachel was feeling, all to potently.
To be a witness. To render whatever service your heart and circumstances lead you to do… and then, the luxury of returning back home to la la land.
It was then that I met Rachel. On a handful of occasions, and in each time, i made her laugh. Which considering the inner trials we all were going through, especially those that had witnessed death and injustice, didn’t come so freely. Once we laughed so hard, that afterwards she thanked me for the “…. oasis in the desert. The tonic.”
I was in another town when I got the call that day.… and was told of her death.
I screamed in grief and anger.
And I cried, oh I cried.
I cried for the pain she must have felt. For her stolen future, for her parents, for her friends and family. For those she won’t be there to help protect. For the world that she will no longer be in to render aid.
And I cried for the people... my people... who killed her.
Do you know the feeling that you have when you feel shock or surprise at an act, yet at the very same moment… you aren't shocked or surprised in the least?
We got to Rafah in the middle of the night.
The IDF refused us entry, so we walked 6 miles to get in, silent and deep in thought.
I and two comrades were lead into where Rachel was… at the Al-Najjar Hospital.… wrapped in an American flag.
We saw her precious and broken face.
Two of us, the males, started to cry whilst our strong sister was just too numb to cry.
I walked outside to throw-up.
We spent the night at a local families home.
I woke early, and walked outside.
At that moment, I wanted nothing to do with the people that did this to her, and I took off my yarmulke and threw it as far as I could into the dirt.
A young Muslim boy wearing a taqiyah was watching this with members of his family.
He walked over and picked it up, and whilst brushing it off, walked over to where I was sitting on the ground…. and clipped it back on my head.
He then said, according to my friends that had come out to join me and could speak the language, gently and with a smile and wet eyes,
“They took your friend.
Don’t allow them to take God away from you as well.”
For the children.
As a mutual friend of ours wrote….
“I wish I had been closer to her, because from her writing an intelligent, compassionate and complex figure emerges. Within a short time she was aware of the complexity, the nuance, the conflicts of the situation. Please do as she did. And put the humanity back into how you think about other people. We are all individuals with families, hopes, dreams, loves, fears,..and the abilities to do amazing things in the world.”
I haven’t returned to Israel since 2003, and have no intention of ever doing so. At least, not until the militaristic Likud party is ousted from power, and the change of a mindset of a large populace that choose them as their representatives, anyway.
Where did they learn this dehumanization of others? Where did they learn the arrogance and smugness of a jut-jawed bully? And efficiency? And from whom? The realization of that answer chills me to my marrow.
It reminded me in many ways with apartheid-era South Africa, where and when I also spent valuable time, in a time of injustice and in a time of change.
I can’t reconcile the attitudes, with what I have learned from my teachings of Judaism.
I was raised what it was to be a Jew. To crave and fight for social justice and equality, wherever that may lead, including one’s own backyard… or one’s own heart. To live the words of the Prophets…. ‘You shall not oppress a stranger for you were strangers in the land of Egypt’, and ‘Let your neighbors property be as dear as your own, and let your neighbors honor be as dear as your own’, and ‘You shall not rejoice as your enemy falls, you shall not exult when your enemy stumbles, you shall not hate another in your heart, but love your neighbor as yourself’.
What I experienced proved to me that what I witnessed went way beyond self-defense… it veered straight into mass collective punishment.
It was a large-scale version of the Stanford prison experiment.
And the injustice that is inherent in such.
Her presence would have have done so much to enrich the world. In many ways it already has. To be a clear example for all of us. To follow your heart….inner principles... and let that be your guiding light.
We both have/had a form of survivors guilt, as do many activists and aid workers that have the, again, luxury to return from a physical war zone, and strive to move beyond it.
It’s that ‘move beyond it’ that’s easier said then done.
She has come to be known as a great diarist, as she never, never, never stopped writing. She told me that she had never had the words come out and express themselves so effortlessly as in her time there.
Her most powerful work, for me, came out in a book of her essays started as a child and ending just a day before her death, entitled ‘Let Me Stand Alone’.
In her own words, two weeks before her death….
“We are all born and someday we’ll all die. Most likely to some degree alone. But what if our aloneness isn’t a tragedy? What if our aloneness is what allows us to speak the truth without being afraid? What if our aloneness is what allows us to adventure- to experience the world as a dynamic presence- as a changeable, interactive thing?
If I lived in Bosnia or Rwanda or who knows where else, needless death wouldn’t be a distant symbol to me, it wouldn’t be a metaphor. It would be reality.
And I have no right to this metaphor. But I use it to console myself. To give a fraction of meaning to something enormous and needless.
This realization. This realization that i will live my life in this world where i have privileges. I can’t cool boiling waters in Russia. I can’t be Picasso. I can’t be Jesus. I can’t save the planet single-handedly.
I can wash dishes. Fetch water.
And do my part.”
Rachel was 23.
"I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think about what's going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States. Something about the virtual portal into luxury. I don't know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near horizons. I think, although I'm not entirely sure, that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like this everywhere. An eight-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli tank two days before I got here, and many of the children murmur his name to me - Ali - or point at the posters of him on the walls."
"And then the bulldozers come and take out people's vegetable farms and gardens. What is left for people? Tell me if you can think of anything. I can't.”
“I still really want to dance around to Pat Benatar and have boyfriends and make comics for my coworkers. But I also want this to stop. Disbelief and horror is what I feel. Disappointment. I am disappointed that this is the base reality of our world and that we, in fact, participate in it.”
“Anyway, I'm rambling. Just want to write to my Mom and tell her that I'm witnessing this chronic, insidious genocide and I'm really scared, and questioning my fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature.”
”This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop. I don't think it's an extremist thing to do anymore.”
"I really can't believe that something like this can happen in the world without a bigger outcry about it. It really hurts me, again, like it has hurt me in the past, to witness how awful we can allow the world to be."
“This is not at all what I asked for when I came into this world.
This is not at all what the people here asked for when they came into this world.
This is not the world you and Dad wanted me to come into when you decided to have me.
This is not what I meant when I looked at Capital Lake and said: "This is the wide world and I'm coming to it."
I did not mean that I was coming into a world where I could live a comfortable life and possibly, with no effort at all, exist in complete unawareness of my participation in genocide….
…. More big explosions somewhere in the distance outside."
My father’s lineage dealt with the tsars cossacks, and my mother’s lineage disappeared into the Shoah.
Though I am a citizen of the world, I am also a Jew and I wear a yarmulke.
In the memory of my ancestors, in the memory of Rachel, in the name of peace and in the pursuit of justice…. I vow to help end this barbarity in this, the land of my forefathers.
Which means, alas, I just might have to return after all.
In their name.
And in the name of those in Ukraine, who are now as we contemplate, fighting for survival.
We cherish the courage and sacrifice of the Ukrainian people.
We cherish the memory of those who are dying as martyrs, those who are dying resisting, and those who are dying in terror.
Слава Україні! Slava Ukraini!