Introduction by Gila Svirsky
Last night in Israel, an evening in memory of Rachel Corrie was held. Rachel was the 23-year old member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) who was killed by a bulldozer as she stood her ground, trying to protect a Palestinian home from being destroyed (see www.palsolidarity.org for details).
We were about 200 who gathered in Tel Aviv for the event, organized jointly by the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions and the Coalition of Women for Peace. Most of us were Israelis, as the closure still keeps out most Palestinians from the territories. One who did come (sorry I missed his name) spoke on behalf of the joint effort at Mas’ha to halt the destructive “separation wall” now in construction on Palestinian lands. There was also a handful of activists from ISM and CPT (Christian
Peacemakers Team), though these internationals now rarely cross into Israel, as the authorities would prevent them from returning to their work in the territories.
Although the evening highlighted the special qualities of Rachel—an incredible young woman who will continue to inspire us all (see her parents’ letter below)—many speakers talked about the brutalization of the Israeli army and Israeli society in general, which no longer cares about the death and destruction wreaked daily in our name. As a result, the army is no longer held accountable for the shooting of any non-settlers or soldiers in the territories. Since Rachel was killed, two more ISM members were seriously injured—Brian had his face blown away and Tom lies brain-dead. Shockingly, the army conducted no investigation into any of these shootings, even though demands were made on every public, private, and diplomatic level.
Just a few days and several kilometers away from where Rachel was killed, Nuha al-Mukadame also lost her life—a 33 year-old Palestinian woman who was crushed when the Israeli army destroyed her home in the middle of the night. Nuha was killed, her husband and 10 children injured, but the army curtly defended its action—they were targeting the house next door—and never looked back. Thus it goes for the 2,006 Palestinians killed by Israelis in this Intifada (http://www.btselem.org)—some deliberate
assassinations, some ‘armed terrorists’, and some just in the house next door.
Israeli soldiers do what they like in the territories, with no fear of prosecution. The recent efforts to keep out witnesses—journalists, human rights workers, humanitarian organizations, and peace activists—are not surprising, considering the desire to hide the evidence. And I tremble to think what happens when these soldiers return home, well-versed in techniques of bullying and humiliating. This is not good for anybody.
Gila Svirsky, Jerusalem,
Coalition of Women for Peace:
A Letter from Rachel Corrie’s Parents
June 3, 2003
To the Coalition of Women for Peace and the Israel Committee Against House
Kahlil Gibran said, “When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” Rachel was our elight. As we weep, we try to recall our time with her and try to dwell on all that she leaves us. It is difficult to summarize a life and to put into words what that life has meant to yours, but we hope we can share with you a bit of the essence of Rachel.
From the moment she was born, she was an essential part of us-her mom, her dad, her brother, and sister. So much of what we miss now, of course, is just having her around-coming through the door to our house into the safety of a family place where she could just be. She napped on our couches. She relaxed on our deck bathing herself in the welcome spring sunshine. She ate potato soup suppers with us, and sat in front of the fire to warm herself. She sat quietly in corners writing and made messes creating art in the garage. She asked for advice about how to grow plants and wandered through the yard looking at what was emerging there.
She talked us into taking her out for sushi dinners, into buying her tin boxes at antique shops, and into purchasing additions for her wardrobe at the Goodwill store. She challenged our political views when they needed challenging. She chastised us if we weren’t thoughtful enough in our opinions. She playfully teased us about our many shortcomings and worried too much about her own. She loved us, and comforted us, and supported us when we needed it. When she hadn’t seen us for a time she greeted us with long, loving embraces.
Her grandmother writes of her as an infant, “Rachel would lie with Chris and Sarah stretched on the floor beside her, playing a board game. Games bored me, but here this baby seemed entranced. I think it was her feeling of connectedness, of belonging, that person-to-person relatedness that was so remarkable to her. Rachel’s life didn’t touch yours lightly. She impacted you.”
In her fifth grade yearbook at age eleven Rachel wrote her ambitions: “I want to be a lawyer, a dancer, an actress, a mother, a wife, a children’s author, a distance runner, a poet, a pianist, a pet store owner, an astronaut, an environmental and humanitarian activist, a psychiatrist, a ballet teacher, and the first woman president.” .
One of her high school teachers wrote, “When I consider Rachel’s impact on me the first phrase that occurs is—-destined to make a difference. In my relationship with Rachel as her teacher and friend…there was a mutual respect for the written word. She was the creator. I was the editor and as a good listener I was a sounding board for Rachel. She had so many ideas, so many questions…Rachel couldn’t be bothered by little things like turning in all of her assignments, because she was already dealing with the big issues: splashing in a puddle on the way to class and then writing poetry that was so clear, so poignant and so articulate one wondered but didn’t question how this complex young woman had so much to contribute.
One of her faculty at The Evergreen State College in Olympia wrote of her, “She was not content to merely learn about injustice in the world but also needed to do something about it. This was true locally where she would counsel low-income people, work to save the Labor Center at the College, or connect art and peace in the Procession of the Species.” (An Olympia earth day event that honors all of life.)
One of Rachel’s college classmates wrote, “She had touched us long before all this happened. She will continue to touch us. There was more to Rachel than that fateful day in Rafah, thousands of miles away from her home. There is more to her than any one individual will ever know…There was a greatness in Rachel that can and should inspire the greatness in all of us. If our collective memory of Rachel ends with admiration, then her message is lost on us.”
We know that Rachel’s message is not lost on those of you who have gathered today to remember her. We know you are deeply connected to her in your efforts to end the occupation and to bring peace, justice, and security to all the people of Israel and Palestine. Tonight, while taking a break from writing, we attended a meeting here in Olympia to raise awareness of and funds for the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions.
We will spread the word in the U.S. Mahatma Gandhi said, “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.” We thank you for this evening in honor of Rachel and we join in solidarity with all Israelis, Palestinians, and internationals-determined spirits—who strive to end the horror of the occupation and the violence that it brings to us all.
Peace to you from the Corrie family.
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