Since returning from Gaza where I went on a Grassroots International program trip that coincided with the International Women’s Delegation co-sponsored by Code Pink, Grassroots International and others, I am finding it very difficult to write. I sit at night staring blankly at my more than a hundred pages of notes and find the personal testimonies from the War too horrific to have actually happened or to exist between the pages of my beat-up notebooks. I spend hours sorting through thousands of photographs and stop every now and then to remind myself that the images are part of my recent experience and responsibility now and not some archives from Sabra or Shatila or Jenin or Beirut that somehow made their way onto my hard drive.
The people that I met in Gaza always asked why I had come. The question reoccurred so frequently that I memorized my answer without knowing it. “Three reasons,” I would usually say. First, “ana baheb Falasteen kiteer kiteer.” (I love Palestine very much.) My second reason was that since the border is practically locked for Palestinians, it is important to use this opportunity to be in solidarity during these difficult times and provide lifelines to the outside. Finally, the stories about what really happened during the war need to get out – especially in the U.S. where citizen’s tax dollars have funded the weaponry. I would explain that very few Americans understand the complexities of this part of the world and yet they potentially have the capacity to leverage the kind of power that can fundamentally change policy in the Middle East.
After hearing my answers, stories poured from the mouths of Palestinians that I was meeting all over Gaza. They welcomed me into their apartments and tents, all the time encouraging me to share their stories and photographs. From spending time with the Sarmounis who lost 29 family members during the recent attacks, to the Bashirs whose home was occupied by soldiers for ten years, to exploring Sderot in Southern Israel where the silenced peace movement continues to thrive, all of these voices will always be with me. And I will keep my promise of sharing them.
Please visit Grassroots International’s website over the coming weeks to hear more.