Sunday, December 02, 2007

My Name is Rachel Corrie

Last night, I was lucky enough to see the play “My Name is Rachel Corrie” at Mars Hill College. Rachel was a student at Evergreen College in Olympia Washington, where she was born and had lived. She decided to join the International Solidarity Movement in Gaza in January 2003 and was killed by a US-made, Israeli-run bulldozer in on March 16, 2003.

She was trying to stop a home demolition.

This play about Rachel comes entirely from her own writings prior to going to Gaza and while she was there. She was one of the “foreign nationals” in that country. As part of the International Solidarity Movement, they were non-violently protesting against actions of the Israeli military. Watching this play was quite emotional, and the actress playing Rachel was also at points quite emotional. In Rachel’s last communication with her mother, she asked what the Palestinian people could do to stop this assault on their homes and lives, and pointed out that most of the Palestinian resistance was non-violent. She commented that “this evil must stop now!” and admitted to her mother that she was very scared in Gaza – scared of the Israeli military, not of the Palestinians. The Palestinians treated her very warmly, and the man whose home Rachel was trying to protect considered her to be his daughter.

The play starts with some of her writings from her middle school years, and while I did not see this part as necessary to the play, it does humanize her quite a bit.

The play was followed by a dialogue with the actress and other panel members and the audience. This was part of the “Difficult Dialogue” series, which is funded by the Ford Foundation. This series is part of an effort to understand and combat anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry in the US. At one point in Rachel’s dialogue, she comments on how every person in that Gaza situation was just a “kid” – the Palestinians are just “kids”, the foreign nationals are “kids” and the Israeli military is just “kids” in a horrible drama that leads to so much pain, loss, and death. The play ended with a clip of Rachel as a child, talking about how she wanted to end world hunger and her hope the world would do that. Rachel comments in her writings that “nothing could have prepared me for this reality.”

I admire Rachel for her attempts to understand a difficult situation, and for her attempts to stop such massive human suffer that is now going on in Palestine. Our discussion afterwards was quite intense, and I don’t know if I can recapture the essence of it, so I decided not to try.

There is one thing I would like to point out – all groups, all religions, all nationalities, all races have done horrible things to their fellow humans. And all groups have done wonderful things also. And really it is quite astounding how much violence and killing we have done to one another, when in fact there are so little real differences between us.

And we must speak out against all this violence and killing before it is the end of us all.

I feel very lucky to have seen this play, and I realized in about the middle that there is no way I could follow a path like Rachel took – I would find it just too difficult. But I feel inspired by her decisions and her actions. And while I feel inspired by all those who take a stand against violence and killing by the government of Israel and the USA, the Jews who take such a stand really inspire me.

A lot of people die from violence, but Rachel was different – she died trying to stop violence.

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