|We had been told ahead of time to
decorate our cars and bring food for the convoy. when we got there, we
found that despite what we thought of as our pretty minimal attempts to
decorate, we were the only car that came painted with our own slogans,
so we got a lot of attention for our efforts. (see pics of the whole
rally by clicking
It was a good thing we did that,
because there was heavy rain as we drove south, and many of the posters
attached to our cars were washed away. everyone stopped at the last
rest stop before the checkpoint to rendezvous with the mini-caravans
coming from all over the country. it was pretty funny to see about 500
israeli leftists doing what they do best--drinking coffee-- at this
The last few kilometers took a long time, because there were simply so
many cars and buses--farther than the eye could see in either direction.
the rain had conveniently stopped just as we got back in our cars, and
the area was green and lush and hilly, in stark contrast to the giant
checkpoint station, protected by a wall, which was protected by barbed
wire, which was patrolled by attack dogs.
At a certain point we had to all park on the side of the road, unpack
our flour, lentils, oil, sugar, school supplies, etc. and walk the rest
of the way. although we had been asked not to bring flags, there were
quite a few palestinian flags, and a few communist ones. I would
estimate (really a guess) that about 40% of the participants were
palestinian israelis, and they were for sure the most spirited,
organized, and loud of anyone.
We pressed farther and farther toward the checkpoint itself. especially
knowing what happened in rafah in the last couple of days, it felt for a
moment like we could have pushed right through the barrier. a few of
the people associated with the anarchists against the wall moved up and
started knocking on the fence with rocks--gently, just making noise, not
trying to break through, and that was the only moment that the many,
many policemen in attendance got jittery and aggressive.
The rally itself was mc'd by khulood badawi, a very inspiring palestinian
israeli woman, and the voices of women were quite prominent. it was a
joint jewish-palestinian rally--both jewish/palestinian israeli and the
gazan rally that was happening on the other side of the border (though
unfortunately too far away for us to see them),and while it was exciting
and moving to be in that joint space, it wasn't exactly together. the
arabic speakers chanted in arabic, the hebrew speakers in hebrew, and
there was very little joint chanting. similarly, each speaker spoke
either only one language or each in turn (that is, the palestinians
could repeat themselves in hebrew, the hebrew speakers spoke only hebrew)
so we in the crowd were responding to different statements at different
times. i can't say that there was exactly a feeling of unity there, but
there was a sense of joint purpose.
The two most moving speakers, for me, were Dr. Eyad Sarraj, the founder
of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, and a very young woman
(about 17) from Sderot who closed the rally.
Shir Shodzik, 17, a resident of the battered town of Sderot also took
part in the demonstration in order to express her opposition to the
Israeli-imposed sanctions. Despite the fact that Shodzik's aunt and
cousin were injured in a Qassam rocket attack in Zikim, the teen wanted
to express her dissatisfaction with Israeli government policy vis-à-vis
the Gaza Strip.
"I came to show my identification with the Palestinian people. There is
no need for violence or (the use of) force in order to solve this
situation," she said.
Shodzik added that she "knows it is absurd that I am taking part in this
protest," but explained that it is the path she has chosen.
'We won't be party to this crime'
Dr. Sarraj was leading the palestinian side of the protest, we heard him
by holding a cell phone on speaker up to the microphone. he spoke in
english, and he spoke of the rally as a historic day. he said he was so
proud of all of us that we were there, together, and he said that any
time blood is spilled, in gaza, in sderot, or anywhere, it is an affront
to humanity. he spoke so beautifully, and his deep sense of humanity
came through so strongly, and especially to think of his ability to be
that generous of spirit while in a state of siege and disaster all
around, made tears come to my eyes, and i noticed that i wasn't the only
one. to think that anyone could say there is no non-violent movement in
Jeff Halper, when he spoke, mentioned all the rallies of support for the
convoy happening around the world.
The last speaker was this teenager from Sderot, it was her first rally
ever, and she talked about how she and her family suffer from the
Qassams, but also how she also always remembers how much deeper and
worse the suffering is in Gaza.
At the end of the rally they announced that the negotiating team had
succeeded in persuading the border cops to let the supplies through, i
think they said they will go on monday. a neighboring kibbutz offered
their storage space until then, which again shows that not everyone
living with the qassams is vengeful.
During our coffee break earlier in the day, my friend/driver/fellow
former bay area resident emily had a conversation with one of the most
committed activists in the movement about what the purpose of the
protest really was. they agreed that being more confrontational might
have been more fun and maybe more satisfying, but that in the end, of
course, a rally, even one that is relatively large (at least for this
location: 1000 people in tel aviv is nothing, but at erez it is quite
remarkable), doesn't change much. but, the important thing is that we
showed that there is an alternative to war and siege and destruction,
and that there is a substantial part of the israeli public who are
willing to fight for it, and that the partners are there to make it
I was amazed to discover that it took only an hour to return to tel aviv.
(formerly Bay Area)