I have just returned from spending ten days in Gaza participating in a nonviolence training with about 25 other people. I think it will take me at least another ten days to digest all that we did. At times it didn’t look like a group of people who were being trained to actively resist the Israeli occupation; it looked more like a summer camp with kids playing games. But it was in this type of atmosphere that an amazing trust and camaraderie was formed. This trust was important because it built a receptivity to different ideas. We were discovering for ourselves the challenges to organizing and implementing alternative means of resistance.
The participants came from almost every sector of Gaza. Some had been imprisoned by the Israelis, others felt imprisoned by their families and society, all had grown up under the harsh violence of the occupation. While my perspective was different from theirs in many ways, I found that more often than not it was the same. Of course their perspectives varied widely according to their experience. It was a wonderful way to see the intricacies and nuances of the “Palestinian perspective,” which is so often portrayed as static and single. Some already had a good idea about the concept of nonviolence and believed that violence used by either side was wrong. Others believed that the only way to get rid of the occupation was through armed resistance, which they felt was legitimate since it was fighting for the freedom of the Palestinian people.
It was also another chance for me to experience the wonderful heart this country has. One of the participants is married to a Ukrainian woman and has a daughter about three years old. Eight months ago she and his daughter went back to the Ukraine to visit her family. Now the Israelis won’t let them back in and he can’t get out. Yet he was constantly smiling and happy and eager to participate and learn. This is so typical of the people here; they are always laughing, smiling and ready to drop everything to put a smile on your face.
On the way out of Gaza, going through the Israeli customs, we got a chance to put a smile on the face of an older Palestinian woman. She is an American citizen with six children in the States; four doctors, one lawyer and one engineer. She had been visiting her parents in Gaza and was trying to go back to America. But for some reason the Israelis wouldn’t let her out and she was going to miss her flight. She was all alone and sobbing. We were able to call some contacts in the American embassy and the Israeli army and she was finally let through. It was quite a welcome back from our respite in Gaza where we hadn’t encountered Israeli soldiers for almost a week and a half.
Posted By Caitlin Williams
Posted Jul 18th, 2003