I had previously made it as far as Erz Checkpoint, which is a quassam throw away from Sdeot.
On 18 November 18,
2008, I was one among forty seven international ecumenical Christians and other
people of faith who rolled out of bed before 5 AM to travel from Jerusalem to
the Erez Crossing to stand up as a united people of conscience in NONVIOLENT
Solidarity with the people of Gaza and in support of all the NGO's that have
been denied access into the Gaza Strip.
We went in love and for love of all of God's children;
Be they the oppressed or the oppressors
Those imprisoned by walls and those who erect them,
Those who are denied clean water and their deniers,
Those whose fears rule their hearts and the heartbroken,
Those whose ideology, greed, apathy, and power blind them to their culpability, responsibilities and obligations.
We went with hope to arouse the consciences of the leaders of the world to seek peace through justice; equal human rights for all.
What I learned in Sderot from the residents I spoke with;
was that they would be just as happy to live in Las Vegas as Israel. A
five-minute car ride from the Erez Checkpoint is Sderot, where bomb-shelters
are more common than gas stations.
She responded, "America needs to we want peace on this planet. My destiny brought me to Sderot fifteen years ago and I don't feel much different except the quassams make me nervous and anxious, but this is still a great place to live. I couldn't find an apartment to rent anywhere when I arrived except in Sderot. There had been a huge Aliyah and only in Sderot could I find a place with an apartment to rent. The important thing is to have a roof over my head."
During my 2005 trip to Jerusalem, I learned about Aliyah from an American who was in the midst of it and she informed me, "My friends got so tired of me complaining about my political frustrations over the last election; they said, "If you don't like it here, just leave!' I had already been considering joining the Peace Corps, and when I got turned down because of a medical problem, I explored the possibility of going to Israel. I learned about, Aliyah, which means "going up,' and the deal was hard to pass by. I get fifteen hundred shekels or about thirty-six hundred dollars a year in increments to help with my expenses. I can apply for unemployment benefits after seven months, as long as I look for a job. I just completed Ulpan, which was five hundred hours of Hebrew language immersion studies that took five months, five hours a day, for five weeks. I get subsidized rent and just moved out of the Absorption Center Projects. All the new immigrants get room, utilities, and three meals a day for the first five months in Israel. We also receive free medical care and all the doctors here are dedicated. We can go to the university with 100 percent of the tuition paid by the government. College is much cheaper here; it's about three thousand to four thousand dollars a year. Until I am thirty years old, I can receive up to three years of education for my master's degree."
I moved among the
crowd in Sderot and spoke with Fortuna, an affable widow with four children who
had migrated from Tunius to the colony in 1956, "It was all desert here,
just a few mobile trailers were here. When I first came here there was nothing
at all but sand and a few cheap house trailers, one medical clinic with one
doctor, but no shopping at all.
"Eight years ago the quassams began coming and all I could do was think about the next one. Two years ago while I was in my bathroom one exploded in front of my house and I thought I was dying. The explosion broke the glass windows but the municipality repaired it quickly.
"I am always waiting to hear 'Zeva Adom-Zeva Adom' [red alert-red alert] announcement that warns the rockets are coming at us. I am nervous all the time, I never leave my home and am only here today because my neighbor took me shopping and then brought me here. I am always afraid to go out of my house, but days like this it is like a party, everyone comes outside. The last rocket came over about a month ago and I am out here now only because my friends give me courage to come here and sit.
"I have not met any Arabs but there are a lot of them here. They are lucky the municipality lets them live and work here. There is an Arab neighborhood close by, but I do not know where it is and I never talk to any of them because I am afraid of them. The only way to stop the rockets are to annihilate all the Arabs in Gaza."
On my last day in June 2009 with the Code Pink activists, I returned for the fourth time to the agricultural village of Bil'in in the West Bank and got gassed.
Billin, is a rocky dusty bus ride from Ramallah where villagers, Israelis and Internationals have been nonviolently and creatively resisting the route of Israel's wall, which has annexed more than half of their land. In Billin, the Green Line is five miles from the thirty-foot high steel fence with rolls of barbwire, sensors and cameras erected upon Palestinian land, which has eaten up 1.5 million USA tax dollars and is illegal under international law.
The indigenous peoples began nonviolently resisting the route of the wall/fence in 2004 with weekly Friday afternoon nonviolent marches that begin with prayers at the mosque. The villagers are then joined by hundreds of resisting locals, Israelis and internationals, many of whom have been injured, arrested and more than a few killed by Israeli forces.