On April 8, the words “forget the fear,” repeated from stories of children in Gaza, were repeated in Viking Theatre through a speaking event by Cindy and Craig Corrie, the founders of “The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice.” Cindy and Craig encouraged students and community members of all ages to work to resolve the issue in Gaza in any way they could imagine.
“It’s the critical issue of our time. It connects to so many others,” Cindy said.
The eleven-year-old foundation was created in memory of their daughter, Rachel, a peace activist in Palestine who was crushed by a bulldozer while protecting the home of her host family.
After the confusion of September 11, Rachel sought to understand all that she could about the conflict of cultures, including eventually traveling to Gaza to participate in nonviolent protests against the Israeli government’s presence in the region. There, she wrote of her observations and sought to raise awareness about the shootings, governmental intimidations, destruction of wells and clearing of neighborhoods that she witnessed.
“Writing is brave. It is maybe the only brave thing about me,” Rachel wrote.
During her time in Gaza, Rachel stayed with the Nasrallah family and practiced the “BDS” approach to protesting: boycott, divestment, sanction. She also slept by wells in order to ensure that they were not destroyed in the night and held a press conference on the roof of a demolished neighborhood.
On March 16, 2003, Israeli government-funded bulldozers reached the Nasrallah family’s neighborhood. Activists stood between the houses and the bulldozers, and the machines consistently pushed the protesters out of the way but did not harm them. When Rachel tried to maintain her ground to protect the house, however, the bulldozer continued forward, rolling over her and then retracing its tracks, despite demands to stop.
The Corrie family sought legal justice for thedeath of their daughter by raising a trial against the State of Israel. After 15 court dates, the single judge decided in August 2012 that because Rachel had died in an “act of war,” the Israeli military was not guilty.
Disgusted with the results, the family formed the foundation and appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court. The case will be heard May 21, 2014.
Meanwhile, Rachel’s story has been transformed into two stage plays. The first, “My Name is Rachel Corrie,” is an internationally acclaimed production that in the past year was successfully performed in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The other is the work of St. Olaf alumnus who adapted the play in 2010 from Rachel’s published journals and letters.
This production, “I Stand Alone,” explores the many facets of Rachel and how she was more than any one role that she played in life. A video of the performance was played during the assembly in Viking Theatre.
In the same strain of remembrance, the Rachel Corrie Foundation works to promote education, the use of writing to advocate for equal rights and the provision of resources to grassroots groups.
Suggested ways to contribute include “adopting a newspaper,” in which the reader chooses a newspaper or media outlet to monitor. When an article concerning the Israeli-Gaza conflict comes up, the reader critiques the article if it seems too vague or incomplete and sends a thank you note for accurate reporting.
“The children of Gaza still dream,” Cindy said. “If you can think of anything to change the situation, not just help the people, but change the situation, it is truly a prison [there]. Now more than ever.”
The Corries wished Oles for Justice in Palestine luck and expressed their hope that students will explore the organization. Cindy also advised that the group network with more groups like it in the area.
“Everyone makes a difference in any small way,” she said.