I was radicalized by 9/11. On that day when I woke up I realized I wasn’t getting the full picture from our mainstream media and I set out to find the facts. I became immersed in issues that inflamed the world, spending days in bookstores and long nights online. I searched for the history and context missing from the stories I’d been told, as I scrambled up a steep and shocking learning curve. At the same time I began to follow the Palestinian Intifada. As I learned more about the devastation and suffering that was a direct result of our misguided foreign policy, I felt I had an obligation to do something. I needed a tangible way to show my solidarity with people egregiously affected. Nonviolent direct action seemed like the most ethical choice I could make as I continued to learn. I volunteered with the International Solidarity Movement and went to Jenin, one year after the infamous Israeli incursion which had left it with a gaping ground zero of it’s own. Welcomed into people’s homes with endless cups of coffee, I heard about the 12 consecutive days of bombing and bulldozing in the the refugee camp, and the continued nightly incursions. I sat with farmers on their land, protesting the machines relentlessly cutting a path through villages for what would become the Apartheid Wall. I saw how Palestinians were being erased, choked by the Occupation, gradually cleansed from their land in incomprehensibly horrific and sadistic ways. I returned home devastated, to a New York that was still licking its own wounds. The things I had witnessed could only happen because back here, in the U.S., not enough people knew the facts. When I heard about Women of a Certain Age I asked to be included despite my debatable certain-agedness. I hoped to videotape the group and show their story back home. I was about to get a direct lesson in how stories like these are suppressed.
I could never have imagined that by 60 my life would have taken this turn. As a kid growing up in an apolitical suburban family, I thought of the military as cute teenagers in uniform, and Israel as the place where the Europeans “took the desert and made it bloom”. While in art school during the Vietnam era, I met and married an Iranian film student. His tales of the Shah’s brutal reign, along with airlifts of body bags shown on television during dinner and the Watergate hearings stirred the beginnings of political and social consciousness. My two sons grew up, and at 50 I became a social worker. Then along came George Bush and company, and my world changed forever. The resulting frustration and fury led me to working with the peace movement and the struggle of the Palestinian people against Occupation. Fate intervened following a marathon weekend of 36 Palestinian films at Columbia University, and my desire and resolve to join ISM’s Freedom Summer increased.
I am the mother of three grown children and seven almost grown grandchildren. While they were growing up, instead of singing lullabies I was singing freedom songs. As they marched to school, I marched at demonstrations. Lucky for me and for them I married a man who can sing lullabies and cook chicken soup. I was active: in the PTA, in politics, against police brutality, against the Vietnam War, and for changes in civil rights. My kids grew older and I grew old. So I took a rest and decided that in my “dotage” I should play poker, go to Atlantic City and enjoy the fruits of my “labor.” I overlooked the lies of Reagan and George the First and even Clinton. But GW. . . that was another story impossible to overlook. So I sat in my house and I steamed. Oh sure, I wrote letters, signed petitions, even went on a couple of demonstrations. Yet, as dangerous and deceitful as he was and is, I just couldn’t raise the fire in the old Carol. One day a friend asked me if I wanted to go to Palestine with a group of women all over fifty. Without thinking I said, “Yes!” And so I decided to meet with Women of A Certain Age, the brightest and most wonderful women I have ever known. To go would be a life changing experience for me. I had to go. Since returning from Palestine with the devastating tales of beautiful, warm and peace-loving people etched in my brain, I am on fire and ready to tell everyone I meet the horrible conditions under which they live. And so I bear witness.
My husband, Stu, prefers to call me an “accidental activist.” But I don’t really believe in accidents. We raised two sons to be kind to others, caring of all, tolerant of our differences, responsible, considerate and respectful. And one of our boys, Adam, grew up to be a humanitarian activist. And that activism took him to the Middle East into the heart of the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian people. For three years he emailed home about the checkpoints, home demolitions, roadblocks, curfews, specific stories of specific people. I would read his words and cry. For three years he would ask me to come to Palestine. But I was afraid. When he publicly condemned Israel’s violation of human rights, my life, my husband’s life and our children’s lives turned upside down, inside out, in a spin. Our younger son, Noah, spoke out in support of his brother and against the death threats hurled at us. It was my children’s bravery that gave me the courage to give voice to my outrage and anger. When I was asked again, “When are you going to Palestine?” I answered, “With women my own age.” And somehow it happened. I am so grateful to be a part of WCA. I have spent my life as a teacher. And now, having returned from Palestine and speaking to Americans about the truth that I witnessed, I find I am an activist faced with one of my greatest educational challenges.
I was fifty-nine years old when I lost my husband of thirty-eight years in a car accident. Having lost him as a partner left an enormous hole in my life, one that I felt could best be filled by working to make the world a better place for my children and succeeding generations. One night, my friend and I attended a discussion at which one of the speakers was talking about her trip to Palestine the previous summer to work with the ISM. She looked to be around my age. I began to think seriously about going to Palestine myself.
Shortly after, a local activist forwarded to me an e-mail from Gail, who was looking for “women of a certain age” to go to Palestine. Though I had many fears and trepidations, I pretty quickly decided that I was in. Unfortunately, after making that decision, in May a bursitis in my left hip started acting up and I was in quite a bit of pain and having trouble walking. Should I cancel? I talked it over with friends and family, and decided I’d go anyway. My two sons were very supportive of my plans, which was a great source of support to me when I was in Palestine. It was not easy, with a sore hip, but I in no way regret it. And the support and care which I received from the WCA group made it much easier to handle.
Having seen for myself the terrible injustice suffered by the Palestinian people, I now feel that it is up to all of us to pressure our governments, and raise our voices, demanding an immediate end to Israeli policies of apartheid and occupation, and supporting the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination
In September, 2000, the video of a Palestinian boy, Mohammad al-Dura, his father vainly trying to protect him from Israeli gunners in Gaza, seared itself into my consciousness. Later, in April 2002, I heard Haggai Mattar, a high school student, speak about his intention to refuse to join the Israeli army even if it resulted in a prison sentence, and Adam Shapiro, who spoke about the International Solidarity Movement. I thought about joining ISM, thought some more, and some more. How could a 62 year old school social worker, mother of three, travel half way across the world to face down an army purporting to represent me and all Jews, in an illegal, immoral military occupation? How could I not? I put my name on an ISM email list, took the subway to a training for activists, bought a plane ticket and I was there, demonstrating, witnessing, writing, making photos. That experience changed my way of seeing, and of being. In 2004, I helped to organize Women of a Certain Age.
Born in Germany, I was 8 years old when Hitler came to power. I remember my parents’ desperate efforts to leave Germany. They were willing to go anywhere except to Palestine, as they were ardent anti-Zionists. Though not fully understanding Zionism, I absorbed my parents’ strong feelings and made them my own. My experience as a Holocaust survivor has been the leading influence in my efforts to promote human rights and social justice. Remembering is not enough!
I arrived in the U.S. about the same time that Israel became a State in 1948. However, Israel was not on the front burner of my interests until the horrifying 1982 massacres in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. This prompted me to speak out publicly against the policies and practices of the Israeli government. Then, in the fall of 2003, while participating in a weekly vigil against the war in Iraq, a friend asked me: “Have you ever thought about going to Palestine?” “Yes, I’m going.” My spontaneous answer surprised me. I realized there is a time to learn, a time to talk and a time to act. So, in December 2003, three other St. Louis women and I were on our way to Palestine, volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Feeling I left a part of me behind in Palestine, I was happy to learn about Women of a Certain Age 2004, and joined them in June, for another visit to Palestine. To honor a promise made to the Palestinians I met, I have spoken numerous times to a variety of groups in St. Louis, in other parts of MO, in IL, KS, KY, MI, TX, WA, D.C., CA to tell what I have witnessed first-hand.
I have been to the Israeli Occupied West Bank five times since 2003. In August 2008 I will join 40+ people from several countries. We will travel in two boats from Cyprus to Gaza to “Break the Siege” of Gaza. Though Israel claims it no longer occupied Gaza, it has made the Gaza Strip the largest open air prison in the world, controlling the air, land and sea, as well as its 1.4 million Palestinian people.
I am a wife, mother and lawyer from Manhattan who traveled to Palestine with my 22 year old daughter and the other WCA women in 2004. While active in other peace and justice activities, such as civil liberties issues, 9/11 truth, and the defense of Arab, Muslim and South Asians in post 9/11 detention, resisting the occupations of Palestine and Iraq occupy most of my free time. I participated in a civil disobedience “die in” in NYC at the start of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In Palestine the focus of our protests was the immense and illegal wall being built by Israel.
My history as a child of two different families of refugees is a backdrop for my activism. If I had been a non-Jew in Nazi Germany, what would I have been willing to risk for my beliefs? On some level I’m terrified all the time. But fear will not take over and prevent me from living a life in accordance with what I profess.
In my first experience with activism, I went alone to join sit-ins at Woolworth despite my parents’ fear. In the eighties I went to Nevada and was arrested with a Catholic group at the nuclear test site. I came into WCA through Anni, a cellmate after a demonstration against war profiteers. I am driven to as much as possible to have my actions in sync with my belief system As a Jew, I am outraged at the occupation in my name.
When my mother presented me with the invitation to go to Palestine, it seemed like a rare opportunity to be exposed to life under occupation. My experience working with the ISM in Palestine was mind-blowing. Being part of the non-violent resistance movement for Justice changed me immediately and permanently. I came back to the US and began speaking out with WCA. Going to Palestine helped me realize that any work not directly related to social justice was not worth my time. As a result, I quit my job at Mount Sinai, where I had been working for two years, and began working as a Community Organizer in the Bronx. I have been working as an Organizer ever since. I submitted an article based on my experience in Palestine in letter format to a friend who was editing a book of letters from young activists. My letter was published and can be read on this web site.
Although I am an activist, the Palestinian struggle had been on a back burner in my consciousness. However, a few years ago, when the Israeli’s rolled tanks into the West Bank, imposed curfews, and began to build a wall – the issue became front and center in my mind. I felt furious and helpless. I wished that my government would condemn these actions rather than supplying so much financial and political support. In weekly conversations with a good friend, we discussed what we might do – and going to Palestine became a possibility. Every minute of every day I spent there is emblazoned in my memory. The terror I felt in the presence of the Israeli Army at checkpoints, patrols and demonstrations, was of course nothing compared to what the Palestinian people live with daily. But the most important part of the trip to me was the real, intense and personal contact I had with a family in Biddu. Somehow, despite the language barriers, we formed a meaningful and loving bond. It is for them, and all the other families that I will speak out whenever and wherever I can.
I’ve had a lifetime of activism, from the Civil Rights movement and the Viet Nam war of the sixties, to the struggles that we are faced with today. I was raised that way, and I raised my children that way. So it was natural for me to take my commitment one step further. I had been following the Middle East situation for years, and each report I read, every image I saw made it clearer and clearer to me that something must be done. But when I was asked if I wanted to go to Palestine, I had to think about it for a while. This wasn’t the same as taking my two children on a march to Washington, as I’d done many times, many years before; this was leaving my husband and literally putting myself where my conviction was. After speaking with some of the women who had already made the commitment, and realizing exactly who we all were, I knew this was something I could not ignore. I needed to go, to see, to witness. Being a part of this wonderful cohesive group of women that became “Women of a Certain Age” gave me added strength. I feel very lucky to have had that extraordinary, life-changing experience and am excited now to be able to tell others about it.
“Have you ever thought of going to Palestine?” the stranger asked. “It never entered my head!” I replied. My husband, grandson and I were in New York participating in a protest demonstration on the anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. Gail, the stranger, had noticed my “Grandmother’s Uniting for Peace” apron and “snatched me out of the crowd”; explaining that a group calling themselves “Women of A Certain Age” was going in June. She then wrote down websites and her email address. I believed press reports from the Middle East were slanted towards Israel and was convinced Palestinians were being treated unfairly but had never spoken out. On June 22, 2004 I was on an airplane going to Palestine with “Women of A Certain Age.” To refer to the journey as “life changing” is an understatement. During the ’60s and ’70s I worked as my former husband attended law school, gave birth to two children and became a “perfect” suburban housewife. (There is a skeleton in my closet; I was a Republican committeewoman.) I’ve come a long way! And every day I think of going to Palestine.