“I Cannot Stand Idly by” by Hedy Epstein

After President Obama’s acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, a prize he does not deserve, it is a good time to model what real peacemaking looks like. It is not beautiful speech making. It is more than 1,000 people from over 42 countries, caravanning hand in hand, on the Gaza Peace March, into Gaza, to witness the devastation from last winter’s Israeli attack on Gaza. Once across the Rafah border – insh’Allah – we will be joined by 50,000 Palestinians, in a non-violent march to the Eretz/Israel border. On the Israeli side of the border Palestinians and Israelis will also call on the Israeli government to open the border. 

I am going to Gaza because I know what it is like to be awakened at night by a knock on the door; to have your home ransacked; not to be able to attend school; to have your parents arrested; not to know if, or when they will return; to hear planes overhead, waiting for them to unload their deadly cargo; to be orphaned at a young age. Yet, I am one of the lucky ones who survived; leading a privileged life, free to travel. 

Because I know all this, because it is also the Palestinian experience, “I cannot stand idly by” (Leviticus 19:3), it is incumbent on me to reach out to my Palestinian brothers and sisters in their time of need, to stand in solidarity with them, to let them know that they are not alone, that I am bringing them a message from people back home that they are in their thoughts. 

I am going because I am inspired by the resilience, strength, and yes, even hope, of the Palestinian people despite all odds. I am going so I can, upon my return, tell my congressional people, maybe even President Obama, and anyone else who will listen with my greater understanding, knowledge and authority about devastated Gaza and its courageous people. 

For you people back home, I ask that you keep us in your thoughts, I ask that you call your congressional representatives and ask them to put pressure on the Egyptian authorities to allow us safe passage and  put pressure on the Israeli government and military not to interfere. Ask your representatives to not only open their doors, but their hearts & minds, to listen to our report-backs about Gaza, still under Israel’s illegal occupation, and still under siege.

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