Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Conflict Splinters the Group and a Late Night Bus Ride

I Got a call from Ann Write at 1 a.m. letting me know that I was on the list of 100 to go in, and that Bill was not. Asked about the Costellanos and the other people on the front line and was appalled to learn that I was the only one of the 55 of us out here, alone, on our own, making it up as we go and generally grinding ourselves into the ground with lack of sleep. Ann herself was as shocked and up set about this oversight and said she’d work on it. She called back 10 minutes later and said that they would stop in El Arish and pick up 10 of us, one for each nationality and three Costellanos since they were the largest group here and had spearheaded most of the action.

I tried to contact the hotel in town to reach anyone who was still awake to let them know. The list of 100 had been published and I really did not want them to see the news without the knowledge that 10 of the El Arish group would get to go in. I had no luck contacting them and no ability to get there as our resident police officer was not letting us out after dark. The Britts had a conference and the three young ones unanimously voted to let Peter go because he is trying to bring in art supplies for an art therapy group. There were a lot of tears shed over this turn of events, we all want to go. I am in disbelief that I will go without Bill.

I woke Manuel at 7:30 to let him know, he said that even before the list was published they had decided as a group that it was all 1300 marchers or none of the marchers. OK, I said and left since I had escaped my shadow-er I had some shopping to do. I loved shopping without him, people talked/signed with me and were so friendly and warm; when Mohammad shadowed us everyone averted their eyes and were very perfunctory. We delivered bracelet gifts to all the people who had helped us, they were so grateful and their eyes lit up with surprise and joy especially after I explained that these were not form me, but from my friends who could not come.

A call from Ann Write again another turn in events, now ALL the delegates in El Arish who wanted to go could get on the buses that were going to be stopping to pick me and the 10 up! This was fantastic news since Bill and I had just talked with the Hassidic Jews and had decided that if Bill got a spot he would give it up to one of them so that they could travel in a pair instead of alone. We had no idea what was going on in Cairo and why all of a sudden there was room for all of us. A quick word to the Brits, out the back door to the beautiful beach a small lie to Mohammed and 5 minutes later were we in a taxi to give the news to the other delegates.

Good! They announced the buses must be almost empty! I was shocked to hear this, and learned of all the conflict and trouble in Cairo over the compromise agreement. We had a lengthy ad heated discussion; apparently I am an ignorant traitor because I still think it is important for us to go. I explained about Madame Mumbarak’s pervious role in helping get CodePINK into Gaza and hoped to persuade them that this was a process, that we never really expected that the gates would miraculously open and Gazans would be free to come and go as they pleased and to buy the goods and procure the services they needed without having to resort to smuggling for the most basic needs. One step at a time, and that we are doing great work by all of the press we are generating around the world and finally in the US. The Egyptian Foreign minister is furious with Madame Mumbarak for overstepping her place going above him and making this agreement. If we were to reject her offer we would be cutting the legs out form under the only ally we have in the fight for human rights in Gaza. Sadly we were also getting conflicting messages form Gaza. The Castellanos had a message form someone there asking us to reject the deal, and we were getting other people on the phone begging us to come.

I am so tired of this place where things move so slowly and then the big important things change in the wink of an eye with no time to plan or react rationally. It still worries me that I am an ignorant traitor, that I have been the pawn for the Egyptian Government not for the Peace Movement.

The Castellanos we were with are louder, they have more resources and access to the Net than we did and they dominated group meetings demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of consensus building. I did not mind any of this too much up until today, I was enjoying the cultural differences and considerations when working with people whose thought process were so alien to mine. It got ugly today, we had aggressive people in our faces shouting at us and telling us how stupid we were being. Please let them be wrong.

They made it difficult to get on the buses, and they were able to persuade many of our group not to go. In the end only 20 of the 55 of us from the border frontier got on the buses. 84 of us had some very joyful moments as the bus crossed over into Gaza in the dead of night. Of the 20 only 6 of us had been in town the whole time, the others came in form having been part of the Underground Railroad system of support up there just in time to catch the busses. They kept track of goings on through email and twitter only so when they came out of the darkness to the bus stop it was a surprise and delight to see them. The Castellanos persuaded about ½ of them not to go. Alex, a complete cutie turned 21 on the bus tonight. One of his friends decided not to go along after talking with the Castellanos, he is worried about the other one, they lost him somewhere along route to the bus stop.

We delegates had a most wonderful time with each other on the bus and in the processing center getting to know one another and sharing stories of our adventures during these quiet wait times. It was great to get first hand accounts of the Cairo actions.

The Gazans greeted us warmly and we could not refuse the lavish spread they put out for us at 12:15 in the morning. I was too tired to visit with any of them, but I look forward to doing so tomorrow. Tomorrow we march, and then I have 2 days to get the mural up.


  1. Blessings, Blessings, Blessings...Please send everyone many many blessings...

  2. Kathleen, don't ever think you're being used as a tool by are doing such a service to us all by being there, representing a greater community, More importantly, you're in Gaza, making an important statement to the world. Looking at the apparent discord with your fellow marchers, I have to believe it is they who are being duped. It is a common practice to cause division within a group so they don't fulfill their mission.
    I am so proud to know you. My thoughts are with you wishing you fulfillment in your mural installation and a safe return. What a way to start the new year! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
    - Linda

  3. I couldn't agree more with Linda - you are courageous to go forward with your plan, in the face of what must have been so much pressure from others in the group. I feel so proud of you for getting as far as you have, despite incredible roadblocks (both literal and figurative) and difficulties. You will have no regrets once you get that mural up on a wall. How I wish we could be there to help and to see people react to it! Thank you for your beautiful courage!

  4. Yes. You are there to connect with people and to bring some palpable, visible reminder that they and their suffering and humanity are known. You do very well at that! I wish you joy in that connection as you do what you are called to do in Gaza. Take good care, both of you.

  5. If anyone could do the connecting with the world, it is you, Kathleen and Bill. And, know that your glimmer of hope that has lit the darkest of the dark nights for the people of Gaza, has brought a sense of knowing that you will not let the world forget these people and their sufferings. Kathleen, you were so eloquent and grounded in voice in your KUSP interview. I was so happy to hear your voice in the midst of what you were doing. Rest, you will need it, and I pray for your safe journey home. Bill- take care, OK? hugs and love,