It is cold in Washington, DC. The 60-degree drop in temperature coming here from Orlando set me into a two day shiver, finally relinquishing its icy grip during a 30-minute scalding soak in the shower.
But last night over a dozen CODEPINK activists from around the country gathered here and we celebrated our being together again at the PINK house. We broke bread, made banners, talked about the amazing outcome of today’s action and and I was left wondering about all those college students who saw the most amazing thing at the Israeli Embassy earlier that day.
With fifty others, I had braved the cold and headed out to the Israeli Embassy to protest the killing of innocent people in Gaza. When I jumped into the pink-mobile, I searched through the window for Rae running down the stoop in front of the CODEPINK house but she was no where to be seen. Running late, we began to pull away from the house and my heart dropped as I knew how important this particular rally was for her. Four years ago, almost to the day, Rae had met the Rabbi Arthur Waskow prior to the 2004 Inauguration and on that same day, Jodie Evans had hired Rae to come and work with CODEPINK. A monumental day in Rae’s life and today, she was to have the opportunity, again with the inauguration of a new president looming, to meet again the Rabbi who was traveling from Philadelphia to speak at this rally.
The wind whipped through us all when we arrived at the Israeli embassy and even the hardened northerners were shivering as we lined up on the sidewalk next to another large group. I mistakenly thought they too were protesters but found out they were students visiting DC and several of the embassies in DC with their political science classes from universities in MA, NY and VA. Someone began to sing “Peace, sahlom, shalom” and then Medea took the megaphone and began to speak to the students.
With a smile and her infamous lightness, she began asking them, “How many of you are from Boston? From Pennsylvania? From Connecticut?” Only a few responded, so she asked, “Well, where are most of you from?” “New York!” shouted a young man in the back, and half of the heads turned, smiled and echoed, “New York!” They were engaged. She explained to them why we were there, to protest the killing in Gaza and asked if any were taking political science at their universities. Again, several responded yes and most all of them shook their heads. They were listening. She said, “Then you probably agree that our citizens have the first amendment right to protest and have their voices heard. Today, we are protesting the killing of innocent people in Gaza and asking the Israelis to stop the bloodshed and call for a Ceasefire in Gaza.”
The long slow line of students was suddenly expedited and within a few minutes they were all ushered inside the compound, away from our dialogue or the opinions of the peacemakers from Witness to Torture, CODEPINK and the Shalom Center. I began to worry about Rae, wondering if she had caught a train over or would make it to the embassy before the rabbi began to speak. But alas, I did not see her when she slipped up in line with the students and entered the Israeli Embassy undetected by security.
As we listened outside to the eloquent and heartfelt words of Rabbi Waskow, Father Jacek, Sister Anne Montgomery, Col Ann Wright, and Judy Cooke from Pax Christi, Anna Brown and Sherrill Hogen, all persons of honor, courage and wisdom, little did I know that Rae was inside listening to the Israeli ambassador, defending his countries brutal and horrific actions to the students within.
Later I heard the real story of Rae’s brave experience, sitting in the back of the room, listening to the rhetoric and lies spewing the condemnation on the Palestinians and the Iranians, stating he basically had no hope for a peaceful solution with either country. The students were asked to write down their questions on note cards and when the time came to collect them, Rae stood up and asked to speak as she needed to leave early. Security had just stepped out and the aides were all busy collecting the cards so they didn’t notice that she was walking to the stage whereupon she handed him a white rose and asked him to call for a ceasefire on Gaza. Earlier he had stated “Hamas wants death, Israel wants life,” so Rae asked him to support a life-affirming call to stop killing innocent civilians and stop demonizing the other side.
If Israel wants to be a model Jewish state, Rae said to the group, it should follow “tikkun olam” — which means to repair the world, not further violence and aggression. In responding to the ambassador’s comments on Iran, during which he said there is a basket of reasons to make Iran an enemy or to be afraid of Iran, Rae said while Iran may be developing a peaceful nucleur energy program, they are not making nuclear weapons. Iran is home to the oldest jewish population in the world, a population that seeks peace with their brother and sisters in Israel. After speaking about Gaza, half of the room erupted into applause. After handing the ambassador the rose, he thanked her and she quickly left the compound knowing she had way too much to do for the inauguration weekend to risk being detained.
I’m not sure the penalty for infiltrating an Israel embassy, but I’m glad Rae made it out safely and I know those students must have been quite surprised at her speaking truth to power.
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Tags: Anna Brown, CODEPINK, Col Ann Wright, Father Jacek, Gaza, inauguration, Israel, Judy Cooke, Moving Obama, Pax Christi, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Shalom Center, Sherrill Hogen, Sister Anne Montgomery, Washington, Witness to Torture