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More White Roses

Tears come easily. Today I watched and listened to a hundred Jewish Israelis outside the U.S. embassy affirm that “grief has no borders,” as they collectively mourned those murdered in Gaza. Some people, like Khalil Abu Yahia were known and loved by the Jewish solidarity activists. And from the breaking in their voices as they spoke, I knew that the others who they didn’t know, who apartheid walls, checkpoints, and a prison ghetto kept them from knowing, were loved too. 

Grief knows no borders and ceasefire banners at vigil in Jerusalem. Photo Credit: ISM

Khalil had the vision to see beyond the current colonial realities. As Khalil went from place to place in Gaza with his family, trying to find somewhere safe, experiencing explosion after explosion, missile attack after missile attack, he did not despair. With roofs collapsing around him, he wrote, “I am sure that the hearts of my beloved friends will always be a shelter that can never be destroyed.”

In Jerusalem I saw Israeli activists turn themselves into shelter for Khalil and other Palestinians. Everybody held a name and picture of somebody from Gaza who was killed. These pictures and with them, white roses, were placed at the United States embassy. Closing out the memorial, a speaker said: “May the memory of the righteous be a blessing.” 

Out front of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, people place down pictures and names of people killed in Gaza, together with white roses. Photo Credit: ISM

I walked from the embassy to the Lion’s Gate of the Old City. I was seeking to return a prayer rug I found last Friday after Israeli police and military beat and dispersed people assembling to pray. I couldn’t find the prayer rug’s person. What I did find was occupation police on horses charging into people praying. Many people ran to not be trampled. But some people, already on their knees, stayed on their knees. I remember one of these men especially. I couldn’t tell if he was intently focused on finishing his prayers or bracing for his prayerful body to be crushed, or both, but the horses stopped just short. Occupation police not on horses, swept in to continue pushing and beating the worshippers. 

To be in Palestine at this moment necessitates consciousness of incalculable inhumanity and atrocity. The worshippers outside the gates to Al Aqsa and the Israeli activists who refuse complicity with their government, have something in common. Their courage, strength, will, commitment, perseverance, and vision is, and always will be, stronger than that of the oppressors. 

Sophie Scholl of the White Rose Society, before being executed by the Nazi government that she was taught to obey but then learned to resist no matter the consequences, tells whoever will listen, “Stand up for what you believe in even if you are standing alone.” Rachel Corrie, the I.S.M. activist murdered by Israel for refusing to step aside and allow a home demolition, is similarly remembered to have said, “Let me stand alone.”

I am grateful in this moment for not having to stand alone for what I believe in and seeing more white roses.