Journal: Remembering Rachel Corrie

17 March 2007

Yesterday was the 4 year anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s death. I spent the day thinking about standing in front of my own bulldozer four weeks ago in the South Hebron Hills as the Israeli Army came and destroyed 4 small stone and tin homes in Um Al-Kher. Let me be clear, the bulldozer I stood and laid in front of wasn’t one of the deadly T-9′s, the armored bulldozers the size of a building like the one that crushed Rachel. I was in very little danger of being crushed or run over by the small Caterpillar bulldozer, but for the very first time, since I was first here 3 years ago, I began to understand why Rachel kept standing there when the enormous bulldozer came bearing down on her.

To be honest, I never did understand it. It was not because I lacked a commitment to Palestinian freedom or even because I was particularly afraid of being injured; I just never could understand why a person would risk injury or death to protect someone’s possessions. I always thought to myself, “Sure, if it were another person behind me that I was protecting from an enormous machine, of course I would stay there until the end, but for a house? I’d jump out of the way.”

I had never seen a home being demolished.

I’m not sure there is much worse than watching an occupying army destroy your home. In Um Al-Kher we watched as the bulldozer started its engine, raised its scoop and then lowered the scoop onto the tin roof of one home, simply crushing it to the ground. I ran with the women and older men into the next home, pressing ourselves in, trying desperately to save the home but soldiers dragged us out, one by one. We tried to push past the soldiers and run around them to get back into the house but they held us back. So we were forced to stand and watch.
It was like a movie in slow motion. The bulldozer backed up, then moved slowly to the house. The driver took his time, driving forward, making contact with the house. The stones at the bottom of the house gave way and the tin roof slowly fell in. He backed up again to make a second pass and that’s when we jumped in front of the bulldozer.

I and three other international and Israeli activists lay down in front of the approaching bulldozer while the women of the community sat behind us. The sounds of screaming women and crying children rang in my ears and I just made a decision that I would stop that bulldozer however I could, as long as I could. It wasn’t a rational decision, I wasn’t thinking about making a symbolic stand against tyranny or getting a good photo out of it, it was simply that I was determined to DO something. The soldiers dragged us away and I jerked free and ran back to the bulldozer, not wanting to feel powerless, or useless.

In the end, guarded by dozens more soldiers, me and the mother of the household (whose husband had been arrested) sat on a rock hand in hand, with her baby crying between us, and watched as her house was reduced to rubble. She turned to me and asked, “Where will my baby sleep tonight?”

And it was then that I realized that the demolition of a home by an occupying army has nothing to do with possessions. It doesn’t matter if you can rebuild or not. The horror of home demolitions in Palestine is the message that is being sent by the Israeli Army: You’re not safe anywhere. Your children can be left homeless at any time. You have no control over your own life. So when given the small chance to gain a little control by standing in front of that bulldozer, it is very, very difficult to jump out of the way.