My Name Is Rachel Corrie
The play My Name Is Rachel Corrie is not about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is the recorded words of a young woman who cared about all people, and put her life on the line and her caring in writing in clear and anguished words. She was a young woman who did what she could to promote peace in Palestine, and was murdered in 2003 by an Israeli soldier who ran over her in a bulldozer—and by the Israeli court that set her murderer free.
The one-woman play consists entirely of Rachel Corrie's own words.
It was performed to perfection in Saginaw, MI on April 26, 2014 by Ashley Malloy, an American actress still in college, who wanted the role because of her admiration for Rachel Corrie's courage. Various productions have been directed by a Jewish American who is promoting peace through art. It has played in Israel despite the opposition of the Israeli government, and it has been sponsored by at least two Jewish organizations in America. It is a cry for people to learn to live together and stop letting psychopaths divide us, one from another.
The play starts with Rachel as a very young girl describing her room. At five she discovered boys, which she said made her life more complicated. We watch her grow from one year to the next, filled with the joy of being alive and wanting to share that joy with others, but becoming more and more aware of the suffering around her, she becomes more and more of an activist:
I didn't intend to become so deeply involved in activism this year. I'm not sure what compelled me to sign up for the Local Knowledge class—there's such a big degree of community involvement. I'm phobic of community. I'm scared of people...
I'm still pretty shell-shocked this semester. I spoke to a room of about forty international students. I've helped in the planning of two conferences, facilitated meetings, danced down the street with forty people from the ages of seven to seventy...I've spent a lot of time with the homeless group...
Who is this person? How did I get here?
The path she was on led Rachel to Palestine, where she became involved with the plight of the Palestinian people. She describes life with a Palestinian family:
Two bulldozers, tanks.
I went to the kitchen and stayed two hours. The tank stayed too, so no work, no school.
A soldier came with a sledgehammer. The tank started firing. The family were watching Tom and Jerry in the kitchen. I played with the children to distract them.
That's an example of daily life for a Palestinian family under Israeli occupation.
And Rachel reports far worse. Children shot by Israeli soldiers on their way to school, fathers shot by Israeli soldiers on their way to work. Mothers shot by Israeli soldiers for protecting their children. Perhaps the following statement best summarizes her experience in Palestine:
If any of us had our lives and welfare completely strangled and lived with children in a shrinking place where we knew that soldiers and tanks and bulldozers could come for us at any moment, with no means of economic survival and our houses demolished; if they came and destroyed all the greenhouses that we'd been cultivating for the last however long do you not think, in a similar situation, most people would defend themselves as best as they could?
The vast majority of Palestinians right now, as far as I can tell, are engaging in Gandhian non-violent resistance.
I would like to comment that the people of Israel and Palestine have no inherent conflict with each other. They are all Semitic peoples, with a common heritage and a common ancestry. Palestinians are 50% Moslem, 40% Christian, and 10% Jews, and Israel's bullets and bombs make no distinction between them. They lived together largely in peace, until a Zionist minority from America came, with their racist desire to dominate the land.
Powerful Israeli leaders have been speaking out against the Apartheid policies of Israel, including all five former and present directors of the Israeli secret police. Israel's most popular author has condemned Israel's policies. One Israeli Prime Minister was murdered by a Jewish Israeli citizen when he came too close to making peace with the Palestinians. Thousands of Israel's veterans have chosen prison in preference to returning to Palestine and continuing to persecute the Palestinians.
Like America, Israel needs to learn the lesson spoken by President Eisenhower:
People in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our government...one of these days government had better get out of their way and let them have it.
Even in death, Rachel Corrie continues the fight for peace with justice. In a 55 second YouTube video, Rachel Corrie speaks her mind through the voice of a 5th grader.
Perhaps the best lesson she has given the world is that God doesn't place all the good people here and all the bad people there. The balance is pretty much the same throughout the world. But all peoples, including America and Israel, need to do a better job at choosing our public servants.
Ron Denner is a retired teacher, school counselor, drug counselor, factory worker and farmer in Michigan. He supported the war on Viet Nam, but soldiers who had been there changed his mind. Ron is now active in the Tri-Cities Action for Peace (TCAP). Girl With Balloons, on the West Bank Security Wall, by Banksy.