I'm thinking of two women this evening - one I met two years ago in East Jerusalem, the other I met just today in Santa Cruz. Huwaida Arraf is a Palestinian activist, a lawyer and a leading organizer behind the aid flotilla under attack off the coast of Gaza this weekend. Two years ago, on a twelve-day tour of Palestine and Israel, I met Huwaida and heard pieces of her story. Her courage in standing against violence shook me then, and shakes me still. I watch this video and I see a young woman risking everything to expose violence and reveal something more lasting.
Today, Huwaida Arraf was arrested by the IDF in Palestine: not for threatening anybody, not for bullying anybody, and certainly not for waging war against anybody. She was arrested, I'm sure, for daring to believe in love, nonviolence, deliberate civil disobedience. She was arrested for insisting the rest of us pay attention to Palestine. Her courage makes me think about my own choices - and the path I'm willing to take for peace.
I'm thinking as well of Nomika Zion, whom I met just this afternoon at lunch. An Israeli, Nomika lives with an urban kibbutz she founded in Sderot, not far from Gaza. Her own commitment to peace and deep passion for peaceful coexistence have alienated many of her countryfolk. Like them, she's experienced years of violence, bombs out of Gaza, all the anxiety and heartache of war. But she refuses to harden her heart, refuses to trust occupation and retribution as tools of peace. She speaks out for something better, something like reconciliation, or at least coexistence. Her courage, like Huwaida's, hits me hard.
There's Gandhi's old, lovely, provocative line about "being the change you wish to see in the world." Tonight, I pray, with thanksgiving and concern, for Huwaida Arraf and Nomika Zion. They are that change. And they have accepted, somehow, the costs. May God protect them both - and the people they love. Just as importantly, may God light a fire in me that burns just as brightly for peace, for human decency and for a future free of war.