Thursday, February 25, 2010

Apply Now for Palestine Summer 2010 - No Experience Required, No Out of Pocket Costs

Our Friends in Palestine/Israel Need You In 2010!

Now taking applications for Palestine/Israel Peace Teams in June, July and August 2010.

Peace Team Application

Click Here for the e-application, or contact for more information.  

What do Peace Teams DO? 
Invited by local communities and leaders, teams have reduced violence by:
  • Protective Accompaniment, for example, escort a threatened person or group to work/school 
  • Documentation and Observation: Pictures, Video, Notes and Reports help people get their stories heard, and can influence those in power.
  • Interpositioning: put yourself between two people or groups to lessen the threat of violence
  • Live and Work in community with your team, and in solidarity with the local population
  • Attend Nonviolent Demonstrations and Support Nonviolent Resistance to Occupation
  • Support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement
  • Attend regional conferences and meet-ups, like the Bilin Conference.
We train people from all walks of life-- from retirees to students and teachers, from clergy to businesspeople.  If you can give three weeks of your time (or up to three months) and commit to nonviolence and team building, we'd like to hear from you.

Plus, Sign Up below for our Teams Insider 
News and Info Packet via email.

For more information read team reports from the field on, sign up for our Peace Teams Insider News above and visit our teams  info page:  Don't hesitate to contact our International Team Deployment Coordinator (Nicole) at

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Eye Witness Accounts – The Situation in Gaza

Representatives from the Gaza Freedom March 90-member delegation that Egypt approved for entry into Gaza gave a briefing on the situation in Gaza.

Here are highlights of this briefing:

The Journey to Gaza
During the journey from Cairo to Gaza Egyptian security surrounded the buses that carried the Gaza Freedom March delegation through Egypt to the gates of Gaza.

The Rafah Border Crossing
At the Rafah border crossing from Egypt to Gaza, Egyptian authorities appear to partner with Palestine Authority in the management of the border crossing. GFM delegates said they received horrible treatment from Egyptian authorities at the border.

The blockade, on-going occupation of Gaza, and the role of Israel, Egypt, USA
The GFM eyewitnesses who crossed the Egyptian border and traveled through Gaza confirm that Gaza is sealed by land, airspace, and sea. A small part of the delegation experienced artillery fire from the border into Gaza. Moreover, experiences of the GFM delegation leads them to conclude that Israel, Egypt, and the United States collaborate to maintain the blockade and siege.

Tour of Horror
The GFM delegation viewed the horror of the devastation in Gaza resulting from the Israeli invasion and attack on Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, December 2008 to January 2009 and the assaults that have continued since that time. The delegation visited hospitals, agencies, schools, humanitarian centers. Also they met with families still suffering from devastation and loss. Military action by Israel has had a terrible impact on the economy. People live in misery. Unemployment is skyrocketing. Because Israel refused to admit construction materials, a year after the bombing Gaza still lays in waste. One GFM delegate said, “There is no way to live through the siege.”

The GFM delegation learned about the incredible resilience of Gazans. Though the grip of the occupation and now the added blockade brings misery to the people of Gaza, their spirit is not crushed. Gazans rally together and care for one another. They are convinced that blockade and occupation will end, and until that time, they believe their spirit will prevail. Delegates also noted that hope filled signs of art, music, dance, and humor are evident and growing within the Gazan society.

Views on Hamas
Most of the GFM delegation was surrounded by Hamas security throughout their time in Gaza. Some ingenious GFM members were able to slip away from Hamas security and freely visited Gazans from north to south. All were shocked to see that Hamas did not allow women to participate in the Gaza Freedom March. Most of the GFM delegates are shocked by the Hamas repression; some conclude Gaza has become a police state under Hamas rule; one member of the delegation understands Hamas actions, saying “Hamas has to do what they do.”

Significance of the Tunnels
A GFM delegate said, “Every sip of soda, every bit of food, every piece of toilet paper used by the delegation had arrived to Gaza via the tunnels.” She noted with irony that imports to Gaza via the tunnels are labeled "illegal" by Israel, Egypt, and the United States governments.

Presence of the Rabbis
Four Jewish Rabbis who have committed their lives trying to apply justice in Gaza, joined the Gaza Freedom March delegation to Gaza. GFM delegated describe the presence of these Rabbis as pure gift. Their presence, words, and actions brought hope to Gaza; their love and solidarity were treasured by Gazans.

Support the Jewish Community that Stands for Freedom
Yusif urged the Gaza Freedom March to support the courageous Jewish people who stand for justice and work to end the occupation both in Israel and around the world.

Gazan Message: Take Responsibility and Do Something!
Gazans consistently related this message to the GFM delegation:
We very much like having you in Gaza, but at the same time we do ask this: Don’t only come and stand with us for a few hours. Please go home and do something about this unjust situation!

Upon returning home, Yusif Barakat, Kim Redigan, Dorothy Ritter, Isabella Rowan, Liz Walters, and Sheri Wander are committed to work tirelessly to end the siege on Gaza. We hope you will be able to join us in finding ways "to do something about this unjust situation."

MPT Peace Team to Gaza Freedom March with an Egyptian Friend

Special Notes:
  1. Significantly, Yusuf Barakat, a member of the MPT Team was among those allowed to enter Gaza. He is the first MPT member to be admitted to Gaza since Operation Cast Lead. While Yusif worked in Gaza, the rest of our team (Kim Redigan, Dorothy Ritter, Isabella Rowan, Liz Walters, and Sheri Wander) continued doing peace team work with the Gaza Freedom March.
  2. Ninety GFM members were approved by the Egyptian Government to go to Gaza. That is, 90 out of 1,360 international Gaza Freedom March participants. This was a source of concern and conflict within the Gaza Freedom March, among organizers, and in the wider community. Some believed that the Gaza Freedom March should not collaborate with Egypt's unjust decision; others believed it was very important to get some GFM representation into Gaza.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bella, Liz, Kim, Sheri and Dorothy Back in United States Safely- Yusif safe and traveling

We wanted to share with all of you that Bella, Liz, Kim, Dorothy and Sheri have all arrived back in the US safely. This is the last 'safe and well' update now that all the team members have been accounted for.

Yusif is staying in the Middle East to visit; he is safe and well and has signed off from the team.

Please watch for more in the way of evaluation, analysis and report from the team very soon here on their blog.

-Nicole for MPT

Monday, January 4, 2010

Safe Check In and Sign Off from Yusif

Yusif Barakat and a good friend

Team member Yusif contacted MPT Home today to let us know he has left Gaza and Cairo, and reached Amman safely.

We will update you as we receive information that each team member has reached their destinations/homes safely.

Final Day in Cairo

Late last night 2 of the MPT members headed out of Cairo with a third team member following this AM. Prior to their leaving MPT had learned through Code Pink organizers that an Egyptian youth led movement for socio-economic change had called for a protest on the steps of the court house. The organizers, known as The April 6 movement had asked for the support of internationals to stand with them. The protest was to be in support of the law suit by Ibrahim Yousri to stop the wall between Gaza and Egypt to block the tunnels.

A team meeting brought to light strong feelings about the need to support Egyptian civil society when asked. With that discussion in mind the team agreed that the remaining 3 MPT team members would attended the protest to document, observe and support as able.

MPT arrived on the scene to find a group of about a dozen young people from the April 6th movement at the courthouse. Other Eqyptians and Internationals were clustered around them and while the riot police were out in full force the mood seemed to be calm and tension was low.

One MPT member remained across the street from the action in order to document and monitor the situaiton from outside. The remaining MPT members walked past the line of riot police into the penned in area. Members of the April 6th movment gave short speaches and led chants that others circulating in the crowd translated for the MPT team. "We are one people. Our sisters, our brothers are on the other side of the wall. The wall divides families. Our international brothers and sisters are here with us. We are one people. We are one spirit. You may kill us but we will rise again in the people. You can't kill the spirit."

MPT remained at the protest lasted for about an hour and half at which point the organizers announced it was over and the group begin to trickle out. MPT members stayed toward the back of the crowd between the police and the organizers as everyone moved out.

According to Wikipedia The April 6 Youth Movement is an Egyptian Facebook group started by Esraa Rashid and Ahmad Maher in Spring 2008 to support the workers in El-Mahalla El-Kubra, an industrial town, who were planning to strike on April 6th. MPT members spoke with April 6th movement organizers at today's event who explained, that April 6th strike was the culmination of a powerful workers' movement with the workers of the Misr Spinning and Weaving company in Mahalla al Kubra at its heart. The movement was heavily repressed by the security forces, which shot and killed three youth and wounded dozens of protesters. Trade-union leaders and political activists were arrested, intimidated and tortured. Rather than break the spirit, activists united under the crack down and continue to work for "change in Egypt".

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2 Jan. 2010

With the Gaza Freedom March officially over yesterday the majority of the team took a rest day. The team member in Gaza called to say he had a memorable time in Gaza and is now back in Egypt, but still has a long trip back to Cairo. The full team will meet tomorrow to hear about and learn from his experiences, hear a report from all those who traveled to Gaza and to do some reflecting and evaluating of this this team and the work here. Please continue to check here for blog posts and photos about the experience in Gaza!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Link Bar and Blogroll on Right for more Information

Please follow the updated links and other blog on the hand side of this page, for more information about the Gaza Freedom March from MPT Team Members and others.

MPT Gaza Team members Sheri and Bella have personal observations and more on their own blog sites, in addition to the reports posted on this blog.

Hunger Strike Press Conference: January 1, 2010

Hunger Strike Press Conference:

January 1, 2010

Photos: Kim and Sheri join 30 fasters on the steps of the Journalists Syndicate.

See following blog post for details
Fasters include: Hedy (in pink), Martha and Fr. Louie (in white scarves).

Riot police waiting to move into position.

Jan. 1 - Hunger Strike Press Conference

Thirty Gaza Freedom March hunger strikers gathered on the steps of the Journalists Syndicate Building in Cairo today to issue a press release. Sitting quietly in rows on the building's steps and holding signs reading "Fasting for Gaza," they listened as a press release (see below) was read through a bullhorn by one of the fasters. This was followed by a personal statement by Hedy Epstein, Holocaust survivor and human rights activist, who inspired the hunger strike. Hedy urged her fellow fasters and supporters to keep the commitment to seek justice and break the siege on Gaza. Additional hunger strikers made statements in a variety of languages. One hunger striker from the U.S. called on President Obama to be an agent for justice by changing America's current foreign policy.

Michigan Peace Team members were joined on the steps by John Dear S.J., Pace e Bene's Fr. Louie Vitale, and peacemaker Martha Hennessy, grandaughter of Dorothy Day.

As the statements were read, approximately 30 to 40 riot police were standing in rows of formation off to the side of the peaceful event. About fifteen minutes into the press conference, the riot police were instructed to move forward from their standby position to pick up body shields and batons. Once they were equipped with riot gear, they surrounded the perimeter of the gathering, forming a human barrier around the group of hunger strikers, journalists and supporters. Some attendees quietly left the scene while the personal statements of the hunger strikers resumed. At one point, another officer walked through the line of riot police and collected their shields, leaving them with batons in their hands as they faced the group of fasters who were still quietly seated on the steps.

A Michigan Peace Team member was there to support and document the event. She reports,"When the riot police directly faced the group of hunger strikers, with their backs to their commanders in chief, their faces seem to soften. I felt spiritually drawn to slowly walk the perimeter of the riot-geared, uniformed human blockade and silently gaze into their eyes with the extreme love, sadness and peace that I was feeling inside. More of the young men returned the direct eye contact, sometimes with softened faces, sometimes with soft smiles. A few of the young police remained staring straight past me without any acknowledgement. "

To read personal reflections on the fast see:

Press Statement of the Gaza Freedom March Hunger Strikers:

We are thirty activists from around the world, inspired by Hedy Epstein, the 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, who initiated a hunger strike in Cairo for the opening of the borders of Gaza to the outside world. We recognize that the Palestinians of Gaza continue to hunger for food, shelter, and most of all for freedom. We continue to hunger for justice for Gaza and all of Palestine. At this time we will announce that we will feast when Gaza feasts.Until that time, each of us will choose the time to end her/his fast and again take food. Our pleasure in that food will always be mixed with the pain of the Palestinians. We call on all people of conscience from around the world to renew their resolve for peace and justice in Palestine.

Some Analysis

Photo - Left: Egyptian security enforcing a "Stop! You may not move forward" rule leveled against the Gaza Freedom March. Not pictured but on the sidelines are rows of military personnel ready to enforce his command.

In the sharing that follows we lift up six points that we believe are foundational to events surrounding the Gaza Freedom March. This information is documented by means of eye witness accounts, field notes, photos, and official reports. Due to limited space, our sharing here is brief. Upon returning to Michigan we hope to be invited by you and other readers, to give longer documented presentations at scheduled events.

POINT ONE:United States, Egypt and Israel collaborate in the closure of Gaza.

The short listing of Gaza border openings during the past two and a half years attests to the fact that the Egyptian Government assists Israel in sealing Gaza off from the rest of the world. In addition, Egypt's restrictions regarding the Gaza Freedom March and hundreds of other social justice or humanitarian groups illustrates that Egypt prevents entry of aid and support from the outside world into Gaza. For example, after months of negotiation between organizers of Gaza Freedom March and the Egyptian Government, only 100 of 1,360 GFM participants were permitted a two-day visit to Gaza. Moreover, Gaza Freedom March participants are forbidden to gather on the Egyptian side of the Gaza border for evcn a one-minute rally.

While many embassies around the world embrace the goals of the Gaza Freedom March, the USA Gaza Freedom March delegation did not appear to be welcome at the United States Embassy in Egypt. Also, Egyptian Armed Forces were employed to block all entrances to the embassy and to intimidate and abuse USA citizens attempting to visit the embassy.

POINT TWO: An Egyptian Police State apparatus is used to control citizens and visitors alike.

Banned from the Gaza border area, and blocked by checkpoints, soldiers, and police, the Gaza Freedom March had little choice but to remain in Cairo. All GFM planned events were rendered impossible by Egypt because a "no right to assemble" rule was imposed. GFM participants were watched by goverment agents morning, noon, and night. We experienced survellance, questioning, orders from headquarters, filming by authorities, hotel lockdown, and other intimidation tactics. The Egyptian police state apparatus was at work on the streets and in taxi cabs, restaurants, hotels, bus stations, and many other public and private places. After being vilified in the Egyptian press as "hooligans and troublemakers," internationals were not welcome by local merchants.

POINT THREE: The Gaza Freedom March is committed to nonviolent action.

During the Gaza Freedom March, diverse nonviolent communities from 42 nations worked together to connect in harmony with friend and foe, and to call for an end of the siege on Gaza. It was amazing to witness the diversity and unity at work.

The inner workings of participating communities is nonviolent at every level. Each person has a voice in decisionmaking if they choose to use it; every person is needed; working in nonviolent teams is essential. We are committed to helping one another maintain a nonviolent spirit and the integrity of the nonviolent action.

The conflict that arose over whether or not to participate in the Egyptian Government's decision to allow 100 of the 1,360 GFM participants into Gaza for two days presented an enormous challenge to all of us. Although deeply divided over this issue, everyone kept speaking and seeking the truth. Some were deeply offended in the process, but we continue to move in the direction of unity, agreeing to disagree on the most sensitive points.

POINT FOUR: There is power to nonviolence!

The Gaza Freedom March demonstrates time and again the power of nonviolence.

Nonviolent action gives power to the ordinary people. It calls us to truth and fills us with love of both friend and foe. Belonging to a nonviolent community diminishes fear; it helps us to tap into our inner strength. The tools and skills of nonviolence free us from the so-called need for violence and weapons, including manipulation and retaliation.

Because we believe in the interconnectedness of all life, because we are disciplined, committed, and well schooled in the skills of nonviolent action, because we work in communities where every person is valued, nonviolent action continues. Nonviolence cannot be stopped. Even in the the face of violence, obstacles, distortions and lies from the powers, nonviolent action continues.

A nonviolent community requires shared leadership. There are no leaders to target or remove so the movement cannot be crushed.

POINT FIVE: The organizers of the Gaza Freedom March are doing a great job!

We are grateful beyond words for the organizers of the Gaza Freedom March. Your preparations during the past months required thousands of hours of work. In spite of the fact that actions by the police state neutralized much preparatory work, your creative last minute planning and adjustments brought the Gaza Freedom March to life.

For Michigan Peace Team the Gaza Freedom March is a tremendous experience. Thank you.

Special thanks from Michigan Peace Team to organizers from Code Pink. You have touched our hearts and inspired us deeply.

POINT SIX: Exodus!
Our MPT experience in Cairo with Egyptian security constantly following us, limiting our every move helps us to connect with the dire situation of the people in Gaza. In Gaza the borders are sealed by outside authorities. Gazans are locked in and their access to basic human needs for survival and quality of life are dependent at the WHIM of the powers that be: that is, Israel, Egypt, and the United States. What a biblical experience! Gazans are locked in and, the Gaza Freedom March is locked out by Egyptian armed forces and Israeli and USA power/ influence. What is needed is a 21st Century Exodus. ... LET MY PEOPLE BE FREE! FREE GAZA!

MPT Peace Team to Gaza Freedom March

From Left to Right: Liz Walters, Kim Redigan, Yusif Barakat, Isabella Rowan, Dorothy Ritter, Sheri Wander