Efforts to keep Cindy Corrie from speaking at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, ban the film Rachel altogether, and/or defund the festival, inspired filmmaker and peace activist Rachel Leah Jones to write this moving letter from Tel Aviv. Jones is friends with Rachel filmmaker SImone Bitton, and was planning to go to the West Bank the day Corrie was killed in Gaza. The appropriate intensity of Jones’ response reveals the profound chasm in the Jewish world. As though seeing for oneself what the occupation hath wrought, instead of reading the filtered fundraising letters of our childhoods from various Jewish groups, transports one into an entirely different parallel universe. As more and more of us make that journey- literally or metaphorically – the two worlds threaten to explode on contact.
Like the SF Jewish Film Festival, which has, ironically, been a model of integration and vision, understanding that our Jewish community is wide and broad and varied and strong enough to be just that.
It simply remains a fact: any just solution and lasting peace will absolutely require that we join these universes together.
Date: Friday, July 24, 2009, 2:22 AM
From one Rachel to another
An open letter to Rachel Corrie as the screening of the film that bears her name, honors her life, and condemns her death faces shameless criticism and censorship
The day you were crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza, was a stormy day in Tel Aviv.
March 16, 2003 — to be exact.
I was seated at my computer editing a collection of reports by Amira Hass filed from Ramallah (reporting from ramallah). It was the first compilation of writings by this Jewish Israeli Ha’aretz journalist to be published since she left Gaza for the West Bank. Come afternoon, I was to head from Tel Aviv to Ramallah, where I intended to meet up with my friend and colleague, filmmaker Simone Bitton. Simone was working on a series of daily video diaries (Ramallah DailY). It was raining so hard, I wondered if I had it in me to schlep across Qalandia checkpoint. It never dawned upon me whether I had it in me to face a D9 house-demolishing bulldozer in Rafah.
I went online to check the forecast, to see if the storm was going to let up, and I saw the newsflash announcing your crushing; anonymous, faceless, nameless. I remember the words American, peace-activist, female. I didn’t know yet that, like me, your name was Rachel. Nor did I know that you too were a “Greener.” I just knew that some folks in the states might mistakenly worry at first glance that the said woman was me. I dropped my mother a line to assure her I was fine. And off to Ramallah I went.
Simone was in a production frenzy but I remember we exchanged a few words about it: “Did you hear?” “I heard.” Finally the rain subsided, and posters bearing your likeness sprang up like mushrooms. Ramallah was covered in them: a blond, blue-eyed, “girl-next-door,” sweatshirt-wearing martyr. People were deeply moved. Someone other than they, someone who “didn’t really have to,” had put their life on the line. And since we all know that in the deranged Western economy of imagined human worth one blond, blue-eyed, sweatshirt-wearing life is worth 100 if not 1,000 brown-haired, brown-eyed, not sweatshirt-wearing lives, your death was like a massacre.