American citizen and peace activist Rachel Corrie was run down by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to protect the home of a Palestinian doctor on March 16, 2003. On the third anniversary of her death, Palestinians, supporters, and peace lovers throughout the world held vigils and events to commemorate Rachel’s commitment to peace and justice.
Eyewitnesses said at the time of her death Rachel was sitting directly in the path of the bulldozer holding a megaphone and wearing a fluorescent jacket. She was 23 years old.
Three years after her death, Rachel Corrie is at the center of a new controversy. Two weeks ago a New York theater company backed out of an agreement to stage the new play “My Name is Rachel Corrie”, based on Rachel’s writings.
Throughout the world on Thursday, vigils and readings were staged in Rachel’s memory. In Israel, Palestine, Jordan, London and in over 70 places around the world, including in Rachel’s hometown of Olympia, Washington, USA, friends, family and supporters gathered to read aloud Rachel’s words, words which, in their simplicity and straightforwardness, have managed to create such controversy.
Here are some of Rachel’s words, recorded in a video interview a month before she was killed:
"I’ve been here for about a month and a half now, and this is definitely the most difficult situation that I’ve ever seen. In the time that I’ve been here, children have been shot and killed. On the 30th of January the Israeli military bulldozed the two largest water wells, destroying over half of Rafah’s water supply. Every few days, if not every day, houses are demolished here. People are economically devastated, because of the closure of the borders into Egypt and the extreme control of the Gazan economy by Israel. I saw it. I came to look at the aftermath of a place where 25 greenhouses had been demolished on the other side of Rafah, destroying the livelihoods of about 300 people. And that had taken place while they rounded up about 150 men, held them under a sniper tower and shot around them to contain the men, the farmers in the area. So I feel like what I’m witnessing here is a very systematic destruction of people’s ability to survive, and that is incredibly horrifying."
"Sometimes it takes a while for it to set in, what is happening here, because I think many of the people here, they try to maintain what they can of their lives. And I think – I don’t know, maybe it has to do with protecting their children that they try to be happy, joke with their children. So sometimes it takes time to – it’s hard to hold in your mind, you know, the complete reality of what’s happening here. Sometimes I’m sitting down to dinner with people, and I just realize that there is a massive military machine surrounding them and trying to kill these people that I’m having dinner with, these families that I’m sitting down to eat with and who are being very generous and kind to me, and their children here, who are incredibly threatened, living lives that no child ever should have to live. And so, I feel a lot of horror, really. I feel a lot of horror about the situation."
In response to the New York Theatre Workshop cancelling the play "Rachel’s Words", a website called rachelswords.org was started by Jen Marlowe, an American supporter of Rachel Corrie. Says Marlowe, "There has been a tremendous grassroots response to this initiative. Rachel’s emails and her writings are going to be read today in Iraq, in Israel, Palestine, Kosovo, Nigeria, India, England. There’s going to be 70 readings – more than 70 readings so far planned going on in cities and countries all over the world."