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Liz Barger's Letter from Gaza

Elizabeth Barger (Eliz or Liz to her friends) is a poet, peace activist and deeply caring grandmother who lives reasonably close to where I live, in Nashville, Tennessee. We first met at the Nashville Peace & Justice Center when Rose Davis, a Nashvillian who had recently visited Gaza, spoke about the conditions she saw (generally terrible) while she was there. Liz and I met again at a Nashville Freedom Walk for Palestinian Equal Rights, which was sponsored by a mutual friend of ours, Lynn Grassmeyer. To make a long story short, Liz wanted to be one of the 1,400 peace activists to enter Gaza for a Peace March just after Christmas (2009), and when she began raising funds I agreed to contribute, asking only that she let me share her words with our readers. Here's her first letter about what happened when she tried to enter Gaza, bearing gifts and hope for the Palestinian people, who have suffered so much and have so little, thanks to the reprehensible collusion of the governments of Israel, the United States and Egypt.―Michael R. Burch

I am sending this to everyone I can because my connection here is so tenuous. Excuse, please, the typing. I am on a borrowed computer and shaky internet connection and don't know how long I can stay up here. Folks are beginning to awaken and I will need to get a shower and get on the road. Two personal messages:

Doug, can you send me the connecting info for my blog. I am having difficulty accessing it and may not have the address and password correct.

And Jethro, contact Verizon and get my phone straightened out. I have no phone access at all.

Thanks, Linda, and thanks Starhawk, for getting the word out. I am staying at the same hotel, and experiencing many of the same frustrations and difficulties. My equipment has just not been cooperating, although the recorder that Alan loaned me seems to be doing well. The computer that Pete loaned me worked for a little while before it went dead because the adapter connection that I had from my stolen Mac does not fit the old Mac―a mighty machine, but with a slightly larger connection port. Who knew!

I had a beautiful flight and, while sometimes tiring, rather smooth, with only the kinds of glitches one runs into while traveling. I met so many interesting and kind people on the way. In the very long line connecting to Royal Jordanian in JFK, I met an American Egyptian woman whose daughter was flying to visit her married sister. The girl was on break from college and the mother had a wedding planning business that she had built herself.

One of my seat mates was an electrical engineer on his way to a convention in Alexandria. The plane was an Airbus with seats 8 across and across from me was another peace marcher from Arizona. There were several on the flight and were treated very sympathetically by everyone we met. The food was a surprise. It was very good. We were
served dinner at midnight our time by very pretty oriental women who had a challenging job serving so many people in a short time. They gave out food and drinks with polite commands, "Water, please!" "Tea please!" My vegetarian breakfast was epicurean, a lovely polenta and garbanzo beans with perfect spices and fruit and cheese and juice and tea. What a pleasant surprise.

After the sun came up and we were flying over the Mediterranean, I looked out on a blue sea with dabs of clouds and a golden shore with thick clouds covering all the inland hills. It was Greece! A place I had never seen in person! Even from 39,000 feet, I felt so excited to be there.

We had a very short time between planes in Amman, Jordan and I sat with a young artist who was traveling to the Dead Sea to do some contract work with a commercial company. He realized that Amman was closer to the sea than Cairo, and that he would have a long drive ahead of him, but the company had arranged the travel. He was very
interested in the Gaza Peace March and we may meet again in Amman on my way back from Cairo, as I had some sight seeing time in Amman before catching the plane to JFK, and he wanted to hear about the trip.

Cairo is so exotic to me. At the airport, I met a woman who was going to the same hotel and we struck up a real friendship. It turned out that our reservations had been lost, or something, and Tighe Barry, bless his great efforts, got us a bed at the Select hotel that Starhawk describes so well. We are in a room with 4 beds and a small
bathroom with the shower, washstand, and toilet all together. But I am so happy to have clean inside plumbing!

The people are so sweet, and although we know we are under surveillance, I find the gentle treatment we receive to be genuine and a great pleasure. I will try to write with more detail, but I am on a borrowed computer that has a strange type pad that jumps around strangely, and I just don't have time to go back and correct everything. It is a little before 7AM here and when everyone is on the computers here, and we all are working to communicate with folks back home, and with the media connections we have, that it is difficult to get internet service. I would like to find a cyber cafe near here, but have had little time to do that.

I would like Cairo so much more if the air weren't so can see the pollution and feel it in your eyes and throat and lungs. I love the creaky elevators and Arabic writing on every sign, even though I can't read it. The people are caring and helpful, but language is a barrier to exact communication, like telling cab drivers where you
want to go. But, amazingly, we get where we intend. Most of the time. I am amazed at the respect (and real respect) peace marchers receive from people around here. And it is so beautifully international at this time. I have met people from around the world who have no connection to the march, but who seem to feel what we are doing is important to them.

As you have heard, there is great resistance to our going to Gaza and the French contingent of 300 has set up camp in front of their embassy. They are under great police guard and the threat of confinement and deportation. I am in awe at their organization and determination. We held a large demonstration in front of the UN building, called the World Trade Center here. Such irony. I got several good interviews that I will be sending to edit as soon as I can. The representative from the Philippines, Ann Wright, and Medea [a Code Pink peace activist] were negotiating with the consular general there, but the best they could do, it seems, is maybe getting some of our supplies delivered for the Gazan people. Many are adamant about no compromise, but the pressure from Israel, and especially from the USA, is very antagonistic to our efforts.

We as internationals are treated gently by the police and military, but our mission is very dangerous to sympathetic Egyptians, and I admire their courage and willingness to risk supporting us. There have been incidents and it is mostly Egyptians who have been hurt.

We are going to the US embassy this morning. We went yesterday, and a few people were allowed in and got appointments to speak to the ambassador today. I am so ashamed of my government at this time. We have a huge representation of many countries who are concerned about the plight of the people in Gaza, but we are being used as pawns in a political game of power and control. We must focus on the goal of lifting the blockade and real peace talks and free movement in this tragic situation. It becomes more and more clear that governments are criminal operations. If we are to bring peace and justice to our world, we must be more active in overseeing the actions of our governments. The situation is dire, and America is the frog in a pot of heating water. Our freedoms are being boiled away and we are in terrible peril of losing everything we hold dear. That sounds grim, and I wish it were not true.

This is a short summary of my time here, and so unevocative of what I am experiencing. I will try to get out more information as it happens, and pray you will be patient with my typing. I have much to tell, and so little time. Love, Eliz

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