Rachel Corrie wrote from Gaza, “Many people want their voices to be heard, and I think we need to use some of our privilege as internationals to get those voices heard directly in the US, rather than through the filter of well-meaning internationals such as myself.”
To highlight the experience of thousands in Rafah whose homes have been demolished, Khaled, Samah, and Sama Nasrallah, whose home Rachel Corrie protected, joined Cindy and Craig Corrie in June for a national speaking tour to 22 cities in California, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa.
The Rachel Corrie Foundation supported the Nasrallah family’s US travel, and in partnership with The Rebuilding Alliance and enthusiastic local hosts, engaged Americans with stories from Palestine and rebuilding efforts in Gaza. “We believe it is important for the people of Gaza to see that Americans know what has happened to them, that we understand, and are taking responsibility for that,” said Cindy Corrie.
The nine members of the Nasrallah family lived in their home for seven months after Rachel Corrie was killed, hoping that it would be spared. On tour, Khaled Nasrallah recalled, “You just can’t imagine the bullets, they are not normal bullets. The Israelis would fire them at our house and we would hide in the bathroom because it was in the middle of the house and the bullets could go through three walls. No one was safe. Our house was endangered and no one would visit us.”
In 2004, the Nasrallah home met the fate of the 2200 surrounding ones destroyed when the Israeli military cleared a wide buffer strip along where they had constructed a steel wall near the Egyptian border. Sharing the experience of his family, Khaled Nasrallah wrote, ‘’These were very dark days through the past three years as we coped with the loss of our home. In spite of what Rachel did and what we have done after losing her, we watched day after day as the Israeli Defense Forces demolished it. It was more than a home — it was our family dream of coming together again, growing and playing in our homeland together with happiness and safety in the eyes of our children.”
Through generous donations, The Rebuilding Alliance purchased land to rebuild the Nasrallah home in Gaza, and groundbreaking took place on November 16, with visitors from the Olympia-Rafah Sister City Project looking on. The home is scheduled for completion in March 2006.
In their June tour, the Nasrallah and Corrie families connected with thousands of interested and generous Americans. In Olympia, Washington the Nasrallahs were welcomed with a proclamation from the Olympia City Council. Khaled Nasrallah was struck by the natural beauty of the area and by the kindness of the people.
“It is like a paradise — trees everywhere, forests, and the Puget Sound. We have never been in a forest, and are very grateful to have seen such beauty….I read the kindness of Olympia people in the eyes of everyone we met, at the market, at the Corrie’s home, at the reception at the museum, and at the speaking event at the church. I felt I was with my people….I feel I am leaving a family, but we are all trying to push for a noble goal together. We will all continue Rachel’s message together…We are going back to Palestine with a positive message from America… the most important impressions were of the American people. They are very kind, caring, human, open-minded, helpful, and somehow positive. Actually, I really liked them, and I hope to hold on to my relationships with all the friends I met, and I also hope to meet them in a free Palestine soon.”