It's the best story to come out of Israel in months--years--decades.
A group of Israeli women called "We Will Not Obey" have begun to smuggle Palestinian women from the West Bank to the sea off the coast of Tel Aviv so they can swim. For many of the Palestinian women, living their entire lives in occupied landlocked Palestine, it is the first time they've ever seen the ocean, let alone swam in it.
Can you imagine? It began as all humanitarian movements begin, by a single individual, her name is Ilana Hammerman, a writer, who was learning Arabic on the West Bank when asked by a Palestinian child to see the ocean, and she took her--in disguise past the check points. Then, she wrote an article about it for the newspaper Haaretz who to their credit published it, and then the idea spread, and a group of women formed and wrote a manifesto:
"We cannot assent to the legality of the Law of Entry into Israel, which allows every Israeli and every Jew to move freely in all regions between the Mediterranian and the Jordan River while depriving Palestinians of this same right. They are not permitted free movement within the occupied territories nor are they allowed into the towns and cities across the green line, where their families, their nation, and their traditions are deeply rooted.
They and we, all ordinary citizens, took this step with a clear and resolute mind. In this way, we were priveledged to experience one of the most beautiful and exciting days of our lives, to meet and befriend our brave Palestinian neighbors, and together with them, to be free women, if only for one day."
It makes you want to weep. They use Rosa Parks as their role model. Over 28 of the Israeli women have been questioned by the police. So far, they've left the Palestinian women alone but who knows how long that's going to last. This is the country that supposedly prides itself on being the only true democracy in the Middle East, thereby attempting to form some solidarity with the American form of government, and of course our right wing and vote grubby politicians, who put on the big show for Netanyaho when he spoke in Congress recently. Applause is cheap.
The women have then been having parties and sharing food at the home of an Israeli chef and his wife, Hagit Aharoni. Asked what she was doing, Ms. Aharoni replied. "For 44 years, we have occupied another country. I am 53, which means most of my life I have been an occupier. I don't want to be an occupier. I am engaged in an illegal act of civil disobedience. I am not Rosa Parks, but I admire her, because she had the courage to break a law that was not right."
In the weeks and months ahead, we're going to see a lot in the news about the impending battle to recognize Palestine as a member of the UN. The United States, to the shame of every American, will stand with Israel against the measure.
Currently, an election is being set-up in Brooklyn, N.Y., to replace the disgraced Anthony Weiner where it appears likely only the most fanatical supporter of Israel has a chance to win. There are even questions that Obama has lost a great segment of the Jewish vote because he dared to scratch the surface of the rule of the right wing in that country. It's hard to believe in the face of such gross inequity.
I may well be called anti-Semitic, as happens so often when Israeli intransigence is questioned. But now I see something else: I see that people of conscience in Israel are finding whatever ways they can to express themselves. They are there: a true tribute to humanity, despite how that nation is currently governed and who controls it. It provides hope where there is so little else that can be pointed to with any pride or dignity.
It brings back Thoreau's great line when he was put in prison for opposing the tax that prevented blacks from voting, then the view of a small minority-a few intrepid individuals.
"Henry, what are you doing in there?" he was asked.
"Waldo, the question is what are you doing out there?"