On Wed. December 10 in honor of human rights day I fasted for 24 hours (through Thur. Dec. 11) in Solidarity with the people of Gaza whose human rights are being violated by the Israeli government’s blockade. A fast seemed an appropriate symbolic gesture because the blockade created a situation where the people in Gaza have no choice but do without enough food.
It was just a day long fast, something that I was able to do fairly easily. I drank a crazy lot of water. I mean really – a lot of water. Partly just ‘cut it made me feel not hungry. Partly ‘cuz I figured as long as I was fasting anyway I might as well get some health benefits from it. Somewhere along the line I realized how much water I was drinking. And more to the point I realized that if I were actually in Gaza I couldn’t do that. Water supply is so limited. People don’t get enough to drink. There is no fuel for the pumps for the wells. When there is water it is often contaminated as the sewage and waste treatment centers have no fuel for their pumps, infrastructure has been damaged by Israeli attacks, and there is not water purification chemicals getting in past the blockade. Wow. How can people do this to each other? It makes my heart ache. Sounds so dramatic. But really it just does.
I also found myself explaining to a number of people why I was fasting. Perhaps it is because of the holidays so many in my life celebrate around this time of the year, but it seemed several people offered me cookies, or some other treat. Which meant I got to explain what I was doing and why. Of course, this was one of the main reasons for the fast – to provide the opportunity to talk about the situation in Gaza.
It was particularly meaningful when I found myself trying to explain to the children in my life. As children do they often cut to the heart of the matter “but why are they punishing everyone, if only a few people did things they don’t like?” I was asked when I explained the blockade. And my 8 year old friend who pointed out “yeah, ‘cuz if you were eating today we wouldn’t be talking about this.” – Yep!
A week from human rights day (a week from the first part of the fast) I will start the second phase of the fast. On Wed. 17 December I will begin a 4 day fast through Saturday 20 December. The 20th is Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, representing the long night that those in Gaza continue to suffer.
December 21st is the day when those of us honoring earth based spiritual traditions celebrate the returning of the light. I will use this day to break the fast and celebrate my re-commitment to peace and justice in Palestine and Israel, and to being in Solidarity with all those who have their human rights violated – particularly being aware of my connections with those in Gaza and the suffering of the people there in the current situation.
Won’t you join me?!
My fast will be a water fast, but should you desire to join you should create an experience that is meaningful – and realistic – for you. Perhaps a juice fast? Perhaps “liquids only” – including fruit/yogurt smoothies and such? Perhaps not a fast at all but time spent in silent solidarity. The goal is not so much to duplicate exactly the fast as I have planned, but to do something that gives us a physical reminder and pushes an awareness of the suffering to the front of our consciousness.
As I said, one of the goals of the fast is simply to raise awareness to start people thinking and talking about what is happening to the people in Gaza. To bear witness by making the suffering visible. Are there ways you can do this? Post a blog on your own site? If you are on myspace, facebook or other social networking sites can you change your status to read “fasting with Gaza” or “thinking of Gaza” from the 17th – 20th? Is there a public space you can vigil in your community? Letters to the editor? Each of us can do something.
The fast is being sponsored by the Michigan Peace Team. (http://www.michiganpeaceteam.org)
In Peace for Justice, Sheri
PS: For more information on the situation in Gaza check out:
And to read eye-witness accounts from Gaza: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9995.shtml
Update: 19 December 2008
Today is day 3 of the second part of the Gaza Solidarity Fast. I’m hungry. And cranky.
Mostly I have been good about only drinking water. However, I did decide it is within the spirit of the fast to allow myself one cup of black coffee each AM. I know that drinking caffeine is a big no no when you are fasting but I figure it’s a solidarity fast, not strictly speaking a health fast and it is far easier to be in solidarity with anyone when I am not in complete withdraw, have a migraine and generally hate everyone. But beyond my AM strong black coffee, it’s been just water.
I realize that I get cold easily when I am not eating. And once cold it’s hard to warm up. This is something unusual for me. Also, it is currently snowing and sleeting and just plan miserable here. I got stuck in the driveway and shoveling was just not fun. I found myself needing to rest more often than usual and at feeling a little light headed. And this is after just 2 full days! I feel a little pathetic – but it all does keep me very aware of those who go without because they have no choice.
And I’ve had some good conversations. I didn’t get together all the flyers and such I wanted, but I have made myself a couple of pins that say “I’m fasting with Gaza” and people have asked about them. Also, last night I went to a preview showing of Milk (which was fantastic!). It was a fundraiser with a speaker and a reception… tons of yummy food, including a chocolate fountain. Not joining in eating was defiantly an opening to talk about what is happening in Gaza.
One thing I have noticed is how so many people will say some variation of “I really admire what you are doing, I wish I could join you…. But I can’t fast. I’m sorry.” Or tell me all the reasons they cannot fast as if looking for me to say “that’s okay.” I keep reminding people – fasting is meaningful for me – in part because it is difficult and in part because of the long standing tradition in nonviolent movements (Gandhi, Cesar Chavez…) but that folks should do what is meaningful and doable for them.
The idea, of course, is not to duplicate what I am doing but find a way that keeps what is happening in Gaza in your heart and that motivates you to act. Contact the Israeli government and remind them that collective punishment is a violation of international law. Remind them that according to international law an occupying power must allow those under occupation to receive medical care. Tell them that the blockade violates these laws and others and is immoral and cruel and should be lifted. Talk to your friends, your family. Organize a pray vigil in your faith community. Raise money and collect medical supplies for organizations attempting to break the blockade. Do something. Do lots of things.