Dear Rachel, It has been exactly 11 years since your pure conscience was forfeited by this unfair and malignant world. You came thousands of miles to help a people face all kinds of oppression. You did everything in your power for their shattered lives. Death came to you in the shape of an Israeli bulldozer at the Gaza border. You were trying to prevent the demolishing of a Palestinian's home. The Israeli soldier in command of the bulldozer ran you down on purpose, despite your multiple warnings. Twice! As if he was trying to calm himself down.
It was March 16, 2003. Your death taught every human of every religious or political background in the Middle East a lesson. The way you bravely challenged death is commemorated with tears and gratitude, even today.
When you were just a small child, you possessed the capacity to emphasize with children in pain in other parts of the world. In primary school, you were speaking of the necessity to address the needs of other people. Finally, as you grew up to be a young girl, you packed your things and moved outside the American society in which you had grown up. Your death came the way you had lived your entire life: by standing up to injustice.
Unfortunately, not much has changed in the region after your death. In the past 11 years, we have witnessed numerous massacres, attacks, bombings and destruction.
We continue watching as our consciences become duller with every pain endured.
What you did was the most difficult. You sacrificed your own life for people with whom you have no religious or racial ties.
We, as the natives of the region, have not been able to do as much.
I do not see an impending Palestinian emancipation in the horizon. On the contrary, things are getting even worse in the Middle East. Suffering and violations of human rights are intensifying. What is even worse is that our eyes have gotten used to the images of death. I recall how I at first was not able to look at your shattered body, whereas I am now able to look at all kinds of images. Our hearts and minds have long since become accustomed to suffering.
Yet, amidst the chaos, you keep shining like a star. Perhaps not today, but the day will come when your name will become a source of inspiration and a role model for people of all ages. Perhaps prizes, contests and festivals will be held in your name.
People will strive to tell the story of your single-handed attempt at making human history.
Many of your photographs were published after your death. The one that affected me the most is the one where you sit together with a Palestinian family. It is a place surrounded by walls with an open roof. In the background, you can see the olive trees, the symbol of Palestine. The Palestinian husband and wife are casually dressed. They have two children, a boy and a girl. You are wearing a headscarf and are dressed casually as well. You look just like them. Everyone is smiling. There is no hint of fear or worry.
This is how I will remember you, dear Rachel. Your natural ability to make us forget about "foreignness" that renders you "one of us."