"Rachel Corrie" Plays in London
- It is disturbing to see our daughter played on stage, but it drives
home the impact she has had since her killing in Gaza
Rachel was bulldozed to death, but her words are a spur to action
Cindy and Craig Corrie
Saturday October 8, 2005
When our daughter Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in
the Gaza strip on March 16 2003, an immediate impulse was to get her
words out to the world. She had been working in Rafah with a
nonviolent resistance organisation, the International Solidarity
Movement, trying to stop the demolition of Palestinian homes and
wells. Her emails home had had a powerful impact on our family, making
us think about the situation in the Middle East in ways we had never
done before. Without a direct connection to Israel and Palestine, we
had not understood the devastating nature of the Palestinians'
situation. Coming from the US, our allegiance and empathy had always
been with the people of Israel.
After Rachel died we realised that her words were having a similar
effect on others whose lives were being changed, as ours have been -
not just by Rachel's death, but by the window her writing provided on
the Palestinian experience and by her call to action.
Earlier this year, when a play created entirely from Rachel's emails
and journals first opened in London, we saw in a very immediate way
the impact that Rachel's words can have on others. Theatre can reach
people in a different and deeper place than reading a news article or
listening to a speech: there is an emotional aspect that for some
people can be more long-lasting and motivating.
Theatre humanises; all art humanises. It takes us away from the merely
logical and rational. In the Israel-Palestine conflict there is often
a very logical calculus of death and war - and you must step out of
the constructs of that logic in order to construct a logic for peace.
The play, My Name Is Rachel Corrie, is not just about how Rachel died,
even if that is why she is known and remembered. It also illuminates
her humanity, tracing her evolution from typical teenage
self-exploration through to her search for a political voice. The play
includes some of her writing that might be considered uncomplimentary
to us, and even to her. Far better that, though, than being a symbol
of one dimension.
It is disconcerting, but also comforting, to watch an actor who looks
much like Rachel - Megan Dodds - play our daughter on stage. In the
opening scene, when Rachel awakens in her messy bedroom, the
resemblance is almost too much. But Megan lives Rachel's words in ways
that are sometimes familiar but also sometimes surprising, so that we
learn from her what Rachel may have been thinking. At several points
in the play, Megan enacts receiving emails from us - real emails that
we actually sent to Rachel. We had never before imagined our
daughter's reactions to receiving our messages until we saw them on stage.
Rachel was a real human being. Sometimes, when people idealise her, we
feel vulnerable for her. Knowing the complete human being, would they
feel the same? Through My Name is Rachel Corrie, people can know a
more complete Rachel.
Clearly, our daughter has become a positive symbol for people. Her
story and her words seem to motivate others to do something, not just
sit and talk about the world's situation in their living rooms and
feel unhappy. The weekend after Rachel was killed, we discussed with
old friends what we should do. We needed to find a response. In some
ways we may have been more fortunate than other parents who have lost
children, for the response in our situation was apparent. With her
efforts to educate and to build permanent connections with
Palestinians in Rafah, Rachel provided us with a path.
In an email from Rachel to her friend Todd, she tells him 10 times
over that he must come to Gaza. "Come here!", she repeats over and
over. That is what Rachel would have wanted us to do, too: to try to
carry on what she started.
We recently spent time in the US with members of the family who were
behind the wall of the home Rachel stood to protect. For a month we
ate, played and travelled with 15-month-old Sama. What future does she
have, living in what now amounts to a mass prison in Gaza?
The recent disengagement may provide some relief for Gazans at the
most obvious level. But it is hard not to contrast the media coverage
afforded to the Israeli settlers' leaving, with that given to the many
Palestinian families who have lost their homes to demolition in Gaza.
What has been happening in the West Bank under cover of the
disengagement - the building of the wall and the expansion of
settlements - is also very worrying.
And when the Israeli prime minister's close aide Dov Weisglass said
that the real intent of the Gaza disengagement was to place the peace
process in formaldehyde, we have to take him at his word. We must keep
insisting on a peace process and work towards a viable Palestinian
state that will benefit Palestinians, Israelis and the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, we are still asking our government for a US-led
investigation into Rachel's killing. The US state department is on
record saying that the report of the Israeli military police does not
reflect an investigation that was "thorough, credible and
transparent", despite that being promised to President Bush by Ariel
Sharon. In March we initiated a lawsuit against the Israel Defence
Force and the government of Israel, to seek justice for Rachel and
also information. We still would like to know what happened on March
16 2003, and why the international eyewitness reports differ so
radically from the statements of the soldiers involved.
Unfortunately, the Israeli parliament, counter to international law,
has passed retroactive legislation making it impossible for most
Palestinians and others to file suit against the IDF for injury that
occurred in the occupied territories after September 2000.
In the US we have taken legal action against Caterpillar Inc, which
manufactured the D-9R bulldozer which killed Rachel. Under existing US
law, corporations can be, and are being, held responsible when they
knowingly continue to provide goods and services that are used in a
pattern of human-rights violations.
The month before she was killed, Rachel wrote the following in an
email to us: "I look forward to seeing more and more people willing to
resist the direction the world is moving in, a direction where our
personal experiences are irrelevant, that we are defective, that our
communities are not important, that we are powerless, that our future
is determined, and that the highest level of humanity is expressed
through what we choose to buy at the mall." Action has already flowed
from her words.
· My Name Is Rachel Corrie is at the Royal Court Theatre in London
from October 11 to 29. Box office 020 7565 5000
rachelsmessage @ the-corries.com
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