Temporary mural at the Procession of the Species Community Art Studio. An
artist started the piece for the community to finish by leaving messages to
Rachel. The mural was then cut up into over 1000 feathers which where then
distributed to doves for costumes. The "O" and "R" stand for Olympia and
year after the murder of activist Rachel Corrie by the Israelis in Gaza, her
local community has not forgotten her. Ms. Corrie continues to inspire and
lead in Olympia, it may even be possible that she has become more powerful
in death than in life. There is some solace in this ability to effect
change postmortem, to have truly achieved martyr status, but it is an aching
solace tinged with loss.
At the same time, there is this harsh and parallel realization that Olympia
has lost but one life to the Occupation. It is sobering and hard to truly
imagine the sorrow of the Palestinians who have lost so many and so much.
Each new report from Rafah breaks hearts here. For some in Olympia, Rachel
and Rafah are forever entwined, inherent in thinking about and remembering
Rachel is thinking about and remembering Rafah.
Rachel Corrie giving an interview from Gaza in the days
before her death. This clip was played at the memorial in Olympia on the
first year anniversary of her death. From MBC (Middle East Broadcasting
think about Rafah requires one to learn about Rafah. It is a rough learning
curve, but one of the most valuable gifts Rachel gave. Rachel Corrie has
been a window into a reality that is far from Olympia – physically and
psychologically. To become aware of the genocide in Rafah is to be repulsed,
angered, shamed and moved to action to “just make it stop” as Rachel said in
one of her last emails. “I don’t think it is an extremist thing to do
Her intelligence and the way she was killed forces people to pay attention
to what she was saying and whom she was speaking for. It is as if when
Rachel died her soul exploded and shrapnel lodged in the hearts of her
followers. An anonymous quote left at her memorial space says it well:
“Rachel, I did not know you but you are my child and my best self. Thanks
for living inside all of us….We can transform the world together.”
THE OLYMPIA RAFAH SISTER CITY PROJECT
Olympia residents dedicated to furthering her work locally and
internationally have formed the Olympia Rafah Sister City Project [ORSCP]
with the goal of establishing a long term alliance with Rafah, an objective
of Ms. Corrie's. ORSCP has also attracted hundreds of diverse supporters who
are there for events, fundraising and general helping out. Rachel Corrie may
have been the impetus, but at this point the ORSCP has gained momentum
beyond Ms. Corrie.
The sister city relationship is not yet formally codified by the Olympia
city government but there is hope that Olympia, with its strong progressive
base, will be able to see through the politics to connect with Rafah. It is
a partnership that could prove enriching for both cities, particularly for
Americans, who are generally ignorant of Arab custom and culture.
ORSCP has had some successes in raising money, notably a Holiday
Celebration, which generated nearly $10,000, $4000 of which was sent to
Rafah for medical supplies. Small grants are also provided to delegations.
Money has been set aside for a yet unnamed publication that will be heavy
with cross cultural coverage. There are still many projects that remain
unfunded and underdeveloped at this time, this is inherent for such an
ambitious project that is only one year old.
CONNECTING WITH RAFAH
Difficulties facing the project include the restriction on traveling to
Israel and Gaza. Given that core problem, the ORSCP is forced to go much
slower than it might were activists able to freely visit Rafah. Delegates
have not given up, many have been doing their best to get there.
A letter written to Craig and Cindy Corrie from a young
girl in Palestine. This was in the album the Corries have filled with
cards from over 100 children.
Rochelle Gause, an ORSCP founder, traveling with the Middle East Children’s
Alliance [MECA], was allowed 6 hours in the entire Gaza Strip [two others
from MECA were also randomly chosen to be allowed in, the rest waited –
nervously – on the bus at the checkpoint]. She felt blessed and privileged
to have made it down to Rafah, the experience meant a lot to her and will
inform her work deeply.
Another activist, Neal Ahern, spent a month trying to get into Gaza/Rafah
before shifting his attention to protesting the wall in Biddu.
 Because of the current IDF closure in Rafah, it seems unlikely that
the present delegates will make it in. It is unfortunate because they are
leaders of ORSCP and are prepared to organize as effectively as possible
while in Rafah. 
“VITAL SHARD OF EMPATHY”
One of the most difficult and dangerous ways to express Palestinian
solidarity is to travel to the war zone. This decision is not easy, it is
fueled by both deep feeling and deep thought. If there are any stereotypes
about those that go it is that they are professional humans, they cannot
just sit and watch, they must act, help, work. It is their way of using
emotion productively. Action is empowering.
Many outside of the solidarity movement consider it ridiculous that
delegates are willingly putting themselves into such a deadly situation.
Some place full blame on Rachel Corrie for being there in the first place,
and furthermore, for being so “stupid” as to stand in front of a bulldozer.
There is, of course, truth to abstinence, if you do not go to Gaza you will
not die in Gaza. Fear obviously does keep many away, those who go are going
despite their fear and that is an honest indicator of their passion for
These feelings are eloquently expressed by in a fundraising letter for the
delegations written by Will Hewitt. Will was with Rachel when she died and
stayed with her body as best as he could until she left for America. His
stories are told in his powerful self published zine “This is the Life”
which is also illustrated with artwork he did while in the Mideast.
“All of us planning to travel are friends of Rachel’s and are deeply
inspired by her. For us, Olympia and Rafah are already inextricably linked.
We believe we must go to Rafah in order to reclaim a fragment of our hearts,
which remains in the torn earth near the rubble of Samir Nasserallah’s
demolished house, where Rachel died. That vital shard of empathy which rests
beyond the militarized occupation borders of Gaza is a seed which, if
cultivated, can teach us that Americans, Israelis, Palestinians and all
people live a common humanity which is ultimately far stronger and more
enduring than the violence of armies.”
“TO RAFAH WE WILL GO”
The delegates are a remarkable group, all as courageous and committed to
peace and justice as was Rachel Corrie. They are mostly in their twenties,
many have gone to Olympia’s influential The Evergreen State College. They
are seriously political and well educated in international affairs. They
network intensively, take Arabic lessons in earnest and study Muslim culture
so that they may show appropriate respect.
They raise money - for the most part they can’t “afford” this trip. They go
with the support of the community, fiscally and emotionally. There is a
strong base of people caring about the delegates before, during and after
their trip. One young female delegate jokingly complained about being
mothered by everybody, even those younger than her.
The delegates learn through word of mouth how to navigate the intricacies of
traveling to Israel and Gaza. Since Rachel’s death, Israel has been
increasingly restrictive about entry into the country. It is becoming very
difficult to gain access, especially for non-Jewish activists or anyone who
appears to be “pro-Palestinian” in any way. Because of this, delegates have
to hide evidence of their intent and learn how to play the customs and
checkpoint game so they can get in country.
A recent female delegate emailed, “My journey began under incredible
scrutiny at the Newark airport. I was clearly being profiled by being
young, female, traveling alone and not being Jewish. After being
interrogated, searched and my bag checked for bombs, I was able to sit and
wait for boarding….At the Israeli airport I was questioned 3 more times but
thanks to….preparation all went well.” 
Some delegates take an “easier” and “safer” route by aligning with
established relief agencies and avoiding direct action protesting. Other
activists prefer to travel independently and engage in non-violent protest,
especially against the wall. Being on their own, they have flexibility to
follow or avoid the action, whichever is the smartest and safest choice at
the time. Many still take ISM training to better cope with the situations
they will encounter.
In the Middle East principled Olympians have been shot at with both “rubber”
bullets and live ammunition as well as gassed, assaulted and arrested by the
Israeli Defence Forces [IDF]. Almost all have lived under fire. Incredibly,
when Rachel Corrie’s parents, Craig and Cindy, visited the home Rachel died
defending, they were harassed by IDF bulldozers and APC’s. Craig also dodged
warning shots as he inspected IDF damage done to a friend’s home.
REPORT BACKS TO THE HOMEFRONT
Delegates keep in contact with home through email updates. Upon their return
they are proactive about reporting back to both the Palestinian Solidarity
community and to general audiences, including outreach to schools [a pursuit
Rachel Corrie was fond of].
They describe multitudes of human rights violations both petty and
egregious, the decimation and humiliation of an entire population and the
role of the United States in supporting the occupation. The speakers also
excel at confronting both Arab racism and anti-Semitism. Their mission is to
educate and awaken Americans to the brutality of what is happening in our
They also speak of the warmth and respect with which they are met with when
in Palestine. They tell of the people they meet and their dignity despite
the never-ending violence. Many describe Palestinians as the “most generous
people in the world.” The listener learns about checkpoints and the
military, Palestinian customs and children, incursions and resistance – both
violent and non.
At least 60 people attended the most recent event on May 13th at Traditions
Café in downtown Olympia. It featured four activists reporting – Rochelle
Gause and Tyson Lazzaro, Neal Ahern and Jacob Rosenblum. Rochelle and Tyson
traveled with MECA, Jacob began his trip through Birthright Israel and then
continued with ISM. Neal traveled independently before also linking up with
ISM and Rabbi Arik Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights.
First hand testimony punctures many myths about the conflict that have been
perpetrated by our government, the Israeli lobby and repeated by the U.S.
media. Illusions of fairness are shattered as has the belief that our
government will stand up for us if we are wronged by a foreign government.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, it appears the Corrie family has been
hung out to dry by the United States government.
A year past her death, it is appearing that no justice will be served for
Rachel Corrie. There will be no FBI investigation or Congressional panel,
no sanctions on the state of Israel whose policies allowed her murder, no
punishment all the way down the line to the anonymous IDF soldier who
bulldozed her body into the earth and then backed over her body again with
the blade down.
This stings many in Olympia hard. It angers people. Still. Yet another
unspoken “contract” with our government has been exploded. Had “terrorists”
killed Rachel with such impunity, as visibly and brutally, the response of
our leaders and media would have most likely been significantly different.
With her “all-American” blonde beauty, she would have become a media fetish
object and perhaps several thousands of pounds of bombs would have dropped
in her name.
Instead, officially, nothing. From Bush or the media. 
Not that Olympia wanted bombs dropped for her or CNN camped on the Corrie
front lawn. The town is certainly glad craziness like that did not happen,
it would have been more troubling than the non response. There remains
dignity to her death because it has not been sensationalized or
Drawing done by a Palestinian child and
sent to Craig and Cindy Corrie. The Corries have an album filled with
cards from children. They shared the album with the public at Rachel's
It is left to Rachel Corrie’s communities to celebrate her and give her the
standing she deserves for her actions. Rachel belongs to many communities
now – in Olympia she has a huge one, in Rafah, she is not forgotten, but
what is remarkable and gratifying is the way she has made communities
The Corrie family has collected an enormous amount of artwork done in
tribute to Ms. Corrie. It has come from professionals, amateurs and those
who do not consider themselves to be artists. It all comes from the heart.
It sounds “corny,” but after viewing [and listening to] a large selection
of work, the sincerity is remarkable. Some of the most moving [and
sophisticated] images were those drawn by Palestinian children – again,
“corny,” but true – the wisdom in their work is ennobling.
Another point of pride for Rachel Corrie is the sheer number of awards,
citations and proclamations the Corries have accepted on her behalf since
she died. At the memorial on the one year anniversary of her death, the
display of commemorations filled three long tables. Many different languages
and symbols covered the plaques, medals and ribbons, notable was the
gleaming Star of Bethlehem hung from a luxurious green ribbon. The medal was
presented to the Corries by Yasser Arafat in a private meeting at his
offices in Ramallah. 
Star of Bethlehem awarded to Rachel Corrie posthumously
from Yasser Arafat. The Corries had a quiet meeting with Mr. Arafat
during their Fall 2003 trip to Israel/Palestine.
humbling and empowering to stand before this tangible display of honor from
Rachel’s international community. As a whole, the array is a confirmation
of Rachel’s humanity and dedication to peace and justice, incredibly
profound on an emotional level. In a way, this outpouring of respect and
affection is somewhat of a counterweight for the painful negligence of the
United States government.
FIGHTING THE SADNESS
Another way Olympia is moving past the sadness is to gather in celebration
of Rachel. Grief is present but more as the undercurrent when Olympia comes
together for fun and fellowship in her name. It isn’t always angst and
protest. This was most apparent on April 24th when 60 doves gathered to
march in Olympia’s 10th Annual Procession of the Species.
The Procession is the quintessential Olympia event. It is the largest Earth
Day celebration in the Northwest. This year approximately 3500 men, women
and children marched in a parade wearing a gorgeous and impressive array of
one of a kind handmade nature costumes.
In 2002 Rachel Corrie and Rochelle Gause had the idea that the parade needed
a “troup of doves” to make visible the message of peace. 
Ms. Gause comments, “the two of us met three times before we came up with
the doves in the Procession idea and we both did lots of work to make it
happen, meeting weekly for months. Although, in the end, she definitely
spent more time in the studio than I did!”
Rachel and Rochelle, leaders and organizers, were able to gather 40 doves
for the inaugural flight. Rachel wrote afterwards, “I think peace doves and
cranes will happen again next year, and hopefully they’ll be a procession
institution.”  Last year, only weeks after Rachel’s
death, Rochelle oversaw 100 doves marching in what was a heavily bittersweet
continuation of the tradition.
In 2004, ORSCP members organized another “troup” with Rachel in mind, again
under Ms. Gause’s direction. A sad irony for Rochelle was that despite
having spent hours preparing for the parade she was unable to attend due to
traveling in the Mideast as part of an ORSCP delegation.
“OUR LOCAL MARTYR”
The doves have been formally given space at the Procession Community Art
Studio and a mention in the calendar of events. The studio is a magical
place, open for two months preceding the parade so that people have a place
to make their costumes. For the past few years it has occupied an entire
elementary school, it is hard to describe, a fantastical blend of creatures,
creativity and collaboration.
Rachel Corrie used to spend a lot of time at the Community Art Studio and,
of course, made a deep impression on those involved with the event who had
many stories about her energy and thoughtfulness. One artist, Laura K., who
taught Rachel paper mache, was blunt with her feelings, “They killed one of
About the studio Rachel wrote, “I have misgivings about that place. It ate
up a lot of my time being there. People were offering themselves as human
shields in Palestine and I was spending all of my time making dove costumes
and giant puppets.”  Her regret and guilt however, were
tempered by joy in creativity and she allowed herself to imagine a life
where she did art like that all of the time.
Poster sized photographs of Rachel in her dove costume, snapshots turned
iconic images, dominated the dove work area. She is forever smiling, happy
and satisfied, Rachel has been able to both live and die her dream. Nearly
every visitor to the art studio passed through the dove area and she drew
attention to herself, beautiful and composed, she compelled people to talk
For those eight weeks Rachel did outreach at the studio. Her story was told
and told and told. People took time to read the prepared materials. It was
interesting to overhear comments, most people at least had an idea of who
Rachel was and what happened to her. Most got the details more or less right
and that was good to hear.
Others, though, had misperceptions that were large, one woman, in hushed
tones, asked, “Was it the terrorists?” The ORSCP member was able to
clarify. Another comment was striking for its shorthand, “Oh, she’s just
our local martyr.” It was said casually, not in any way sarcastic or mean,
just matter of fact.
A BREAK IN THE RAIN
Rachel will now forever be a matron of the doves. She would have been
pleased with this year’s flock of 60. It included her parents, Craig and
Cindy, her sister Sarah and many of her friends. An Olympia City
Councilman, TJ Johnson, marched with his family. There were many children,
several rather young, joining their elders, some older than others.
Rachel would have been even more pleased to see how happy everyone was. The
beauty of the day and the magic of the event combined for a joyous release
after what has been a long tough year. The doves were smiling and having
real fun, swooping and cooing. It was refreshing to see catharsis, it was
needed – complete with applause and cheers from the biggest crowds ever.
Like an Olympia sunbreak, hope shone through for the afternoon.
Shrine to Ms. Corrie at the Procession of the Species
Community Art Studio.
is no doubt that Craig and Cindy needed the warmth of their community at
this point. Their loss is exponential, their lives have taken turns in that
past year that would have tested the strongest people. Throughout it all,
they have maintained a public attitude of grace and gratitude and have been
committed to following through with Rachel’s work. They have formed the
Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice and have traveled extensively
worldwide to speak for Rachel and against the occupation.
The morning of the Species parade, the Corries had just arrived from the
airport, where they led an April 23 STOPCAT demonstration at Caterpillar
headquarters in Peoria. They had sent a letter to CEO James Owens requesting
a meeting with him, but were, of course, turned down. 
This protest however featured an action that must have been difficult for
them to experience – a street theatre recreation of Rachel’s death
featuring a large model bulldozer. 
Cindy Corrie at the Procession of the Species on April 24, 2004 in downtown
in this context into which the doves flew, and it was this context that the
doves offered relief and energy. The “sophomore” year past Rachel
Corrie’s death will without a doubt prove challenging, especially given the
brutal escalations on the ground in Palestine [and Iraq]. It appears things
will get much worse before they get better.
It will take renewed strength to continue in the face of such reckless and
relentless tragedy. Action, however, is one of the surest ways to heal, this
is not a time to retreat in depressed and powerless defeat.
American citizens must demonstrate their personal commitment to human rights
despite their government’s apparent disregard for them. If the people do not
provide the counterbalance to the cruelty of United States policy, the
country will be forever in peril. Activists in Olympia are not only working
for Rachel and the Palestinians, but for themselves and their country. They
are fighting the real war on terror.
is a writer/artist/activist who lives in Olympia, WA. She is from “back
east” and has written for many alternative presses and arts newspapers. Her
art has been found in galleries, museums, international collections and
sometimes on the street. She is currently home schooling for her PhD by
writing a book about trauma related illness and recovery. This article first
Intifada. Photographs and article
(C) 2004 candio. All rights reserved.
1. “I'm witnessing this
chronic, insidious genocide and I'm really scared, and questioning my
fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature. This has to stop. I
think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives
to making this stop. I don't think it's an extremist thing to do anymore.” –
Rachel Corrie email 2/27/03.
2. Neal was instrumental in organizing and participating in non-violent
resistance to the wall. He is the protester being arrested on April 15th in
the photos at
this link. Account of events of March 21st written by Neil in an
ISM report. Neal was also there for the demonstration on the year
anniversary of Rachel’s death, and here is
3. I do not want to name the delegates as it might compromise their ability
to travel in the Territories.
4. Craig Corrie in a speech on February 16, 2004 accepting the Housing
Defender Award for Rachel from the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions.
The award was created in part due to Rachel’s actions in Gaza.
5. If you go to the White House web site and do a search on Rachel Corrie,
her name comes up in just one document – a single press conference on April
10, 2003 where one reporter asked Ari Fleischer one question about Rachel
and was given one classic spin answer.
6. There is a picture at this link:
I did a google search to find this image and found that a good percentage
of the sites posting it had derogatory comments about the Corries. Many of
the sites said that the Corries presented Arafat with a portrait of Rachel,
this is incorrect, it was Arafat who presented the Corries with a picture
painted by a Ramallah artist.
7. “troup” of doves is not correct spelling but that it how Rachel spelled
it in her email March 12, 2002: “For those of you who don’t know, I’m
working with the other peace-and-justice-niks to put together a
collaborative art project for artswalk and a big troup of doves in the
procession of the species.” See  for information where this email came
8. From Rachel Corrie’s essay Thurston Country by Trivia: Self in Context
written for her Local Knowledge studies in the spring of 2002 at The
Evergreen State College. I could not find a web link to the text. My copy
is from a zine compiled by Local Knowledge.
9. See .
10. I recommend you read this powerfully
11. For excellent coverage and pics, including the Corries see
Rachel Corrie “Community” Website (links to Rachel’s emails, events,
Corrie “Official” Website
Olympia Rafah Sister City
Other Articles by candio
Olympia Remembers Rachel Corrie and Rafah