Hold It All

Category: Israel

The Work Goes on



In October 2003
We were in Nablus
Awarta, Ramallah

Being alert in the olive groves
Dashing across the settler-only roads
Learning a thing or two about sumud

In Louisville the minister and civil rights activist had exhorted the crowd-—
“If you see a good fight, get in it”
And so we did

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Diane, Hedy, and friends, 2004


by Hedy Epstein

Throughout the 1960s, I became involved in local civil and human rights activities, as well as anti-Vietnam war protests. In the spring of 1970, it became public knowledge in the United States that, as part of this war, the U.S. Air Force had been carpet bombing Cambodia for several months.

This triggered an entire set of thoughts in my head. In opposition to the war, I had picketed, marched, sent letters and telegrams to the President and to congressional representatives, yet nothing adverse happened to me or to my family. Doing this, I had neither risked my life nor that of my family. I had put neither my life nor that of my family in jeopardy.

Then my thoughts travelled across the years and across the ocean, back to Germany. I realized then, had the German people done what I did, during the Hitler regime, they would have risked their lives and perhaps that of their family. I was fully aware that there was opposition and resistance to Hitler regime by some people and that most of these people unfortunately did not survive because of it. Then I asked myself, how can I condemn an entire people for not risking their lives, when I am not sure if I would be willing to do the same? Fortunately, I have never had to risk my own life.

With that, all the old hatred, which was a part of me for decades, disappeared and has never again raised its ugly head. I would like to believe that I am better person as a result. I know I am a happier person since I no longer hate.


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An Alphabetical List

The following is an alphabetical list of topics and/or possible chapter titles for a book I was working on in 2011. At this stage, it was autobiographical. It eventually morphed and became the novel, Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine. Some of what’s below found a home there…

A Little Taste/ [Detention]
A Little Taste
Administrative Detention
Ahlan wa-sahlan
American Activists
Anger (or, Fury)
Anti-Semitism/2: Review of Finkelstein
Arabic [see Lexicon]
Arabic lessons
Arabic expression for Profession of Faith, What Israel wants, there is no God but Israel
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An Actor

Sealing the Deal

A couple of months after The Book of Mev came out, I did a reading and signing at at Left Bank Books in Saint Louis’s Central West End. I asked one of my former students, Magan Wiles, to read the very last chapter of the book entitled, “The Gospel according to Mev.” Magan did a riveting reading but I noticed she was weeping as she read Mev’s words. She told me afterwards she would let me know why she had been crying. A week later, she emailed me this explanation:

“I was crying because my heart was broken, and filled up at the same time. I was crying because I knew I could never move to New York and just be a poor bohemian stage actress, which is an old and outdated dream, and it breaks my heart to let it go. I was crying because right then I knew I was going to Palestine, and I knew that after that I will go many places to join the struggle. I was crying because right then I realized that the struggle is my life, and it always will be, it will never be over. I cannot compartmentalize, I cannot just leave it for a little while to go do something else. I have seen, and I cannot look away. I will live my life as Sisyphus, and while this ignites a fire in me, it also makes me ache. My heart is broken and full. I am humbled by your book, and by Mev’s clarity in her life’s mission. It forces me into more focus. Please know that the honor was mine, that speaking those words sealed the deal.”

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Share the Wealth with Mark Chmiel: Dear Love of Hedy

With Hedy and Chrissy, Damascus Gate, East Jerusalem, December 2003


In this share, I plan on talking about one of the major threads of my recent “book” (published at my blog and on Facebook) Dear Love of Comrades, which I described to Rachel Sacks last fall as a “tribute to friendship.”

I’ll focus on the youth, political activism, and last years of Hedy’ Epstein’s long life. As I’ve done with events pertaining to The Book of Mev and Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine, we will take turns doing readings and sharing what pops into our consciousness as a result.

Join us
Sunday 20 September
7:00 p.m. CST.
Via Zoom
Email me for URL

Dianne Lee and Hedy Epstein

“Our Exposed Nerve”

October 12, 2002

This book is crucial to my work. Amira Hass is an Israeli journalist and child of Holocaust survivors trying to report accurately what has been transpiring in Gaza since the famous handshake.   My main interest to specify more clearly the varieties of violence Palestinians face everyday, indeed every hour, though when Americans think of violence in the Middle East, they, invariably, due to the reporting of a biased US media, think of Israeli civilians killed or wounded by Palestinian suicide bombers.   

“This book is an attempt to chart that passage, to relate the ideological, cultural, and emotional histories that make up the human story of the Gaza strip—histories that are bound together by the common quest for freedom.” 17

In a recent Znet article, Noam  Chomsky quotes Yehoshaphat Harkabi,”To offer an honorable solution to the Palestinians respecting their right to self-determination: that is the solution of the problem of terrorism,” he said. “When the swamp disappears, there will be no more mosquitoes.”

What Hass details is the unrelenting Israeli pressure on Palestinians in Gaza to submit or leave.  The fact this has occurred under the much ballyhooed “peace process” gives pause for critical thought:  The peace process, Hass reveals, is basically a conquest process. 

Who can blame a people struggling for their freedom?  Who do you side with: David or Goliath?
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I Remember by Yael

I remember crazy-scary days before.

I remember Minsk, summer 1979. The first Hebrew class. My parents were covering the windows of our apartment with blankets. They told me “not a squeak.” People were sneaking in, one by one like thieves. It was all very hush-hush, and I was wondering if my parents were criminals.

I remember the exodus, December 1979. After a long wait by the rails, a Polish man in uniform yelled in Russian “Kikes, your train is leaving in 2 minutes.”

I remember everyone running in panic at first. Then, I remember being pushed and carried through a bucket brigade, along with other children, and packages, and grandparents.

I remember the adventure in my body.

I remember the snow looked magical under the train station’s light, while I was passed like a package from one person to another.

I remember the train was frozen inside, but we made friends and warmed up quickly.

I remember watching the news. Israel, 1982-1985. Clinging to my mama, our bodies trembling in unison while taking in the names of the fallen. Maybe it was just one such moment, maybe it was night after night.

I remember that we still spent every Saturday at the beach and ate juicy watermelon as if there was nobody dying anywhere. Ever.

I remember the whole state of Israel putting kerosene in their hair on the same Tuesday at exactly 8 pm, but most likely it was 6 pm or 7. I can smell kerosene as I think about it.

I remember that the next day we were done with the national lice pandemic, but it felt unsafe to light a match for a while

I remember that 1984 was the year that spelled תשמ”ד (“Tashmad” – “destruction.”)

I remember there were rumors we were all going to die.

I remember the prophesies that said it was going to be the year of annihilation.

I remember when the clock hit midnight, we partied Russian style –which basically means, like there was no tomorrow.

I remember reading 1984 and thinking that it was the world my parents came from.

I remember never finishing 1984, because I thought I knew how it was going to end – everyone will suffer and die, but love will prevail.

I remember Israel 1991, Saddam Hussein declared “The great showdown has begun! The mother of all battles is under way.”

I remember, he gave us some time to prepare before the Scud missiles began to hit. Everyone was sealing their windows, and there was shortage in duct-tape.

I remember 36 of us living in the hermetically sealed bomb shelter. Read the rest of this entry »

The Imperative To Remember


Anyone who does not actively, constantly engage in remembering and in making others remember is an accomplice of the enemy. Conversely, whoever opposes the enemy must take the side of his victims and communicate their tales, tales of solitude and despair, tales of silence and defiance.
–Elie Wiesel, Against Silence, v.2 [1977]


… it is still possible by patient reconstruction of the factual record to know the truth about what happened in Gaza. Out of respect for the memory of those who perished during Operation Cast Lead, this truth must be preserved and protected from its assassins.
–Norman Finkelstein, Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom [2018] Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with Bob Suberi: A Delegation to Palestine

Growing up as a Labor Zionist in the 50’s and 60’s instilled a sense of community and pride in being a Jew. Although I grew up in a predominately white Christian suburb of Los Angeles, I spent my childhood summers at Habonim, a Labor Zionist camp where my mother worked as the camp cook and “mother.” At the tender age of 10 or 11 I was introduced to Socialism, Zionism, liberal politics and the inspiring folk songs of the labor movement and its impact on the settlement of the Jewish homeland. We sang and danced in celebration of the liberation of the Jewish people and the establishment of the State of Israel. Throughout my life I viewed Israel through this lens; a haven for a persecuted people in an otherwise vacant land. The problem, of course, is the fact that the land was not vacant. And the rationale for displacing the Palestinian occupants, a process that continues, has become more difficult to justify. 

Our delegation to Palestine was sponsored by the Center for Jewish Non-Violence, a group of Diaspora Jewish activists committed to defending the human rights of Palestinians. We call it co-resistance and we work at the direction of Palestinians along with other concerned groups within Israel. We also acknowledge the moral injury inflicted by the Israeli government upon its own citizens by their mistreatment of Palestinians. I quote Carlos Mesters, the Carmelite liberation theologian:   “If I hit you, I am dehumanizing you, but much more than that, I’m dehumanizing myself. The moment I mistreat someone I’m hurting myself more.”

Join us
Sunday 1 March
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Bob begins sharing at 6:45
At the home of Bill Quick and Dianne Lee
7457 Wise Avenue
Richmond Heights, MO

The Power of Footnotes


My idea of the ideal text is still the Talmud. I love the idea of parallel texts, with long, discursive footnotes and marginal commentary, texts commenting on texts.

–Noam Chomsky, Mother Jones interview, 1987


Text from Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians, p. 386 (South End Press, 1983):

[On the Sabra-Shatila massacres] There was also a reaction from Elie Wiesel, who is much revered internationally and in the United States for his writings on the Holocaust and on moral standards and has been proposed many times for the Nobel Peace Prize for these writings, again for 1983, by half the members of Congress according to the secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.* Read the rest of this entry »