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Pink Playgrounds in Gaza

Code Pink, Patch Adams and the attempt to bring toys and chocolate into Gaza

Energies were high.

It was just after exhausting my strength slamming 4/4 samba on the snare for 2 hours straight during a “mass” demo commemorating 42 years of Israeli occupation that I was convinced by my bandmates to go on a bus down south. We joined the mysterious Americans in pink shirts and a pack of silly clowns, all of whom had been marching with us at the demo and embarked together on a humanitarian mission at the border with Gaza, the biggest open prison in the world.

Who were these pink people, singing songs and being overtly happy and celebratory? At first glance it almost seemed like they were happy-go-lucky tourists making a symbolic charitable gesture while passing through the middle east on the way back to middle America. And who was this tall grey-and-blue haired clown, who was always quite a character, in character and out?

As it turns out, my cynicism failed me; it seems that there actually are people who have hearts of gold, willing to enter a besieged war zone in order to bring smiles to people’s faces and slight, albeit meaningful, sighs of relief that the world cares.

Code-pink is a Feminist Peace organization who’s goal is, funnily enough, to stop wars, and they have visited war torn places around the globe. In Israel, They joined the Israel-based group “Coalition of Women for a Just Peace” and made it a mission to get those who could into Gaza, build playgrounds, and bring toys, chocolate and medicine for the children. Most of these kinds of goods have been forbidden by the Israeli government to enter Gaza under their current blockade.

Patch Adams, a medical clown famously portrayed by Robin Williams in a Hollywood movie of the same name, came with his unique philosophy, charm and spirit and supernatural ability to be ridiculous. His highly radical politics juxtaposed with his surprisingly high spirited approach with hostile figures such as the Israeli army. He was joined by the Smile Liberation Front, an Israeli group of activist clowns who along with Patch’s antics, brought smiles to our face more often then not.

Myself, along with the members of the radical samba band “Kasamba”, came with the Israel delegation of code pink and boarded a bus with them from Tel Aviv to Adamame, an organic permaculture farm near the border who most graciously hosted us.

Amid the mud houses and over cups of organic lemon verbena tea, we discovered how incredible these people are, who were willing to travel great lengths and endure much criticism from home in order to bring joy to all ranks of Gaza’s residents. This attitude was firmly consolidated along with their highly critical analysis of Israel’s blockade and willingness to bear the consequences of their actions on their bodies and on their criminal records.

Very soon we realized that we would benefit the most from this excursion by listening to the stories of these courageous women and men. So we listen we did.

Two delegations had set out, one arriving in Egypt, the other in Israel. On their way, they stopped at Obama’s famous Cairo speech and protested his support of the current siege on Gaza.They both had one objective: to bring toys, food medicines and playground equipment to the children of Gaza. The Egypt mission succeeded. They met with fellow Gazan women, built playgrounds and even met a delegation of the reigning Hamas government. They told of the will of the people of Gaza for a Palestinian state, the mistrust of Israel and the high amount of respect and hospitality they received from everyone they came across. They witnessed first hand the high amount of devastation the Israeli army left in its wake of the latest and deadliest bombardment. Looking through the eyes of their primary focus, the children, they recalled how the only place where children can play is the concrete rubble of destroyed homes.

After a night of celebrating my liberation from the smog and rush of the city with the friendly vibes of the free spirited individuals I had met the night before, I awoke early in the morning and witnessed how the natural beauty surrounding me reflected the beauty of the space we were creating. Ironically, the most captivating features of this organic wonderland of flora were the cacti and the thorny artichoke shrub, each equipped with thorny spikes for protection against potential oppressors, yet blessed with overwhelmingly beautiful flowers in full bloom, complex and intricate in themselves, symbolizing the spirit of the group.

Patch Adams led a valiant and hilarious mission to get the Israeli policemen to crack a smile and let the goods in. He succeeded in getting them to laugh, and for an instant, it seemed that a genuine human connection was made, liberating the human souls from their oppressive uniforms. But alas, the slides, see-saws and chocolates were denied access into Gaza; they must have been deemed to dangerous. A kite flying “too close” to the fence stirred the aggression embedded ever so deep inside the Isreali law enforcers, and their uniforms resumed dictating their actions. The human aspect was fading and tensions were getting high. All of us on the Code Pink mission were forced to board the bus and leave the area.

Although the friendly and clownish approach seemed to have failed, the amount of heart, guts and smiles these people brought to a situation haunted by so much violence and oppression was inspiring and empowering, to say the least.

For more information, check out Code Pink’s website