Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American peace activist, was killed on March 16, 2003 -- crushed when she stood in front of an Israeli bulldozer set to demolish a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip. March 16 will mark her 4th death anniversary. A play, “The Voice of Rachel Corrie,” written by David Gilbert and Grace Richardson, was performed in her honor, on Sunday, February 11, in Oak Park. Rachel's life, death, and legacy were examined in this staged dramatic reading featuring a cast of six.
As Farhat Khan noted, Muslims in the audience were conspicuous by their negligible presence. “When Rachel Corrie was murdered, I looked up websites and news just to see if there was even a possibility that this could have been an accident or if they had actually killed an American,” Farhat added. “If the Israeli’s can run a bull dozer over a white American peace activist, the Palestinian people haven’t a chance.”As I watched the play, it dawned on me how differently non-Muslims, by and large, tend to advocate peace and justice. The hysteria and violence that marks so many protests by Muslims all over the world, is absent amongst activists be it the Christian Peacemaker Teams or Rachel’s Group, International Solidarity Movement. Perhaps, our knee jerk reactions are rooted in a sense of disenfranchisement, or speak of a people pushed to the limits of endurance. Or perhaps it exemplifies little else than our ignorance, our barely-thought out anger, our misdirected energy. I wondered if Muslims, especially young adults, would have done for people of another faith, what Rachel was doing for a predominantly Muslim
people? By the time the play, a barebones production, ended there was barely a dry eye in the crowd.
The original play, "My Name is Rachel Corrie" (based on the writings of the Corrie before her death ), was a victim to censorship and did not open as scheduled, in March 2006, in New York theaters where is it is still playing. The move drew criticism from activists and actors, alike.In a letter published in The New York Times, the 2006 Pulitzer prize-winning writer, Harold Pinter wrote, “We are Jewish writers who supported the Royal Court production of My Name Is Rachel Corrie. We are dismayed by the decision of the New York Theatre Workshop to cancel or postpone the play's production. We believe that this is an important play, particularly, perhaps, for an American audience that too rarely has an opportunity to see and judge for itself the material it contends with.” The other signatories to the letter included, Gillian Slovo, Stephen Fry, and 18 others.The letter continued: “In London it played to sell-out houses. Critics praised it. Audiences found it intensely moving. So what is it about Rachel Corrie's writings, her thoughts, her feelings, her confusions, her idealism, her courage, her search for meaning in life -- what is it that New York audiences must be protected from?” The play finally did open weeks later, in October 2006.
“The Voice of Rachel Corrie,” is directed by David Gilbert, with projected visuals by Matt Gaines, who is well known in the Palestinian community and a founder of the Stop Cat. Coalition. The bulldozer that killed Corrie was an export by U.S. based, Caterpillar company. The story of this idealistic young woman is also a reminder of the many other lives tragically cut short by violence, but largely unnoticed and unmourned outside the war zone. The play was sponsored by The Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine and the American Friends Service Committee