Dear Mum and Dad,
I’m enclosing some information about where I’ll be and my contact details when I’m away in Palestine/Israel. I’ll keep in touch as much as possible; although access to electricity and a mobile signal may be very erratic or completely inaccessible for some or all of the time.
I also wanted to offer you some kind of justification for why I’m doing this. I know it’s dangerous, I’d like to offer you assurances. While it is likely everything will be fine and I certainly am going into this hoping it will be, I do know, as I’m sure you do, that going to Palestine is not a usual holiday. While I feel I have accepted the risks involved, I have had months to think it over, moving from complete and total overwhelming fear to quiet acceptance and back again to complete overwhelming fear, depending on what I read or who I speak to. I know that you have put years of your life into nurturing me and caring for me, and that that has at times been difficult (not least I imagine having to watch me go to the toilet until I was about 4 and listen to my wittering on in the manner of your eldest granddaughter). I don’t want you to think I am squandering that gift or risking it without thought. It’s fatuous to tell you not to worry, but I do want to apologise for putting you in that position, and say that I haven’t chosen lightly to do it.
I’m going, in all honesty because I can’t bear not to, despite my fear. I am going with 17 other women (from the Easton Cowgirls and another football team from Leeds called Republica Internationale) to play football with women in the occupied territories. It is an act of ‘solidarity’; I’m never quite sure what solidarity means; at its worst it makes a lot of assumptions about what other people may want or need and at its best it’s no more complex than a hand extended in friendship. Really, for me, it’s a chance for us to meet people and say ‘hey, people outside this massive concrete wall that you live in care about what is happening here.’ Maybe it will distract the women and our host villages from the day to day grind, and provide an excuse to celebrate, run around kicking a ball. Of course the cultural exchange may be both enlivening and hair raising for all of us. It’s not much, but somehow it is important to do it. I feel a responsibility to use my privilege well (in my own flawed way); and for now making the effort to meet women who may not have my privileges and live in circumstances where international travel is not possible seems like a good use of mine.
So that’s why I’m going: it’s the first time a women’s football team have gone and I feel lucky to be able to take part; I’d be disappointed in myself if I didn’t go. Ruth and I will be staying with my friend Sarit Micheali in Tel Aviv (who I lived with in London) she works as the spokesperson for B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and the tour has been organised mostly by Hamed Qawasmeh, a human rights activist, who organised previous Easton Cowboys trips to Palestine.
PS. After this trip obviously I’ll move back in with you, marry a nice local lad and get a sensible job.