Durham, North Carolina

       A message to the imprisoned
             non-violent protestors
We, a group of inter-faith citizens from the Triangle area of North Carolina, would like to express our deep respect and solidarity with you – the 1,500 or more Palestinians who have embarked on a collective hunger strike to demand your basic rights. We draw inspiration from your courage and determination as well as from past hunger strikers such as Nelson Mandela, Bobby Sands, Alice Paul, and other outstanding figures who had confronted their oppressors to liberate themselves and liberate others. We stand with you in the struggle for freedom, equality, and justice, until the fall of apartheid. (Modeled after and excerpted from the longer letter )

                                                                         A message to the Israeli Government
We are watching, the world is watching, to see if Israel will stand by its own moral and ethical standards, called for in its scripture "to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God" and to be "a light unto the nations" (Micah and Isaiah)






 Videography and editing by Zoe Levitt

1-minute video

More photos  (click on thumbnail to enlarge)
 Many thanks to professional photographer Jerry Markatos!

In commemoration of #NakbaDay, we held an interfaith vigil in Durham, NC on May, 15th al-Nakba Day, in solidarity with the ~1600 Palestinian political prisoners on hunger strike. We did the #saltwaterchallenge and heard poetry from Muslim, Jewish and Christian speakers. thanks to Jewish Voice for Peace, Triangle- NC & Coalitionfor Peace with Justice for co-hosting!

Report from JVP: 
We held a vigil in solidarity with the Palestinian hunger strikers and marked al Nakba together in the central plaza in downtown Durham, NC. Over 60 people of all ages and faith backgrounds attended. We opened the vigil with the words of Mahmoud Barghouti and read the hunger strikers’ demands together and heard from a representative of the Inside/ Outside Alliance about the harsh realities faced by prisoners in Durham. This was followed by poetry by local Palestinian poets, JVP members and others and then we all took the salt water challenge together. Muslim, Jewish and Christian community members shared their reflections on the strike and Palestinian liberation and we closed at dusk by lighting candles and sharing key facts about the Nakba (and its continuance today). As the event was winding down, some of the Muslim people attending prayed Maghrib together.  photos are here.

To be part of the ongoing conversation go to the
Prisoner Solidarity Facebook page:

Quick Facts: The Palestinian Nakba | IMEU

 Additional links


May 15, 2017 by Rev. Mark Davidson, Church of Reconciliation, Chapel Hill, NC


Beginning on April 16, as many as 1500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have voluntarily deprived themselves of food, hurting no one but themselves, in order to call attention to matters of grave moral concern. They demand an end to the inhumane practice of administrative detention, whereby Palestinians are arrested and held against their will in prolonged imprisonment without charge or trial. They demand an end to solitary confinement, which is a form of torture. They demand an end to arresting and transferring Palestinians from the West Bank to prison facilities within Israel, thereby making family visits all but impossible, a violation of international law. They demand an end to the practice of arbitrarily restricting telephone contacts with family members. And they demand an end to the practice of denying prisoners’ access to legal counsel, which Israel’s High Court has informed the Israeli Prison Service is illegal. B’tSelem, Israel’s own human rights monitoring organization, has urged Israel to meet the hunger strikers’ demands. 

Subsequent to the commencement of the hunger strike, Palestinian hunger strikers further demand an end to the Israeli Prison Service waging “psychological warfare” in an effort to break the spirit of the hunger strikers, including such practices as increasing solitary confinement, shutting down attorney visits and telephone contacts with family, seizing money from prisoner accounts, thereby undermining their ability to purchase salts from the commissary, denying them a vital nutrient for their survival, and fining hunger-striking prisoners for not standing during roll call, despite the fact that it is medically observed that around the 18th day without food, human beings have difficulty standing. 

This Palestinian hunger strike occurs within the context of a long history of dispossession and injustice. 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the 50th anniversary of the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands, the longest continuous occupation in modern times. The bravery of these hunger strikers moves us to act in solidarity with them, to support them with our prayers and faithful actions, and to call upon Israel to meet their demands for improved prison conditions. As justice-minded Christian clergy, we understand that systems of “mass incarceration” whether in our own country or, in this case, in Israel, constitute a systematic denial of human dignity and must be challenged on moral and spiritual grounds, as well as part of faithful social witness. Our tradition calls us to give special care and attention to the most vulnerable among us. Jesus specifically named prisoners as “the least of these my brothers and sisters.” So deep was his identification with them that Jesus taught his disciples that caring for the dignity of prisoners was exactly the same as caring for him personally. Accordingly, we stand in solidarity with the Palestinian hunger strikers, and pray that their heroic self-sacrifice will bear fruit in improved conditions.


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              The Prisoner


W   Written for Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. by S T Kimbrough, Jr



For years I’ve sat behind these bars,
     no food received but dirty rice.
No one could come to visit me;
     my mat of straw is filled with lice. 

Scarce daylight is there I can see
     through yellowed, tiny window glass;
there is no toilet, just a hole,
     and here I’m forced my days to pass. 

What had I done to earn this fate?
     Stood by the road when soldiers came
to take the land my father owned,
     showed them the title with his name. 

“Stand back,” they said, “or you will pay.”
     I said, “We’ve farmed this land for years.”
And then the tall one struck my head.
     I fell completely filled with fears.

I pleaded still, “Don’t take the land!”
     They boldly laughed and bound my hands
and took me to this wretched place,
     and said, “Young man, you’ve no demands!” 

“Demands?” I said, “Just take me home.
     No single thing have I done wrong.”
I’m just a boy of fourteen years.” 
     But here I’ve been for six years long. 

No charge, no trial, no legal help,
     I’m now a man of twenty years,
My family has not heard from me—
     my mother daily sheds her tears. 

If now I join a hunger strike
     to fight injustice and this wrong,
I’m judged the worst of criminals,
     but I am weak and they are strong.

If they would look me in the eye
     and say, “Young man, this is unjust.
Can somehow you forgive our crime?”
     I’d have the right to doubt or trust!                                                                   

© 2017, S T Kimbrough, Jr. All rights reserved. Used by permission. The poem may be downloaded for personal use. The publication of the poem in any form must be by permission of the author. Address: 21 Susanna Drive, Durham, NC 27705. Email:     



Ash Shawwa


Peace, Shalom, Salam:

I want to thank you for attending the event yesterday and taking time out of your day to listen to me recite two of my poems.  You have specifically asked for me to share them with you and I’m absolutely honored.  I hope you enjoy.  I would also be honored if you shared this poem with friends and family as I feel this is an issue that should be raised in awareness.  Thanks!


How many guns have been fired 
How many stones have been thrown
How many soldiers have been hired 
To murder an innocent soul

We live in a society where it's all about taking sides 
But what about all the innocent children who never had the opportunity to decide 
My country is Palestine 
And with the trust in My Lord I pray everything will be just fine

Palestine is not a national issue 
It's an international issue 
Because what these kids go through is nothing but a crime 
Waking up not knowing whether their best friend will be there to walk by their side 

Where is the humanity and where is the help
When homes become cells
Life becomes hell
And the occupations become so routine regardless of how loud they yell

We live in our homes feeling safe 
But let me ask you, let me ask you, what have the Palestinians done to be denied this same place 
Are we not all a part of the human race 
Where is your humanity while you turn your face

And this is when I turn to Allah, All Giving of grace 
Testing my people 
But never do we deny You, and never do we call You evil

Surely this life is a test 
And You test the best 
Not to bring us down 
But merely to remind us that this world won't always be around 

So we call upon You as we fall 
Not only for Palestine 
But for all  

We call upon Your mercy 
When men claim land 
And fire bullets with a demand 
In the name of liberation 
In the name of a nation 
Not realizing with their Lord there is no argumentation 

And this argument being made that Israel belongs to the children of Israel carries with it so many fallacies 
How a select few from a nation chosen by their Lord can commit so many atrocities 
And what about Rachel Corrie 
What's her story 

Neither a Palestinian nor a Jew 
Who traveled alongside her crew to pursue peaceful negotiations 
In hopes of creating a dialog between nations 

What about her 
I mean have you even heard of her 
Maybe not because she was run over by an Israeli bulldozer, while trying to protect a Palestinian's home
Just so they wouldn't feel so alone 

But I'm sure the media left that out 
Instead taking shots of my people left and right as they shout
Illegal settlements are a crime 
But crime will always be reciprocated with time 
Regardless if the people deny 

When will we all wake up 
When will we realize the killing needs to stop 
Innocent children on both sides
Born into their lives 

While men plan murders allowing the blood to reach the skies 
Stop with the lies 
There's no reason for the children to cry 
There's no reason Rachel Corrie had to die 

So take this poem as you desire it 
Go ahead and ignore it
But remember 
As soon as the calendar turns November
Right around the corner lyes December 
And Allah will ultimately be our ultimate defender 

Hunger Strike 

I am nobody wise 
But I just don't understand how a human being can see what I see and not cry 
Who are we to ignore an innocent life 
How can we ignore a nation, let alone a single soul who no longer DESIRES life 

1,500 on a hunger strike 
9,000 plus suffering in this life 
When will see an end to a genocide 
When will open our eyes, past the lies and truly synthesize what they feel like on the inside 

How many of us will go home tonight 
And smile brightly with family members in sight 
How many of you have a cell phone right now 
And have the ability to hear your loved ones sound 

How many of us will fall comfortably asleep in our beds 
How many of us tonight will be fed
How many of us will acknowledge Palestinian rights 
And how many of us will stand and fight  

Palestine you have not been forgotten this time 
Palestinians you will no longer be ignored for these crimes 


But How? How do we combat evil 
Step one we do not stoop down to an enemies level 

Step two before acknowledging an enemy as an enemy
Prayer must be realized that it is the greatest remedy 

Surely it is better for everyone to submit to The Creator of the heavens and the earth
Then to go around this world and create so much hurt 

But In the words of Malcolm X:

Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery

Now I'm not advocating violence 
But I sure as hell am not advocating silence 
Again I'm not the wisest 

But it is time our voices be heard 
From the bees to the birds 
All we have at times in this life are our words 

So speak 
Fight in the name of peace 
Fight for the Middle East 
Fight for all from the west to the east 

And to my brothers and sisters, who are amongst The People of The Book
Know that I do not look to you as an enemy or a crook 

Know that I hate Zionism 
And not Judaism 
We must all stand together
As sisters and brother 
All acknowledging the same God 

You are not the enemy 
And Islam is not the enemy 
We need to realize our true enemy is in the unseen 
And this life is but a dream 

And I know, I know when we see the truth and open our minds sometimes we desire to scream 

So today call upon Allah
So today I call upon the father 
Today I call upon YHWH

Set the difference aside
Throughout this journey in life 
We have to stand by each other's side 

I come here today, not a scholar nor someone wise 
Just a poet with some words of advice 


               Palestine Is (1989-2017)

                                    by Ellen O'Grady


Palestine is people whose names I don’t yet know inviting me in for tea,
and taxi drivers who will not let me pay the fare. 

Palestine is Dr. Haidar Abdel-Shafi, founder and director of the Gaza Red
Crescent Society, bringing me a branch of dates from his yard, a day after he
had asked what price I had paid at the market and asserting I paid too much.

Palestine is the children of the first intifada, throwing stones then running from
soldiers, like they had wings, like they were too fast for bullets.

It is young men sleeping in the hills to avoid arrest. 

It is okra cooked with tomato sauce and onions,
and tea with fresh mint leaves.

It is walking in East Jerusalem, hearing the shooting of the Al-Aqsa Mosque
massacre and thinking it must be construction. 

It is every single person I meet having a loved one killed or in prison. 

Palestine is bullet canisters with MADE IN SALZBURG, PA embossed on
the side (a city not far from where I grew up).

It is a Gazan bride in a sequined gown a size too large.

Palestine is sympathy for the donkeys of Gaza City that do a lot of hee-hawing
and whose loads seem too large.

And it is muddy streets in Gaza during the rainy season.
And Munir crushing wild thyme between his fingers to put on his bread.

And a beauty salon where women go because Nabil gives a shampoo that is as
good as any massage.

Palestine is wet, cold winters, sitting next to the kerosene heater to stay warm.
And dry,
hot summers, when domes and minarets throw welcome shadows onto
dusty streets.

Palestine is a glass blower working glass, his fingers moving deftly despite
sweltering heat. 

It is Thafer catching a pigeon and making a stew.
It is Samir after being imprisoned in an Israeli detention center for four months.
His body has become thin, his hands nervous, his eyes will not meet my eyes.

It is a street in Hebron where I draw portraits of children on their way home
from school, and a young girl who positions her pony tails to mirror mine.

Palestine is old men in cafes smoking arghiles and playing backgammon,
and young boys kicking spent sound grenades in an alleyway.

Palestine is cabbages flying through the air like soccer balls as shop owners
hurriedly unpack their stock after a long curfew.

It is green soap from Nablus and blue glass from Hebron.
It is
18-year-old Basil arrested for throwing rocks. He confesses but refuses to
name the others with him. He is sentenced to over six and a half years in prison
and a fine of over $21,000. 

Palestine is notices left pinned to trees announcing that land will be confiscated
to make way for the wall.

It is
Israeli politicians saying, “Why do you incite your children against us?” “Why
don’t you teach them to love us?”

Palestine is people rejecting armed struggle and choosing non-violent resistance
because it has a greater chance of working.

It is where non-violent resistance still gets you killed.

Palestine is Bassem Abu Rahme, known as “Pheel,” elephant, because of his
large frame and  joyful demeaner, flying a kite at a demonstration in Bil’in, and
being killed by a high-velocity tear gas canister fired at his chest.

Palestine is twenty-four-year-old Rasha, killed at a checkpoint after soldiers saw
a knife in her hand. In her bag is a note apologizing to her family and stating: “I’m
doing this with a clear head. I can’t bear what I see and I can’t suffer anymore.”

Palestine is “sumud,” steadfastness.  

Palestine is children going to protests
and their parents letting them because there are no safe places anyway
and at least they feel they are part of something.

Palestine is a woman who speaks to the sea because her son is no longer there.

© 2017, Ellen O’Grady.  All rights reserved. Used by permission. The poem may be downloaded for personal use. The publication of the poem in any form must be by permission of the author. Email: 

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