Gaza Remembers Rachel Corrie in a Football Tournament

Rachel parents during a protest in Palestine (Photo: ISM)

Yousef M. Aljamal – Gaza

For the ninth year in a row, Palestinians in the city of Rafah will organize a football tournament in the memory of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year old American peace activist who was killed in the city while she was trying to protect Palestinian houses from Israeli demolition. The tournament, which will take place on June 15, 2016, will consist of 32 teams from across the Gaza Strip.

“This is a very important event which draws hundreds of people every year. People come here to play football and to remember Rachel Corrie who was killed while trying to protect our houses from demolition,” said Kareem Nasrallah from Rafah, the coordinator of the tournament.

“We have received support from various figures, including Abdelsalam Hania of the Sports and Youth Palestinian Council. He attended the final celebration of the winning team last year and gave the team an award,” added Kareem, who seemed very excited about the event.

The event is sponsored by the Rachel Corrie Foundation in the United States. Football is popular in the Gaza Strip especially among young people who consider it a means to escape their hard reality after 10 years of siege.

Jehad Abujazar, 27, whose family lives in Rafah’s Yibna neighborhood that was partially demolished during the time Rachel lost her life, asserted the importance of the tournament: “The symbolism the tournament is why I attend it – it keeps the memory of Rachel alive in the hearts of the people of Gaza, especially in Rafah, where she gave her life to protect our houses from demolition. I am going to attend the tournament this year as well.”

Adnan Abulsoud, the organizer of the tournament for seven years in row believes that it is meant to immortalize Rachel due to her solidarity with Palestinians in Rafah. “Those who knew her felt the need to carry on her legacy by immortalizing her name in a football tournament. We wanted to promote football as well. But while playing football we wanted to send a thank you message for Rachel who came from overseas to stand in solidarity with us,” he said.

The tournament seeks to strengthen the right of return to villages and towns which were ethnically cleansed in 1948, says Abolsoud. He added that, “Teams are named after Palestinian towns occupied in 1948 to remind people of the right of return.”

Cindy and Craig Corrie, Rachel’s parents believe that the tournament “is an inspiration to us in Rachel’s hometown of Olympia, Washington. Through this project, we have an opportunity to join you in celebrating the remarkable spirit of the athletes who play the game, of the organizers who have the vision, and of the supporters who come to cheer on their favorite teams.”

“When we hear how young people learn about Rachel through the tournament and how she continues to be remembered and honored, it reminds us of the special kindness she experienced in Gaza when she was there in 2003. We remember how you cared for her then and how you have kept her spirit alive for all these years. This is comforting and touching, and we are grateful for all you do in her memory and in support of us.”

“Rachel played football (soccer) here in the U.S. on a young girls’ team. She loved the game, and we had a good time watching her play with others. So it feels appropriate that she would be remembered through this sport. We appreciate the vision of the Rachel Corrie Ramadan Tournament founders who believed that Gaza could benefit from a sports tournament that puts politics aside and brings people together,” they said.

Until justice for Palestinians and Rachel prevails, football players in Gaza will continue to play, continuing Rachel’s legacy and scoring more goals, just like Rachel did.

To lend your support for this great Ramadan community event please visit the Rachel Corrie Foundation.

– Yousef M. Aljamal is the Palestine Chronicle Correspondent in the Gaza Strip.

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