Op/Ed

Ways of Seeing: Let’s connect the dots for peace

JOANNA COLWELL

It has now been more than six months since the Hamas attack of October 7, and about six months since Israel began raining bombs onto the people of Gaza. Every night when I crawl into my warm, soft bed, with its clean sheets and fluffy pillows, I think about the families trapped in the nightmare of Rafah. I think about parents trying to comfort their hungry, crying, scared children, and my heart breaks, again and again.

I have joined Jewish Voice for Peace, the national organization and the Vermont/New Hampshire chapter, and I am working with a small group of local Jewish friends to create an Addison County sub-chapter, so we can work for peace right here in Middlebury. We have held Ceasefire Shabbat ceremonies, out on the street in Middlebury, and indoors too. We have baked challah, so much challah, and presented it to Balint and Welch’s staff members, while demanding they consider the damage being done to Palestinian families and children with United States weapons and funding. Is anything we do helping?

We have been at tiny ceasefire vigils in Middlebury, big marches in Burlington, and demonstrations at the Montpelier Statehouse. We have called and emailed our representatives in Congress, shared posts on social media, organized benefits for Palestine Legal, and signed our businesses up to be part of Apartheid Free Communities. Is anything we do making a difference?

We have had painful conversations with friends and family members who support Israel’s “right to defend itself.” We have joined African Methodist Episcopal clergy and Rabbis for Ceasefire on a Peace Pilgrimage, walking from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. I have written multiple columns for this paper. Is anything making a difference?

The truth of the matter is, our fate as Vermonters is totally linked to the fate of the Palestinian people. The F-35 is a stealth fighter jet that is the costliest single weapon system ever procured by the Pentagon. Each one of these weapons costs one hundred million dollars. These are the planes that fly over Winooski and South Burlington, filling the sky with a deafening roar that makes living in these communities difficult and sometimes unbearable.

Meanwhile across the state multiple communities voted down their school budgets on town meeting day. People feel they can’t afford their property taxes and don’t understand why the cost of educating our students gets higher and higher each year. One reason, of course, is the rising cost of health insurance for teachers and staff. Because our nation, the richest in the history of the world, has money for F-35 fighter jets but not for healthcare, education, and housing.

The addiction crisis is 100% related to economic inequality and prioritizing military spending over life giving economics that help families and communities thrive. Vermonters are struggling with unaffordable housing, record levels of food insecurity, and lack of access to mental healthcare. These are all problems that could be solved with a massive shift in our national priorities. Every bomb being dropped on Gaza today represents not only a failure to recognize the humanity of Palestinian people, but also a failure to recognize our own humanity. Let’s not look away, but instead link arms to build a world where we all can thrive. 

Joanna Colwell is a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher who founded and directs Otter Creek Yoga, in Middlebury’s Marble Works. Joanna lives in Ripton, where she enjoys taking walks, cooking for Abolition Kitchen, and working with the Middlebury chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice and the newly forming Addison County Jewish Voice for Peace. Feedback welcome at: [email protected]

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