Tag Archives: Black October

There Is A Field

October 2, 2015

Fifteen years ago today, I got an early morning phone call.  It was Adam Shapiro, my boss at the Seeds of Peace Center in Jerusalem.

“Aseel was killed this morning.”

Aseel.  Aseel Asleh, 17-years old, Palestinian citizen of Israel, star participant of Seeds of Peace.  What happened?  I almost didn’t ask, it felt like a stupid question.  The Second Intifada had just erupted, the whole region was engulfed in violence, what did I think happened?  But was he at a demonstration?  Was he shot accidentally?  What were the specifics?  Aseel was dead?  Impossible.  How?  Aseel?

Adam didn’t know the details yet. He didn’t yet know that Aseel had been standing on the outskirts of a demonstration outside his village of Arrabeh in the Galilee, when two police officers chased him for no discernible reason. Adam hadn’t yet learned that one of the officers hit our young friend in the back with a rifle butt, and that Aseel stumbled and fell face first in the olive grove. He couldn’t yet tell me that Aseel’s parents (who had gone to the demonstration to bring him home) saw all this, but then could see no more because the olive trees were blocking their view. They could, however, hear the shot. The doctor who later examined his body said the bullet wound suggested that Aseel had been shot point blank in the back of his neck.

But Adam didn’t know any of that yet. All he knew–all he could tell me–was that Aseel had been shot and killed.

I hung up the phone and sat on my couch.  I didn’t know what to do.  What do you do when you find out that a kid you love was killed?  What’s the proper thing to do?  I had just made coffee and it was sitting on the table in front of me.  All I remember thinking: Do I still drink the coffee? What do I do?

I realize now that I was in deep shock that morning.  Yet, the question of “What do I do?” has stayed with me the past 15 years. It took root as I watched Aseel’s family and friends deal with their grief and traumatic loss. It grew as I realized that the events of October 2000, in which 12 Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed, were a collective trauma that sent deep and reverberating shock waves through the entire community.  It pushed me when it became evident that there would be no justice for Aseel, or for the other martyrs of October 2000.

Making sure that Aseel’s story is told, impacting and educating others: This is what I can do.

And I invite you to do it with me.

For the past six months, I have been further developing There Is A Field, a documentary-style play I wrote, based on years of interviews with Aseel’s family, emails that Aseel left behind, court transcripts, and other sources.

In March 2016, There Is A Field will tour to up to 15 U.S. colleges and universities, culminating in a short run in New York City.  In each campus we visit, the play will be a tool of advocacy and activism. If we’re able to raise enough funds, we will expand the tour even further.

As we confront brutality, state violence, systemic injustice and oppression here in the U.S. and in many parts of the world, I know many of us continue to struggle with the question of “what do I do?”

I hope you will choose, as part of your response, to support There Is A Field, so that Aseel’s story can continue to impact, to educate, and to challenge. So that Aseel’s story can support efforts to build a world where inequality, racism, state murder and injustice have no place.

Please click here to learn more about There Is A Field, and how to support the play.

With love for my friend, and for every young person we have collectively lost,

Jen Marlowe
Playwright/Producer, There is a Field

Aseel Asleh, age 16

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Until we meet in the field

October 2, 2000.

That day will be seared into my memory forever.

It’s almost impossible to wrap my mind around the fact that it was 14 years ago that my 17-year-old friend Asel Asleh, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, and a star participant in the peace organization for which I was working, was killed.

It was the start of the Second Intifada, and protests had erupted in Palestinian villages inside Israel, in solidarity with their brethren in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. Asel had gone to a demonstration outside his village Arrabeh, located in the Galilee in the north of Israel.

He never came home.

According to multiple eye-witnesses, including his parents, Asel was standing on the side, watching the demonstration when three police officers climbed over the guardrail and, for no reason that was ever provided, charged at Asel, who turned and tried to run. One caught up with him and hit him in the back with his rifle butt. Asel stumbled and fell face-down. His parents (who had gone to the demonstration to bring their son home) could not see him after he fell, as the olive trees obstructed their vision. But they heard the gunshot. The doctor who eventually examined Asel’s body said the wound indicated that he had been shot point blank in the back of his neck.

There’s too much to say. Even now, 14 years later, there is grief, there is anger, there is deep sadness that is larger than words.

So instead, I offer you Asel’s words, from one of his most profound pieces of writing, read by people from all over the world in the beauty of their own languages.

Asel: You will always be remembered. You will always be loved. And you will always be at the heart of my own participation in the struggle for a more just world.

Until we meet in the field, my friend. Take care.

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Aseel’s birthday

May 6, 2014

Dear friends,

My friend Aseel Asleh would have turned 31 years old today.

I often wonder what Aseel might be doing right now. He loved computers–might he have become a computer engineer? Would he have stayed near his home village of Arrabeh, a Palestinian village in the north of Israel, or would he have chosen to live elsewhere? In what ways would Aseel have used his rich talents and abilities to work for justice, equality, and dignity between Palestinians and Jews in Israel, and, indeed, for human beings all over?

A brutal impulse that lead to the firing of a bullet by an Israeli policeman point-blank into the back of Aseel’s neck on Oct 2, 2000 as he was lying face-down in an olive grove outside his village has meant that we will never know who Aseel, age 17, might have become.

But, we do know something about the vision Aseel nurtured–a vision of equality, inclusiveness. A vision of a “field” (as he was so fond of quoting from Rumi) where souls lie down on the grass and the world is too full to talk about. (full Rumi quote below.)

Aseel left many pieces of himself to those who loved him–in the practical jokes we remember him playing on us, in the ways we remember him challenging us. And he left us his words, those which he wrote down–and Aseel was a prolific writer. This video, Peaceful Thoughts, was created from an email Aseel wrote in 1998 contemplating Land Day, when 6 Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli security forces in and near his village.

At the 10-year anniversary of Aseel’s killing, theatre-artist Marine Mane and I distributed Aseel’s “Peaceful Thoughts” to people from all over the world, asking them to record themselves reading a line of Aseel’s words in the beauty of their own language. It was a way for us to bring people together, using Aseel’s own words, in a cyberspace version of that field, where all who come are treated as equal human beings. This video is the result.

When I remember Aseel, and when I ask others to do the same, it is not to dismiss or ignore the pain of Jewish Israelis whose loved ones were also killed in acts of brutal violence. Indeed, Aseel’s killing is for me a very personal reminder of the price that all Palestinians and all Israelis continue to pay for there being no peace, no justice, no equality between the peoples for whom Palestine/Israel is their home.

On this, Aseel’s 31st birthday, I wonder what contribution he (and so many others) might have made, had they lived.

And I wonder what more the rest of us can do, to continue to nurture and bring about the vision that Aseel expressed so poignantly in Peaceful Thoughts.

Happy 31st birthday, Aseel. And happy 3rd birthday to your beautiful, precious little nephew, Aseel Jr, who shares your name and your birthday. May we all work together to bring about the “field” that you envisioned, so that Aseel Jr, his big brother, and his baby sister, can know it in their lifetimes.

With great love,

Jen Marlowe

Founder, donkeysaddle projects

Twitter: @donkeysaddleorg   ImageImage

Picture 1: Aseel Asleh, age 16

Picture 2: Aseel Jr, who turns 3 years old today

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense.” –Rumi

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Troy Davis, Asel Asleh, and the continuing fight

October 2, 2013
Dear friends,
Today is the last event of my book launch tour for I Am Troy Davis, the book about my friend Troy Davis, a man who was killed by lethal injection by the state of Georgia on September 21, 2011 despite a mountain of evidence pointing towards his innocence.
Today is also the 13-year anniversary of the killing of my friend Asel Asleh, a 17-year peace activist. Asel was one of twelve unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel killed in demonstrations by Israeli police during what became known as “Black October.” Aseel was lying face-down on the ground when he was shot point blank in the neck.
There is much that links Troy and Asel in my mind. I hope you will take a moment to read an article for World Focus that I wrote four years ago, exploring the connections between Troy and Asel’s cases and the larger connection between racial injustice in the U.S. and in Israel.
In an email he titled “Peaceful Thoughts” written in 1998 to fellow peace activists, Asel wrote, “I will go on. I will make this planet a better place to live, and I will go on.”
Troy and Asel, separated by age, distance, and circumstances of injustice, manged to convey the same, deeply profound sentiment:
The struggle for justice continues. And both Troy and Asel, by how they inspired us (and continue to inspire us) to fight, remain a vital part of that struggle.
On the prison grounds in Jackson, GA, as the state of Georgia was in the midst of carrying it its scripted killing of Troy Davis, my colleague Laura Moye of Amnesty International entered the circle of supporters who were surrounding the Davis family. “It has been a privilege to stand by this family during their struggle,” she said.
She spoke for me that night, and she spoke for many. And her words captured something of the essence of why many of us do what we do.
To the Davis and Asleh families: Troy and Asel will forever be at the center of my own effort to fight for a more equitable, more just world. And, echoing Laura, knowing you and standing in solidarity with you has been an extraordinary privilege, an honor and a blessing.
To Asel and Troy: You have gone on and you always will. And this I promise to you both: we will never give up the fight.
In solidarity, and with love,
Jen Marlowe
PS–If you’re in Seattle today, hope to see you at Elliott Bay Books at 7pm!
martina troy prison cropped6

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