Charlotte Hemmings plays the title role in “My Name Is Rachel Corrie.” (Photo/Kirsten Shultz)
Charlotte Hemmings plays the title role in “My Name Is Rachel Corrie.” (Photo/Kirsten Shultz)

‘My name is Marla Bennett’

My name is Marla Bennett. I was an exchange student from UC Berkeley studying at Hebrew University and the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies when a bomb went off in the university cafeteria and I was murdered along with nine others, four of whom were also Americans.

Their names were Benjamin Blutstein, 25 years old, from Pennsylvania; Dina Carter, 37 years old, from North Carolina; Janis Ruth Coulter, 36 years old, from Massachusetts; and David Gritz, 24 years old, also from Massachusetts.

In July of 2002 we were all having lunch in the Frank Sinatra Cafeteria at Hebrew University when a bomb full of shrapnel left by a Hamas bomber was detonated by a cell phone signal. In addition to the nine people he murdered, 85 others were injured.

The play “My Name Is Rachel Corrie,” currently running in San Francisco, omits all context, portraying that period of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict only through Corrie’s eyes.

Rachel Corrie’s death was accidental and deeply tragic. A 23-year-old American student decided to come to Gaza, a war zone in 2003, to stand in solidarity — but in solidarity with whom? From 2001-2005, hundreds of rockets a year were being launched from Gaza at the Israeli community of Sderot, using materials brought in through tunnels just like the ones Corrie was trying to protect by serving as a human shield. The bulldozer that tragically ended her life was there to uncover one of 90 tunnels that terrorists were using to smuggle weapons into Gaza.

She was deliberately placed in a war zone as part of a strategy by the International Solidarity Movement, whose founder George Rishmawi boasted “…if some of these foreign volunteers get shot or even killed, then the international media will sit up and take notice.” As detailed by the Israeli watchdog group NGO Monitor, the ISM has a lengthy history of working with Hamas and knowingly placing foreign volunteers in situations where ISM leadership knew that they could be injured or killed.

Elsewhere in Israel, hundreds of civilians like me were being killed and maimed in suicide bombings. The terror that Israelis were dealing with while walking home, studying at school, on buses, at cafes, in malls, in their everyday life, had reached an all-time high.

These attacks were not done in the name of ending “occupation” and creating a Palestinian state that would live in peace with Israel, but rather in the cause of eliminating the Jewish state entirely. They also echoed the deeper hatred that was manifested in Arab attacks on Jews since the 1920s, in the cry “Itbach el Yahud” (kill the Jew) screamed out in riots organized by Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.

My death was deliberate and no less tragic than Rachel’s. I was killed because I was living in the Jewish state, close enough for Hamas to reach with one of its bombs.

My name is Marla Bennett. My name is Benjamin Blutstein. My name is Dina Carter. My name is Janis Ruth Coulter. My name is David Gritz. We all died at the hands of the same people the ISM leaders who recruited Rachel Corrie were trying to protect. Maybe somebody should write a play about us.

Johanna Meckel
Johanna Meckel

Johanna Meckel is director of StandWithUs Northern California, an international Israel education organization.