’Kibbutz Blinken’ Keeps Angry Vigil for 150 Days and Counting

Multi-generational, multi-ethnic protesters want Blinken to take action

At Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, in March/April this year, Muslims in the Arlington area said they couldn’t experience the joy of the Iftar (the meal at the end of the fasting day) or the usually gay Eid al-Fitr celebrating the end of the fast, for one reason: Gaza. Knowing that at the end of the day in Gaza, good food — or any food — would be hard to come by, fresh water to quench thirst would be scarce, and family get togethers, the centerpiece of the Iftar, would be tainted by the loss of family members, made the holiday somber. Whether Palestinian or Syrian, Egyptian or Jordanian, Ramadan tables were full of political debate about why the U.S. had not demanded a ceasefire. No one condoned the attacks by Hamas; but many believed Gaza was being systematically destroyed in order to push Palestinians out of the area permanently. 

For many Jews in the area, particularly those with family in Israel, or a connection to missing Israelis, or a history of pacifism and reconciliation between Jews and Palestinians, there was also disquiet during Jewish holy days. 

At the “Kibbutz Blinken,” the informal camp set up at the end of January outside the Secretary of State’s home on Chain Bridge Road in Arlington, the Iftar reflected some of the conditions in Gaza as cars rushed by, sometimes honking in support. A group of nine men and women sat down to bread and soup, Palestinian olive oil, olives, and nuts, all brought by the local community to support the protesters. The group had ordered take-out from a local shawarma restaurant, but the driver had refused to deliver to the “kibbutz.” The meal took on greater significance this year, as many of those sitting at the table sat behind bunker-like highway dividers, by candlelight as the sunlight faded, eating the simple fare, instead of being with their families.

“Kibbutz Blinken” has been occupying the public side of the road outside United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s house since the bombardments of Gaza City began to look like genocide to many in the Palestinian diaspora. Hazani Barmada is leading the encampment and documents the protest on Instagram. They called it “Kibbutz” because of “ the romanticization of Israeli Settlements on Palestinian land,” Barmada said. They shout at Blinken when he comes home and leaves for work. Soft-spoken older women, scarves covering their heads, talk about throwing blood on the street (it’s colored water) to demonstrate to Blinken that life in Gaza is being destroyed by American bombs, that children like his are dying. They stay at the encampment 24/7, through rain, snow, cold and now blistering heat. 

They are peaceful, mostly respectful, and cross-generational, with many in their sixties. They are very angry. Some are the children of Palestinians who had to flee their homes in 1948 during the “Nakba” and some are Afghans, Egyptians, and Lebanese, whose lives have been affected by violence in the Middle-East and South Asia. Some are young people who are disaffected with the policies of the U.S. One young woman from Boston was in between jobs; she came to camp at the “Kibbutz” because it is a cause she embraces and a place where her presence has meaning. Many are frustrated by their inability to do something positive for Gazans, so they exercise their First Amendment right to protest as a way of doing something and not just standing by accepting a policy they find misguided, abhorrent. 

“We do it largely because we have heard the Palestinians in Gaza are really encouraged by our willingness to undergo hardship on their behalf,” said one participant. “Our instagram site #kibbutzblinken is closely followed by Palestinians everywhere, but particularly in Gaza. And we have local citizens who drop off food, money, and encouragement so we feel less isolated.”

Kibbutz Blinken even has its own page of reviews as a “hostel” and is rated with five stars. 

It is probably not lost on the protesters, since many come from countries where protests are closely monitored and often violently shut down, that they are protected by barriers put in place by the police to keep them safe from cars, with electric signs asking drivers to slow down, and tolerance for disrupting the home of a top government official for months on end. But that is the issue for many at Kibbutz Blinken: they or their parents came to the U.S. because of the freedoms they can enjoy here, and they have high expectations for a government that was founded on principles they don’t see reflected in the Gaza policy. 

The scenario of a somber Muslim feast day at the Kibbutz was repeated with the Eid of al-Adha on June 16 and 17, when the traditional lamb is “sacrificed” to commemorate the Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son as commanded by God, recounted in the Torah, the Bible, and the Koran. Again, there was no kitchen to prepare the lamb, no traditional new clothes for the families, and no peace in Gaza.