By Gretchen Wing
Not all healers, teachers and preachers walk their talk. But Anne and David Hall not only walk theirs, they travel with it—to war zones, and to jail.
This fall, the Halls were planning their eighth journey to occupied Gaza, when stonewalling by the Israeli government forced them to cancel. Asking the couple, “Why eight trips to Gaza?” reveals a lifelong commitment to action on behalf of the vulnerable, whether Palestinians or the world’s children.
David began social justice work as a Harvard freshman in the mid-1960s, finding meaning in working with boys from a housing project in Cambridge. He later earned Conscientious Objector status, trading fighting in Vietnam for two years of alternative service.
Despite spending five overlapping years in the same undergrad and graduate programs, Anne and David met only three weeks prior to leaving Cambridge. Growing up in New York, Anne feared the west as a dingy backwater: “I was sure that everyone out here would be a redneck, and they would hate me. My image of Seattle was the Space Needle surrounded by log cabins,” she laughs. Thanks to David’s successful persuasion, the couple moved west: Anne to counsel high schoolers in Portland, David to complete his C.O. service counseling sex offenders at Western State Hospital in Steilacoom.
By 1970, the two-state commute was taking its toll, so Anne and David got married and moved in together near Tacoma. Anne loved her new job teaching freshman English at the University of Puget Sound. When David finished his service, the couple, with their brand-new baby son, spent four months in Vermont considering their next step. David’s work with sex offenders convinced him he “wanted to help guys before they got into trouble,” so he entered the University of Washington, first taking medical school prerequisites, then completing his M.D., residency and fellowship in psychiatry. In 1983, now with two sons, David started his practice and Anne administered gifted programs for Highline School District.
In 1982, Anne attended a “Target Seattle” presentation on the question, What would happen if a nuclear bomb hit Seattle? Anne said, “What got me was Dr. Judith Lipton saying, ‘if a nuclear bomb hit during the school day, children would die without their parents being able to get to them.’ We had little children and I couldn’t stand that thought. I realized I needed to do something.”
The Halls found a haven at University Baptist Church, a declared sanctuary for Central American refugees. David joined Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), and Anne dove into sanctuary work.
“I couldn’t hug a nuclear missile,” She said. “But I could hug kids from El Salvador.”
But in 1985, the two movements came together. Anti-nuclear activists from the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, adjacent to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor on Hood Canal, joined Sanctuary activists at a conference, and both Halls felt called to action. They began taking turns, joining groups to block the trains bringing in missile components. Over time, David experienced a dozen arrests, Anne over 40—including jail. Anne is currently on probation from a 2015 arrest.
In the late 1980s, Anne started working at University Baptist, an office job which morphed into a call to ministry. Enrolling at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, she completed most classwork through Seattle University and received her Master of Divinity degree in 1993. Ordained at U. Baptist, she served as Co-Minister there for ten years. Later she moved to Seattle’s University Lutheran Church, and in 2011 was called to the Lutheran Church in the San Juans. The Halls moved to Lopez, and David joined Island Hospital Psychiatry.
The Halls’ Gaza trips were a natural outgrowth of David’s PSR work. “Israel was then a potential flashpoint for a US-USSR nuclear war,” said Dave. In 1993, Anne and David traveled with a Washington PSR delegation to tour Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. Over the next 23 years, their repeated WPSR visits included working with women and children and meeting Israeli and Palestinian leaders—including members of the Knesset, and Yasser Arafat. WPSR’s work continues, trying to mitigate the Palestinians’ suffering and keep the world aware.
Awareness forms the focus of Dave’s work now. Still practicing psychiatry in Anacortes, he also leads WPSR in strategizing ways to sway Washington’s legislators, and educate the public, on Congress’s plan to rebuild Bangor’s nuclear fleet.
Bangor houses “the largest concentration of weapons of mass destruction on the planet,” he said. “Each of Bangor’s eight Trident subs is built to carry 192 hydrogen bombs, roughly equivalent to 6,000 Hiroshima bombs. One hydrogen bomb could take out Seattle.” The trillion-dollar, bipartisan plan to rebuild the country’s entire nuclear arsenal is getting little attention nationally, and the Halls aim to change that.
Retired since 2014, Anne spends a large chunk of time with grandchildren, which motivates her to continue speaking up and acting out against climate change and “endless war.”
“When I think about the world those children will inherit,” Anne said, “that’s enough to keep me going.”