“This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all embracing and unconditional love of all mankind. … When I speak of love, I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principal of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door to ultimate reality. … Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.” … Martin Luther King Jr., April 4, 1967 at the
May 30, 2009
The day needed the props of uncertainty to set the stage. That would come at Rafah; would the Egyptians let us through. We reached the border by 10:00 and quickly learned we would be allowed to cross into
Ann Wright was with them negotiating with the authorities while we all waited inside the customs building. Our hopes that she’d prevail weren’t realized. Both women were denied passage. They were to be taken back to Al Arish and would plan to try again the next day. The rest of us settled in for what became a four hour wait to cross the imaginary line drawn between
When we finally stepped into the zone between the two places, we loaded new buses for the short drive to the
Inside we received a brief but incredibly warm welcome and witnessed a Palestinian/Canadian wedding that had been waiting eight years to happen. We turned in our passports one more time, hauled all the luggage to the three air conditioned buses waiting on the other side, then began our drive through Rafah to
On the bus with us were four young Palestinians, two men and two women. Holding a microphone, one of the men welcomed us again over the intercom. Mazen Naim's face was lit by the same heartwarming smile of everyone who greeted us. All four of them shared this powerful energy, as did everyone we met upon our arrival at the UN Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) vocational and technical training center where Israeli fire wounded three people in January. No one drew our attention to this fact though. It simply didn’t seem to belong.
We went inside where John Ging, the agency’s Irish director, spoke to us. “You are actually doing something that is massively appreciated” he told us before explaining the emptiness of promises from governments of the international community since the Israeli attacks ended four months ago. “Your coming here is action which gives us hope.”
He then defined our mission of helping get the true story of the people of
Ging talked for about 15 minutes before answering several questions. Then people full of smiles mingled before we went outside for a superb dinner. Afterward, the festive mood led several Palestinian men to begin dancing at the edge of the pavilion. They were joined by members of our delegation and the circle grew wider until the evening sun began to lower itself on the western horizon.
We boarded the buses and headed for the Commodore Gaza Hotel. On the way there we stopped to make sure the entire delegation was with us. The sun became a bright red ball getting ready to touch the
Twenty minutes later we were paralleling the shoreline in the dark bluish dusk. Lights became visible far out on the water. Someone from the delegation inquired about them and Mazen simply said “Israeli navy”.
It brought me back to our mission, so succinctly explained by Ging, to tell the world these good people must not be imprisoned. The blockade must end now.
May 30, 2009