Let’s try to make the world better place to live.
As a believer that the world would never change to any good unless we try harder to make this change, David has joined the VIVA PALESTINA Convoy for the second time trying to participate in gathering the hands together for helping the people of Gaza Strip.
The VIVA PALESTINA Convoy was initiated by George Galloway in March 2009 after the bombing of the Gaza Strip by the Israelis.
David has now joined the third Convoy which is taking medical and humanitarian aid to Gaza Strip, This is a 3,000 mile journey it’s anticipated that this journey would take 3 weeks travelling through France, Brussels, Luxemburg through Germany, Italy where they crossed by ferry to Greece. Once in Greece the convoy travelled North East in order to cross the border to Turkey and down into Damascus in Syria; the last part of the Journey took them into Jordon where they cross the border into Egypt and travelled north to reach the Rafah border where they hope to cross into Gaza.
David and the Viva Palestina Convoy had received a warm welcome in Greece . In March 2009 after the bombing of the Gaza Strip by the Israelis. David has now joined the third Convoy which is taking medical and humanitarian aid to Gaza Strip, This is a 3,000 mile journey it’s anticipated that this journey would take 3 weeks travelling through France, Brussels, Luxemburg through Germany, Italy where they crossed by ferry to Greece. Once in Greece the convoy travelled North East in order to cross the border to Turkey and down into Damascus in Syria; the last part of the Journey took them into Jordon where they cross the border into Egypt and travelled north to reach the Rafah border where they hope to cross into Gaza. David and the Viva Palestina Convoy had received a warm welcome in Greece .
-Monday 14th Dec. 21.33pm (UK Time) A cell phone text from David says:
“Hi guys. tomorrow we are crossing over to Turkey on 15th in Edirne. On the 16th and 17th Istanbul. the 18th we hope to be in Ankara. The 19th Adnan, then on the 20th Gaziantep. they have been driving 10-14 hours a day to keep on time.”
-Thursday 17th Dec. During a chat by cell phone David said:
“The Convoy was given a wonderful welcome as they ravelled through Turkey. They were given a warm place to stay and sleep and lots of good food, everyone was so very friendly”.
Travelling on through Turkey they were also welcomed with open arms. In the towns where the Convoy took a break, they were provided with good food and a warm, dry place where everyone could catch up on some much needed sleep.
Once refreshed they mixed with the locals and again found everyone to be friendly and interested in the Convoy and its ’cause’.The photograph shows a group of Turkish men looking very colourful in their traditional dress.
The convoy sleeping in sports hall after a long Drive. The Turkish IHH joined V.P CONVOY bring up the number of convoy over 400 persons You can read more about IHH here.
As the Convoy made its way to Gaziantep they were greeted by the noise of car horns and people driving past. Smiling, waving and exchanging the Turkish and Palestinian flags to show their overwhelming support, not only for the Convoy, but for the people of Gaza. David and many on the Convoy found this kind of reception very uplifting and just what the convoy needed after the long drive before setting off for Syria. In the capital city of Damascus more people joined the ever-growing convoy; volunteers from as far away as Malaysia joined the British, American and Turkish contingents bringing the number to over 400 people and 150 vehicles. Syria also donated medical aid and equipment for their Palestinian brothers.The photograph shows a Syrian man giving the Arabic Welcome of handing coffee to members of the convoy.
Again the people lined the streets to welcome us, once again the Convoy found the kindness of all the people giving us a wonderful reception.
Photograph: David with members from ‘the Red Crescent’. This charity has been working in Gaza and were there to give medical help to the injured and dying Palestinians during the 22-day Israeli bombing of the besieged Gaza Strip when around 1400 people were killed and over 5,000 injured, most of whom were ordinary civilians,women and children.
The survivors are still suffering from the traumas of the attack.
We went to more Press Conferences and festivals to meet some of the Palestinian refugees from 1948 and 1968; they even opened an hotel for us to stay, and gave us 3 meals a day before we left to go on to Jordon.
However, when the Convoy reached the border with Jordan, the atmosphere changed. At first, all the drivers passports were taken, unlawfully; but soon returned.
The police tried to send the convoy directly to the border town of Aqabar where they would wait to cross into Egypt. They blocked the roads into the city of Amman, but the convoy retaliated by causing road blocks themselves and bringing attention to the situation by loud sirens and flashing blue lights-generally causing disruption and confusion so that eventually the police had to let them into Amman.
It was in Amman at a Press Conference and festival that I met Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss from The Palestiaian Issue and had a chat with him and listen to what they had to say about Palestine you can read about their Views on www.nkusa.org
A warm welcome met the Convoy once in Amman and a Press Conference was held with speeches by several notable dignitaries alongside George Galloway.
On Tuesday, a festival was planned to honour the people in the convoy and to promote their cause, other festivals were also planned by the Jordanians, one being in Aqaba-the border town where the convoy will cross the Red Sea and enter Egypt. Out of interest, we have learned that ‘AQABA’ translated, means”Obstacle”, so we pray that the Convoy will not come up against too big an obstacle in crossing this border into Egypt. From that point they will travel the last part of their journey up to the Rafah Border to cross into their destination-Gaza. The people weren’t going to have any of that, they opened their hotels and homes for us, which goes to show, you can never judge a country by its Government, it’s the people who make it what it is.
-On the video: George Galloway speech at Aqaba,with an translation in Arabic speaking about the Convoy and the reason it’s there, appreciating all the help and the facilitation that the convoy received during the journey and request from Egyptian president to open the gates and allow the convoy to reach Gaza.
Still in Aqaba on 27th December convoy members attended a church service taken by an Archbishop (see photo) at a Christian Orthodox Church service.
THE NEXT DAY The members then held a march in protest and held up 15 banners each with the name of one of the 15 doctors or paramedics killed in the Israeli bombing. The photograph shows David with his banner.
At 11.35am some 30 convoy members began a hunger strike in protest at Egypt’s refusal to allow the convoy entry into Egypt and a 3-minute silence was also observed in memory of and respect for the 1400 Palestinians killed 1year ago.
All this time the Convoy waited in hope and the Jordanians went out of their way to keep morale high. They couldn’t do enough for the 500 people stuck in their town of Aqaba; the Jordan Professional Association (JPA trade union movement) allowed the 250 vehicles and the members of the convoy to use their compound and supplied three meals a day; the local people offered free hotel rooms; each day Jordanian Palestinians visited the camp and donated money to the convoy, many asked to join the convoy and opened up their homes – the kindness of these people was overwhelming.
The Archbishop of the Christian Orthodox Church Gave a service in the name of Humanitarian Aid.he said “This is nothing to do with Religion but to help people who are in great need I can not stand by and do nothing for you people, God is with you all now and knows what good work you are all doing”.
Meanwhile Turkey was negotiating with Egypt to try and obtain permission to enter Egypt from the Aqaba /Red Sea crossing. The Egyptians would not relent and insisted that the convoy must go back through Jordan and back to the Port of Latakia in Syria where they would have to travel by boats to El Arish. Eventually the convoy had no option but to comply with the Egyptians and backtrack all the way to Syria, resulting in further delay with vehicles and paperwork being checked once again. David has now updated us to say that the vehicles with the humanitarian and medical aid will be taken by several boats to El Arish whilst he and the convoy members will fly to Egypt on Sunday 3rd January 2010.
-Tuesday 29th Dec. 17:00pm (UK Time) A cell phone text from David says:
“We are back in syria now. By tomorrow will be on the ships to Egypt,could be in Gaza by 30th December.”
On 31st December ’09 The Viva Palestina Convoy has had to ask their friends and supporters for emergency donations to help pay for the extra cost involved; this includes the cost to charter 3 boats and a plane in order to reach Gaza and break the siege imposed on the Palestinian people and deliver the humanitarian aid which is so desperately needed.
BACK IN SYRIA
We found ourselves in a summer camp near a Palestinian refugee camp in Lattakia, off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Later that day the local Palestinian Scouts marching band put on a show and was please to show us them dancing, The Scouts are part of an international movement to teach Palestinian children and adults about their heritage as well as build community, friendship, and skill.
Later that day I was walking around the camp and was invited in a coffee shop for cup of tea, there I met a very nice family, the main person who could speak English was a young man called Subhi, and his Brother’s and sister.
He and his family is Palestinians refugee, he told me that his family had to leave palestain in 1967 and could never go back. The small coffee shop helps the family to live, as their Father is a teacher
Over the next few days I would go and drink tea with them, more and more people would come and chat with me all of them Palestinian some from 1948 the other from 1967, even some that has been told to leave Gaza and the west bank since 1967 by the Israelis.
The stories was always the same they all had Papers to the land they own, they would talk about the Israelis and the occupation, some would show me the Keys to their house’s and said One day we will return back to our home land. Insha’Allah!
Subhi invited me to meet the rest of his family, His father and Mother took me in to their home and offers me food and to drink Tea with them, you couldn’t have met a nicer family.
They wouldn’t stop thanking us (CONVOY) for what we are trying to do for the people in Gaza and asked if they could come with us. It was Very sad to listen to these people who just want to live in their own country. Even the Syrian people were very kind they would invite us to eat and drink with them.
Again they gave us a wonderful send off on our way to the Airport, there didn’t seem to be enough hours in a day. Not enough time to see everything in Syria, would like to go back for a holiday some day.
-Sunday 3rd January. 15:31pm (UK Time) A phone Call with David
“We are still in a Palastinian refugee camp in Syria waiting for the permission from Egypt to enter Al-Arish. They have been telling us for the past 6 days that by tomorrow we will be on the ships to Egypt; nothing is happening, all we can do is pray.”
-Monday 4th January: A cell phone text from David says:
” We have 4 flights every 4 hours.First flight today 4pm. We will all be in Egypt by 6am tomorrow. Then into Gaza at some time tomorrow (Tuesday).Inshalla.”
Monday 4th January 11pm:
It seems that every obstacle possible has been testing the stamina and determination of David and the Convoy to get to Egypt and enter the Gaza Strip. Since the previous update that the convoy passengers would be ‘ferried’ by plane from Lattakia to El Arish, the first plane left at 4pm as arranged. Our hopes in the UK were raised once again that at last David would soon be at the Rafah border and on into Gaza where he would meet up with our friend Rasem, and deliver the aid and gifts he was taking for the children. At 11pm UK time David phoned to say that he had been on the second plane; part way through the flight the plane developed engine trouble and had to turn back. David and his fellow convoy members were now waiting once again, in the airport at Damascus. The third flight would leave Lattakia as planned and if ‘David’s plane’ wasn’t repaired another plane would come from Greece and take them to El Arish.
We spent another night sleeping on the floor in the Airport, about 6.30a.m. Local time, we were told a plane was on its way to Damascus, it should be with us within the next few hours. By now there were some of us in Al Arish port, me and over another 160 more were in Damascus, and over another 100 or so in the Airport in Lattakia and the rest of the convoy was still waiting at the bass camp. Around 2 hours later, we boarded a plane we were on our way to Al Arish at last. Once we got there, the Police took all the passports away from us again and made us wait for over 6 hours for no reason at all. It was only when we started demonstrating and wanted our passports back they gave in.
I learnt later that the Egyptian authorities had insisted that part of the convoy that had already arrived in El Arish port should go ahead without the rest of the convoy members,We finely got to join the rest of the convoy Members at Al Arish port later that evening ( Tuesday 5th Jan) I was feeling very ill and had been for about 6 days. And had gone to sleep in the my Vehicle, I heard nothing until the next morning.
WAITING IN …. The port of Al Arish
The morning after the night before.(Wednesday 6th January 10) I wake up to find out there had been more problems with the Egyptian Police in Al Arish Port in which plain clothes police officers assaulted our convoy, When I walked around the Port and saw some of the people from the convoy had been wounded with head and face injurers’, I heard that the plain clothes Police started stonening the convoy and a riot started by the Egyptian Police. By this time most of the world had seen or heard about this before I did.
Even with the media being there broadcasting live throughout the night!! It didn’t seem to worry them, the same thing happen to the last convoy in March 2009. They still attacked the convoy. I was shocked at what had occurred, while others were still debating the night before of the night’s events.
It seemed that the Egyptian police was willing to do anything to try to stop us from breaking the siege.
By around 2pm that afternoon, we were told that we could start to get ready to go Gaza but some 69 vehicles will have to leave behind. After some negotiations it got down to 49. Those Vehicles would be sent back to Syria and given to the Palestinian refugee camps there. The Egyptian Authorities had insisted that part of the convoy who had already arrived in El Arish should go ahead without the rest of the convoy members, but after the group objected, the Egyptian Authorities relented and none of the Convoy will leave El Arish until everyone is there and they will all leave together for Rafah .
We sincerely hope that the next update will be when David phones us sometime on Tuesday, to say that he is in Gaza and the Convoy has successfully achieved their goal. David and many others have had to contend with illness and so many other problems on this long and extended journey, but spirits remain high and David says that ‘he would do it all over again’ and he wouldn’t wish to be anywhere else – except in Gaza.
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