Supplies for Gazans
'We won't be party to this crime'
Rebecca Vilkomerson
05.02.08

Hi JVP'ers--

Today i participated in the gaza convoy against the siege, and i wanted to give a quick report back, especially since so many of you worked so hard to support it.

We met early in tel aviv (there were also meet ups in nazareth, haifa, jerusalem and beersheva) and right away it was clear that it was going to be big--at 8:30 am there were already about four buses and at least 50 cars from tel aviv alone (press reports said 1000 people total and about 100 cars but i believe it was more than that--probably closer to 1500-2000 people. there were 14 buses that i counted, and i think quite a bit more than 100 cars).

We had been told ahead of time to decorate our cars and bring food for the convoy.  when we got there, we found that despite what we thought of as our pretty minimal attempts to decorate, we were the only car that came painted with our own slogans, so we got a lot of attention for our efforts.  (see pics of the whole rally  by clicking http://picasaweb.google.com/rvilkomerson/GazaSiegeProtest )

It was a good thing we did that, because there was heavy rain as we drove south, and many of the posters attached to our cars were washed away.  everyone stopped at the last rest stop before the checkpoint to rendezvous with the mini-caravans coming from all over the country. it was pretty funny to see about 500 israeli leftists doing what they do best--drinking coffee-- at this border outpost!

The last few kilometers took a long time, because there were simply so many cars and buses--farther than the eye could see in either direction.  the rain had conveniently stopped just as we got back in our cars, and the area was green and lush and hilly, in stark contrast to the giant checkpoint station, protected by a wall, which was protected by barbed wire, which was patrolled by attack dogs.

At a certain point we had to all park on the side of the road, unpack our flour, lentils, oil, sugar, school supplies, etc. and walk the rest of the way. although we had been asked not to bring flags, there were quite a few palestinian flags, and a few communist ones.  I would estimate (really a guess) that about 40%  of the participants were palestinian israelis, and they were for sure the most spirited, organized, and loud of anyone.

We pressed farther and farther toward the checkpoint itself. especially knowing what happened in rafah in the last couple of days, it felt for a moment like we could have pushed right through the barrier.  a few of the people associated with the anarchists against the wall moved up and started knocking on the fence with rocks--gently, just making noise, not trying to break through, and that was the only moment that the many, many policemen in attendance got jittery and aggressive.

The rally itself was mc'd by khulood badawi, a very inspiring  palestinian israeli woman, and the voices of women were quite prominent.  it was a joint jewish-palestinian rally--both jewish/palestinian israeli and the gazan rally that was happening on the other side of the border (though unfortunately too far away for us to see them),and while it was exciting and moving to be in that joint space, it wasn't exactly together.  the arabic speakers chanted in arabic, the hebrew speakers in hebrew, and there was very little joint chanting. similarly, each speaker spoke either only one language or each in turn (that is, the palestinians could repeat themselves in hebrew, the hebrew speakers spoke only hebrew) so we in the crowd were  responding to different statements at different times. i can't say that there was exactly a feeling of unity there, but there was a sense of joint purpose.

The two most moving speakers, for me, were Dr. Eyad Sarraj, the founder of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, and a very young woman (about 17) from Sderot who closed the rally.

Shir Shodzik, 17, a resident of the battered town of Sderot also took part in the demonstration in order to express her opposition to the Israeli-imposed sanctions. Despite the fact that Shodzik's aunt and cousin were injured in a Qassam rocket attack in Zikim, the teen wanted to express her dissatisfaction with Israeli government policy vis--vis the Gaza Strip.

"I came to show my identification with the Palestinian people. There is no need for violence or (the use of) force in order to solve this situation," she said.

Shodzik added that she "knows it is absurd that I am taking part in this protest," but explained that it is the path she has chosen.

'We won't be party to this crime'

Dr. Sarraj was leading the palestinian side of the protest, we heard him by holding a cell phone on speaker up to the microphone.  he spoke in english, and he spoke of the rally as a historic day. he said he was so proud of all of us that we were there, together, and he said that any time blood is spilled, in gaza, in sderot, or anywhere, it is an affront to humanity. he spoke so beautifully, and his deep sense of humanity came through so strongly, and especially to think of his ability to be that generous of spirit while in a state of siege and disaster all around, made tears come to my eyes, and i noticed that i wasn't the only one.  to think that anyone could say there is no non-violent movement in Palestine!

Jeff Halper, when he spoke, mentioned all the rallies of support for the convoy happening around the world.

The last speaker was this teenager from Sderot, it was her first rally ever, and she talked about how she and her family suffer from the Qassams, but also how she also always remembers how much deeper and worse the suffering is in Gaza.

At the end of the rally they announced that the negotiating team had succeeded in persuading the border cops to let the supplies through, i think they said they will go on monday.  a neighboring kibbutz offered their storage space until then, which again shows that not everyone living with the qassams is vengeful.

During our coffee break earlier in the day, my friend/driver/fellow former bay area resident emily had a conversation with one of the most committed activists in the movement about what the purpose of the protest really was. they agreed that being more confrontational might have been more fun and maybe more satisfying, but that in the end, of course, a rally, even one that is relatively large (at least for this location:  1000 people in tel aviv is nothing, but at erez it is quite remarkable), doesn't change much.  but, the important thing is that we showed that there is an alternative to war and siege and destruction, and that there is a substantial part of the israeli public who are willing to fight for it, and that the partners are there to make it happen.

I was amazed to discover that it took only an hour to return to tel aviv.

Rebecca Vilkomerson
Tel Aviv
(formerly Bay Area)

http://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/publish/article_955.shtml

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