A 60-member aid delegation – including novelist Alice Walker, the parents of Rachel Corrie, Medea Benjamin and Ann Wright – is currently on its way to enter Gaza, the first delegation of its size and kind to attempt to enter Gaza since July 2007. Delegates — which include members of the Jewish and Muslim communities, as well as doctors, businesspeople, lawyers and college students — will meet with Palestinian aid groups, Gazan women, and United Nations officials. They will also bear witness to the aftermath of the three-week Israeli assault earlier this year and deliver 2,000 gift baskets to Gazan women, purchased through an outpouring of donations through the CODEPINK website to honor Gazan women on International Women’s Day, March 8. Susan Adelman, of Los Angeles, just posted this:
Our delegation is complete, 59 people from the US and Canada and other points on the globe on a journey which will end either with our visit to Gaza and honoring Palestinian women on International Women’s Day or with our camping out on the border at the Raffa crossing to bring attention to the fact that the Egyptian government, in my opinion on orders from Washington, D.C. and Jerusalem, will not allow our humanitarian aid into Gaza. So far, our trip has been amazing, remarkable, uplifting and fun. We are about 50 women and about 10 men, all of us compelled to witness the devastation which Israel inflicted on Gaza during December and January and to bring attention to the ongoing economic and human blockade of Gaza.
Among our group are life-long activists, people who have been wanting to come to Gaza for years, people who have traveled many times to Gaza, to Israel, to the West Bank and someone for whom this is a way to challenge the routine of his life. The conversations are excited and animated. There are several young women who are studying Arabic in Egypt. They shared wonderful stories about life in Egypt — wonderful and terrible, but that is for another day.
Our trip from Cairo to El Arish took about six hours and we’re now about an hours drive from the border. We had police escorts the whole way — we’ve been told “it’s required” when a lot of Americans travel around Egypt. We passed through 4 or 5 checkpoints. At some we were waved through, at one we waited for most of half and hour. We’ve checked into our hotels and will gather for dinner and to put together the gift baskets — 1000 of them — we hope to deliver to the Gazan women. Our initial idea was to bring staples, basic foods. The women of the Gender Division of the UN in Gaza suggested that, instead, we bring gifts that will lift the women’s spirits. They have been through so much, they and their families have been so traumatized by the bombing and the invasion and still they continue to care for their families and their neighbors. So our baskets, pink of course, are filled with a beautiful scarf, hair and other personal products and some beautiful candies for the children, contributed by a CODEPINK supporter in Los Angeles. When we went out to make our purchases in Cairo, the prices plummeted as soon as merchants found out the purpose of trip. Retail became wholesale in an instant. The same thing happened with the women-owned tour company which provided our buses. They told us we would not be permitted to pay for their services. We want to make sure they don’t lose money helping us, so we’re negotiating the price. It is clear we are welcome here and everyone who hears about our humanitarian mission wishes us well.
We just heard that 50 people got through today!!! 50 activists!!! Tomorrow should be a good day.
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