initiative for the large action that took place today (26.1.08) started when
the well-know psychiatrist, Dr. Eyad al-Sarraj, the
human-rights activist from Gaza, met in the Gush Shalom office with a small
group of Israeli peace activists, in order to tell them about the desperate
situation in the strip. It was decided on the spot to organize in
26 Israeli peace groups joined the initiative,
under the single slogan: "
Warm thanks to all of them!
In consultation with Dr. al-Sarraj it was decided to buy not only five tons of essential foodstuffs - flour, sugar, rice, oil, salt, beans and lentils - but also water distillers. "The water in the Gaza Strip is undrinkable," al-Sarraj reported, "therefore there is an urgent need for distillers."
The weather forecasts promised rain and thunderstorms all over the country. In spite of this, old and young peace activists came to the starting points in six towns. As requested by the organizers, hundreds of families came in their private cars. Together with the people who came by bus, their number reached about two thousand.
"In the night we were woken up by strong thunderbolts. It started to rain cats and dogs, and we were very worried: who is going to get up early on Shabbat morning in such stormy weather in order to participate in an open-air protest rally and carry sacks of food?" recounted one of the organizers.
Ya'akov Manor had the idea to ask the demonstrators to bring private relief parcels and to add personal letters "from family to family". The response was beyond all expectations. Families brought not only food and mineral water, but also blankets, warm clothing and many other useful articles, even electrical stoves. The parcels were fastened to the tops of the cars or put in the baggage holds of the buses. They added up to two tons.
When the demonstrators
assembled in the towns - Tel Aviv,
the huge convoy towards the
About half of the protesters were Jewish, the other half Arab. The rally was conducted the same way: Side by side with the Jewish speakers - Uri Avnery, Nurit Peled-Elhanan, Professor Jeff Halper and former minister Shulamit Aloni (who was ill and sent a written speech, read by Teddy Katz), speeches were made by advocate Fatmeh al-Ijou, and MKs Izzam Mahul and Jamal Zahalke.
At the height of the rally,
the moderator, Huloud al-Badawi,
called Dr. Sarraj by cellular phone. He was
participating at the parallel rally in
A sensation was caused by a young woman from Sderot, Shir Shusdig, who called out: "For seven years I am suffering from the Qassams in Kibbutz Zikim and Sderot. I know that the people on the other side are also suffering very much. That's why I am here!"
mentioned that demonstrations of solidarity with the people of
Miraculously, the rain stopped just before the rally, and started again a few minutes after it was finished.
Since the Israeli army has not
allowed the relief supplies into the
Uri Avnery's speech at the rally:
Three days ago, a wall fell here –
Just as the Berlin Wall fell,
Just as the apartheid wall will fall,
And just as all walls and fences in this country
Will come down.
But the inhuman blockade
That has been imposed on
A million and a half human beings in
By our government
By our army,
In our name –
This siege is continuing in its full cruelty.
We, Israelis from various political camps,
Have come to bring basic supplies
And to say to the Israeli public
And to the whole world:
We will not participate in crime!
We are ashamed of the blockade!”
Our hearts are with our Palestinian brothers
Who are at this moment demonstrating with us
On the other side of the fence –
Don’t lose faith that one day
We will meet together in this place
Without fences, without walls,
Without violence, Without fighting,
The sons of two peoples living next to each other
In peace, in friendship, in partnership.
Our hearts are with our brothers, the residents of Sderot –
The threat of Qassams must stop!
It won’t stop by a policy of “an eye for an eye”,
Or a hundred eyes for one eye,
Or a thousand eyes for one eye,
Because that only leaves us all blind.
It will end when we speak to the other side –
Yes, yes, even with Hamas!
And we'll together create a total and mutual ceasefire –
Without Qassams, without murderous incursions,
Without mortars, without extrajudicial assassinations,
Without blockade, without starvation.
This is our call, this is our demand:
Set up an immediate ceasefire!
Open the crossings immediately!
Make peace with all parts of the Palestinian people!