Bearing Witness

Week 14 in Gaza > Palfest > Products > Refurbishment

This week in Gaza was great, Pal Fest came to town, the refurbishment process is now moving along well and my last couple of product tasks are progressing nicely : ]

Palfest in Gaza was fantastic, Susan Abulhawa of “Mornings in Jenin” fame, Lina Attalah former Egyptian Independent journalist and fellow Tahririan, Nora Younis producer of “Reporting a revolution” and Ali Abunimah co-founder of the Electronic Intifada all came to town to do presentations, run workshops, present documentaries and help inspire the already inspirational Palestinian youth activists. Everything from BDS to hasbara to humanizing the Palestinian cause was discussed, debated and argued about. I attended workshops with Ali Abunimah and Susan Abulhawa on the first day of the festival, saw a presentation by Lina Attalah, Susan Abulhawa and Ali Abunimah at al-Aqsa University on the second day and also checked out Nora Younis presenting her film “Reporting a revolution” on the third day. Unfortunately Gaza Ark commitments meant I could not attend the closing concert, which celebrated Palestinian culture old and new, with performances of Dabke through to hip hop. Thank you to all who organised Palfest in Gaza, it helped me get my focus back on the big picture and away from the daily struggles of being part of a rather large international solidarity project.

On the Gaza Ark product front we have commissioned the production of two small solidarity items that will soon be available through Gaza’s Ark. These items will be instantly recognisable as Palestinian and have a price point around the $5 mark. They will be targeted at international solidarity groups, who will hopefully buy them in bulk to sell at information stalls and protest rallies, we have already had some expressions of interest in these items from groups in South Africa, Canada and Australia. We have also started the production of English labels for our agricultural products. We now have 7 agricultural products for sale through the Gaza’s Ark project, including Dugga, Za’atar,Maftoul, Debes, Honey, Ajwa and  Makhtom. Plus soon to be announced Olive Oil from the Olive Tree Protection Society > so what are you waiting for, go forth and buy into the hope Palestinians have for an independent economy > http://www.gazaark.org/products/

The refurbishment process of the Ark is also moving along nicely, this week has seen sanding of the boat in preparation for the fiberglassing to begin and the removal of the last parts of the winch structure. We are also preparing for the boat to be removed from the water so the major structural work can begin. The removal of the boat from the water will also hopefully see the start of filming for the Gaza’s Ark documentary. Everything seems to be starting to come together and while it has been a long difficult process to get to this point, as no one has ever tried to sail from Gaza against the blockade, I am now feeling more confident every day about the success of the Gaza Ark project. Not to mention I now have an even greater appreciation of what the those pioneers in the Free Gaza Movement went through when they attempted to do what no one else had done. I just hope we have the same result as they did back in 2008, but that will not be possible without your support. Go to http://www.gazaark.org and donate and spread the word, Palestinians don’t want hands out they want their freedom !

The Ark refurbishment continuing at pace

The Ark refurbishment continuing at pace.

June 1, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Week 8 in Gaza > Photo recap of my first 2 months in Gaza

Well today marks the end of my first two months in Gaza, it has been at times wonderful and inspiring and at others frustrating, emotional and even heart breaking. So as I struggle with the written word at the best of times, I have decided to let my photo’s do the talking this week – by posting some of my favourite photo’s of the last two months. However one thing I have learnt over the years, its people who make somewhere special. So in that spirit I have not just selected photo’s of the  cool things I have done, but also photo’s of some of the people who made them special. Sukran ictir my Gaza peeps, this blog is dedicated to you.

What it is journey is all about, Gaza's Ark > the anchor from the Ark, insharalla one day soon it will be dropped in a European port.

Insharalla one day soon Gaza’s Ark will be dropping anchor in a foreign port.

Meeting the inspirational Dr Mona El Farra to hand over some medicine donated by Gaza's Ark to the Red Crescent Society in Gaza.

Meeting the inspirational Dr Mona El Farra to hand over some medicine donated by Gaza’s Ark to the Red Crescent Society in Gaza.

In the buffer zone, the sign say's it all > BDS now yella !

In the buffer zone, the sign say’s it all > BDS Israeli Apartheid now yella !

In the buffer zone, where existence truly is resistance.

In the buffer zone, where existence truly is resistance.

Hanging with the Gaza Ark Youth Committee

Hanging with the Gaza Ark Youth Committee

Getting ready to speak at a PPP protest in support of Palestinian prisoners

Getting ready to speak at a PPP protest in support of Palestinian prisoners

The optimism of youth

The optimism of youth

Filming a fundraising video for Gaza's Ark > that's a wrap !

Filming a fundraising video for Gaza’s Ark > that’s a wrap !

Sunset over Gaza

Sunset over Gaza

Kevin Neish inspecting the Ark

Kevin Neish inspecting one of the possible Ark’s

Heading out to sea with my peeps from the PPP

Heading out to sea with my peeps from the PPP

Translator extraordinaire Awni

Translator extraordinaire Awni

Palestinian fishermen > who have seen there numbers halved in the last decade due to Israeli restrictions to Palestinian maritime areas.

Palestinian fishermen > who have seen there numbers halved in the last decade due to Israeli restrictions to Palestinian maritime areas

Rally in Rafah to commemorate the10th anniversary of Rachel Corries murder by the IOF.

Rally in Rafah to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Rachel Corries murder by the IOF

Gaza Ark's nautical brains trust

Gaza Ark’s nautical brains trust Mahfouz and Nizar in their element at the port

Norma from PSC and Laila from Snad Charitable Society at the Gaza Women's Trade Fair

Norma from PSC, Laila from Snad Charitable Society and myself at the Gaza Women’s Trade Fair

Sunset over the Mediterranean

Sunset over the Mediterranean

March 29, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Week 6 in Gaza > Fundraising > IAW > BDS > Tunnels > Products

My 6th week in Gaza started with a Skype hook up to a Free Gaza Australia [FGA] fundraising dinner in support of Gaza’s Ark [GA], the fundraiser was held at Plunge No.46 in Summer Hill in Sydney. From all accounts it was a huge success with over 50 supporters in attendance and raising over $2500 for the Gaza Ark project. Thanks to everyone who attended for showing their support, the FGA crew for putting it all together and the peeps at Plunge No.46 for their generosity and hospitality. However there is one person who deserves a special mention and that is James Godfrey, the driving force behind FGA, his commitment, focus and attention to detail are second to none > so a big thank you to James, not just for all the effort he put into the fundraising dinner, but for everything he does for FGA and GA. Thank you my friend : ]

While my Arabic is improving its definitely not up to the level needed to translate the GA leaflet, so this week I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful young activist from Gaza, who has volunteered to undertake this task. Mahmoud Hammad is an English graduate from al-Aqsa University in Gaza that works closely with Dr. Haidar Eid, associate professor of English at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University, founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and is also on the GA Advisory Committee. They were both involved in putting on Israeli Apartheid Week [IAW] in Gaza, which I attended where my GA commitments would permit. I attended the opening session which featured a welcoming speech by the Boycott National Committee member Mr. Mohsen Abu Ramadan, a Skype interview with Jeremy Karodia from South African Artists Against Apartheid, a few short films and some traditional Palestinian music. The only other session I made it too was another Skype hook up with another South African activist Muhammed Desai on BDS.

The campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions was featured heavily during IAW in Gaza, and while the movement is growing here, it is not as widely know as I would have thought. However in saying that, Gaza is not the easiest place to maintain the boycott. Due to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, Gaza is heavily reliant on Israeli imports and this has only been made worse with the recent clamp down on the tunnel trade by Egypt. I have read that in the last month since the tunnels were flooded by the Egyptian military there has been a concerted campaign by the Egyptians to close as many tunnels as possible, with 60% now inoperable – however I have heard from local sources that figure is more like 80%. Cairo’s decision to flood and close the tunnels has cut a lifeline to around 1.7 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip – around 30 percent of all goods that reach the enclave come through the tunnels, according to estimates.

Finally this week I had a wonderful afternoon with the ladies from the Palestinian Women’s Union, looking at their amazing Falahi embroidered tablecloths and serving trays – which will be available soon through the Gaza Ark project. However for those that can’t wait GA’s first release of products that will be exported aboard the Ark are now online. There are eight products in our first release and they are from two Gaza based producers: Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children, and Al-Ahlyia Association for the Development of Palms and Dates. Atfaluna offers some amazing traditional Palestinian arts and craft products, while Al-Ahlyia provides Palestinian Ajwa (pressed dried dates) and Makhtom (delicious date and nut preserves). Check the link > http://www.gazaark.org/products/ with your help the hope of Palestinians in Gaza for an independent economy and an end to Israel’s inhumane siege can seem just that bit closer.

My Skype hook up with the Sydney fundraiser at Plunge No.46 > Photo by Kate Ausburn

My Skype hook up with the Sydney fundraiser at Plunge No.46 > Photo by Kate Ausburn

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fiona Byrne for PM

Hello Fiona,
 
You are truly a rare breed, a politician who has the courage to follow your convictions – even when they are not political expedient convictions. The way you stood up and were counted even in the face of such strong opposition, even though the majority of it was illogical and ill-informed – was impressive and while the BDS motion was voted down, you and your fellow councillors have helped put BDS  on the public agenda and for that I thank you whole heartedly.
 
Cheers : ]
 

April 23, 2011 Posted by | My Thoughts | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment