Bismilah, this is a very special post inshaAllah you enjoy.
My cousin was blessed with the opportunity to embark the journey to Gaza, Palestine with George Gallaway’s Convoy to Palestine. She wrote her few experiences on her trip and i thought i would share:
On December 13, 2009 I embarked on a journey that spanned 3 continents, 7 countries, and countless cities. I began in Columbus, Ohio and went through Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Gaza. I traveled with a group of 450 people, driving 250 vehicles in an effort to break the siege on Gaza.
I was the youngest person on this journey, being 16 years old. I cannot count the number of times I was asked: “how are your parents allowing you to do this?”. And the answer is simple, my age doesn’t matter, there was a man aged 79 from Turkey on the convoy-, and we both deserved to be there.
Take a moment to imagine, just imagine, your life falling apart in front of you. Being helpless and powerless, unable to stop the destruction that surrounds you. This was the reality in Gaza a year and a half ago when the massacre began on December 27, 2008. Over 1,000 days later and they are still picking up the pieces of their fragile lives.
Turkey: A country I knew virtually nothing about. A country I had no expectations of. And a country that had the most amazing people I have ever met. “I love Turkish people, food, customs, EVERYTHING!” seemed to be the general consensus.
The American convoy members gathered at Taqseem Square, surrounded by hundreds chanting and singing while the rain pounded down as we shielded our eyes with one hand and raised our flags with the other. A marriage of the red, white, green, and black lighting up the square.
The hospitality in Turkey was unmatched, as we spanned the huge country beginning in Europe and seamlessly making our way through Asia, the support was incredible. I met women older than my mother, holding my hands, tears streaming down their faces, begging me to take them with us. 3 am on the side of the road and there they were, waving flags, pumping fists and smiling…smiling with such sincerity that I hadn’t imagined was possible.
Syria: Cold. We were greeted and as the Mayor of Halab, and the leaders of the convoy shook hands we began to see the support that was behind us. Once again we were fed and for the first time in days I was able to shower properly and sleep comfortably outside of our busses, cars, trucks, semis and ambulances.
Aqaba, Jordan: 5 days in Aqaba, a protest in front of the Egyptian Embassy, and a few nights in which people were able to relax, take in the sea and reflect on why we were really here. We encountered people who the moment they noticed us swarming the streets in our bright green Viva Palestina shirts, welcomed us in, offered us room and board, cooked us food, and made us promise to tell the children of Gaza that the people of Aqaba will never forget them. “You’re with the convoy? Anything you want, it’s free. We all support you”.
December 27th, the anniversary of the massacre, the date we expected to be in Gaza, came and went. 5 days in which we were denied entry to Egypt, and were forced to make our way back through Syria.
Latikya, Syria: We came back through Syria and went through to Latikya, an area in northern Syria where the majority of our time was spent in a Palestinian refugee camp. Tiny houses with only enough space for a few cots, metal bars through the squares in the walls that they called windows, rusted green metal doors that clang saying, “welcome”. As I watched the boy and girl scouts march along to the beat of their drums, twirling flags and dancing in the traditional “debka” fashion I wanted to step back and offer my spot up to them, any of them, all of them.
Laila, who gave me a “Free Gaza” pin,
Hamza, who gave me a hatta (Palestinian scarf)
Oum Muhammad who told me “If they gave me a tent, A TENT, on Palestinian land I’d take it and never look back”.
These people deserved it just as much anyone. And as I sat on the ledge staring into the Mediterranean Sea, the waves crashing against the rocks below I promised myself that their stories wouldn’t go untold.
Al-Arish, Egypt: A warm welcome awaited us at the Al-Arish airport as our passports were seized and we were confined into a small building, guards positioned outside ensuring that we didn’t move off the front steps. The chants began slowly as people became antsy, and escalated to full out chaos. People stomping on x-ray machines, banging the metal chairs into the ground, screaming “SHAME, SHAME ON YOU! YOU SOLD GAZA FOR A DOLLAR!”…it was almost too much to take in and suddenly I found myself doing the same. One hand on a chair as the other waved around the hatta that had almost become attached to my neck.
Hundreds of policemen. Hundreds of Convoy members. Rocks. Fire hoses. Tear Gas. Pepper Spray. Sand. Batons. Shields. Armoured vehicles. Blood. A woman’s piercing scream. Welcome to the port of Al-Arish. I had left the 15+ft. cages of the port with a few members of the convoy to get food and upon returning about an hour and a half later we found ourselves trapped as dozens of trucks and hundreds of policemen blocked our way. Completely unaware of the situation and convinced of our right to rejoin with our group we moved onwards, arms locked, despite the many attempts to stop us. And suddenly, our arms unlocked and one by one, people were pulled away. Two young men, thrown into the back of a truck and beaten as we heard them try to resist. One man, pulled to the side and surrounded by 6 policemen, his body covered by theirs and the sleek black of their batons. One man, jumping into a group of policemen and just as quickly, jumping over the wall that separated us. And as we attempted to find shelter, among the tear gas, water, rocks and the screams, I felt the harsh unforgiving metal of the baton strike my back, once…twice…and on the third we turned and ran.
Gaza: January 6, 2010. Finally. As I stepped off the bus, silent as I read the sign “Welcome to Palestine”, I was unable to contain my emotions. I dropped to my knees, prostrated, forehead to the ground as tears streamed down my face. I looked up and around me everyone had done the same. Minutes ago we had all been chanting, and now nothing escaped our lips and all we heard was “Welcome”. Land I knew so much about but had never seen. It was all worth it, I hadn’t even met anyone yet and it was already worth it.
But those whom I did meet, the couple who lost all 5 of their daughters, the son who lost his father and 16 siblings, the reporter who lost both legs covering the event, the daughter who lost her parents while she was away studying, the family who lost 7 members and a grandparent….these were the people we had travelled 3 continents, 7 countries, and countless cities for.
It was the most amazing experience of my life. I learned more in those few weeks, appreciated everything I had been blessed with, experienced more of “life” in that short time than I have in my whole life. As one man put it, “They can kill 10 of our children, but we’ll just have 10 more. We’re not going anywhere”.
To meet people who have nothing and are willing to give you everything…it’s truly something to say Subhanallah about.