The Viva Palestina Convoy members have been in Cairo since the fifth of July--having left NYC and other cities on the Fourth of July in order to declare independence from US policy of tacit support of the Israeli siege. The people of Gaza await our delivery of medical supplies and equipment. Over 180 Americans are in the convoy from all over the country with a very strong contingent of 34 from CA.
And now that the planning and various supply negotiations have been completed, we are beginning the convoy. One team remains here in Cairo to handle last minute procurement, packing, and inventory to add to the supplies already shipped from the US. Another team heads out tomorrow morning to procure the convoy vehicles, prepare and secure them for loading and transport.
British MP George Galloway, the inspiration for the convoy, has been interviewed by Al Jazeera in NYC before we left, by the AP here in Cairo when we arrived on Sunday. Wednesday at the Association of Egyptian journalists, Galloway and a contingent of 30 Viva Palestina participants answered questions regarding the convoy. Unfortunately, American media, despite some prodding by individuals, have not been very responsive up to this point, consistent with their usual ignoring of this continuing collective punishment of the Palestinian people in Gaza for the past three years, most notoriously during the onslaught of late December 2008 and January 2009.
Cairo is a thronging city, its downtown area on both banks of the Nile incrediby interesting. Activity never stops, and traffic is relentless. Our cab today taking into the older sections of the city just narrowly brushed by two women crossing the street as the cabbie, excitedly practicing his English started waving his hand in imitation of a cowboy movie. We traipsed through the market and furniture manufacturing areas of the city, looking longingly at the fruit, but with no surplus of bottled water to rinse it thoroughly, had to pass them up. Apricots, grapes, mangoes, cactus pears in abundance--donkey carts driven by young children or old men, people drinking their water out of brown decorated pitchers. I wondered how the women in the full veils, with their dark eyes peering out of the slits slaked their thirst--did theu have to wait until they returned home? Cabs and constant honking, downtown in the modern section of the city near the airlines and banks, someone is always ready to speak to you and even more, to accompany you, show you where the bookstore or the bank is for a few piastres.
Uniformly, the people are friendly and when you do get into conversation, their favorite president, above all, is Jimmy Carter, seen by everyone as a man of peace. President Obama is appreciated for his speech in Cairo, but people we spoke to, while appreciating its sentiments, unanimously express some reservations about actions speaking louder than words. From what they can see, the actual policy has not changed very much. They are, in fact, still waiting for the deeds.
Donations can still be made at the Viva Palestina website , and if you are in tune with the plight of the Palestinian people in Gaza, I encourage you to think about donating and sending this blog entry on to sympathetic friends and acquaintances. I am including the URL in case the hyperlink doesn't work, as this computer tends to slide in and out of Arabic, making the hyperlinks a bit difficult to fix firmly: www.vivapalestina-US.org). You will find on the website some pictures of our unloading some supplies at JFK on the Fourth the afternoon of our flight. Other sites with pictures and writing about the convoy are:
Check them out and watch for further pictures and reports on the VP website and on this blog.
More follows from the delta and the road through the Sinai desert as we head towards Gaza and I sneak a few monents on someone's computer.
Now comes the hard and exhausting part--the heat and the sand and the mosquitos along the Meditarranean Sea desert scape, the loading and the driving and the convoy and the jump off in just a few days into the damage and heartbreaking sights: the recovering wounded, the cemeteries, the rubble of the bombed schools and hospitals and civic structures, and among it all, the people who just will not give up in their long struggle. After work, not rest but the sorrow of bearing witness. We realize that even this little penetration into that sandy prison called Gaza is just one of many things that must be done to bring justice. And we also know, as Reverend Daughtry said from his lectern, we also know that right is on our side.