Bulletin from Lauren Booth
Tuesday 12th August 2008
Well here on baking, blissfully breezy Crete it has been a day of high
expectation and yes, again, disappointment.
I spent my first night on board last night, in water so calm it reminded
me of Lake Geneva. Our group had enjoyed a late dinner with sympathetic
locals in a communal dwelling in what was once Chania's law court and
prison. A touchingly run down setting of past grandeur, with a vegan
feast thoughtfully prepared. Music was provided by an elderly man singing
in Spanish, accompanied on the guitar by a young man with dreadlocks
known only ''citizen of the world'. I finally arrived back on the boat at
2am certain I could sleep even standing up (much less lying down on a
foam mattress). Chania is a rather lively dock even on Monday nights. The
nearest taverna was hosting a family celebration complete with Greek
musicians, the clink of moonlit glasses and much enthusiastic chatter.
Suffice it to say I decided to find a vacant cabin. These are basic,
unless you lived your life trawling for sardines.
An hour later the alarm on my mobile phone went- time to take guard of
the ships with Jeff Halper, anthropologist and founder of The Israeli
Committee Against House Demolitions. The ships are never left vacant; the
risk of sabotage being considered too high. Our turn as guardians of the
Freegaza and Liberty consisted of patrolling with a torch and talking
noisily about subjects I was too tired to remember afterwards. However
knowing Jeff I'm certain they were both funny and profound.
The early morning meeting saw most sailors bright eyed and eager to sail,
making plans for the longest leg of the journey to Gaza; the 3 day odyssey
from the legendary isle of Crete to Cyprus. Both ships now have
professional captains. Matthew who arrived this morning, fresh from a
private tour of the Greek islands, looks very young (I have insisted he
grow a beard to look older than seventeen) he assures us all that over
three days his face will age. In fact Matthew is in his thirties with a
wife and children, and knows the waters between the Greek Islands
intimately; the groups are very pleased to welcome him aboard. Having
spent the morning studying the charts and the local shipping forecast
(weather report) at 11 am Captain Matt (as he shall now be known)
'Friday night is the perfect time to sail. Before that the journey in
these vessels from Crete to Cyprus is not so much dangerous as suicidal.
What did we do here in Crete at that announcement? For half an hour nails
were chewed, each person went into a private purdah considering personal
situations, the financial implications of staying longer, the commitment
to those waiting for boats of hope to arrive on their shores. I know that
the equally keen volunteers in Nicosia have important business commitments
they have already delayed time and again for this mission. The news must
have hit them hard.
Soon, everyone put the delay aside, deciding how best to use this extra
time to prepare. Huwaida and Courtney (please see biogs to find out more
about them) are keen to brighten up both ships. Both locals and tourists
who stop in front of both, pointing and saying the word "Palestine' are
unsure they have found the ships they have either heard of, or read about.
To remedy this, plans are afoot to paint the wheel houses in the red and
green of the Palestinian flag, interspersed at Huwaida's suggestion with
writings by the recently deceased Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.
Practical preparations continue; this delay means funding for the project
to break the siege of Gaza needs an urgent boost. Fifty travellers in two
locations need to be fed and those in Nicosia need their local
accomodation longer than expected. Meanwhile here in Crete, despite the
various pressures put upon them, not one single person is leaving the
project. How they cope financially with the pressure put upon them, I have
no idea. The single principle, the only thought on the minds of those here
this afternoon, is that thousands in Gaza are waiting on this small,
independant project. It's the people watching the horizon in Gaza that
keep everyone going here in Crete.
Meanwhile the world waits too to see what happens. Today Correiere Della
Sera, a major Italian newspaper read by more than 2 million devoted an
entire page of their world news section to the Freegaza movement and the
injustice suffered by Palestinians. The US media is the only group
noticeable by their absence.
Free Gaza have the boats, the crew, and the willpower to challenge
Israel's illegal barricade. Now all they need is the weather.
Here is a message to the Gazans watching their sea for signs of ships; the
Free Gaza movement are on their way. When the winds are with them, nothing
else should be able to halt this mission of peace and goodwill.
Bulletin from Lauren Booth