Gaza’s women flotilla ‘challenging Israel’s blockade’

Wendy Goldsmith, a Canadian member on board the all-female flotilla currently making its way to the besieged Gaza Strip, provided the below update to Al Jazeera’s Laura Burdon Manley. 

I am on board the Zaytouna, but not as a crew member. I was expecting to be crew on the Amal II for the first two legs from Barcelona to Ajaccio and from Ajaccio to Messina, but ultimately the Amal II suffered engine trouble and could not sail.

My role is as an organiser and the flotilla is expected to reach Gaza early on Wednesday October 5.

We all hope that we will break the blockade and celebrate on the shores of Gaza, but in reality, we know that our ships will probably be intercepted by Israeli forces and we will be illegally detained.

As we made our way to Sicily aboard the Zaytouna, amid rolling waves and blue skies, a school of dolphins cheerfully keeps us company. Today marks a sharp contrast to our first leg of the trip, from Barcelona to the French island community of Ajaccio.

High winds and massive waves kept us all hunkered down below, wondering when the seasickness would end.  The waves were quite high at times, sparking fear among some of the women.  Most of us took medicine to help reduce the sickness, but a few still have not got their sea legs.

The 13 women participating on this leg of the journey hail from a variety of countries: Norway, Sweden, Australia, Egypt, Tunisia, Malaysia, Israel, the United States and Canada.

As we sail, we are enjoying the time to learn about each other – to understand why we have come together, and what this mission means to each of us. Although we come from very diverse backgrounds and experiences, the great equalizer is our desire for justice, peace and freedom for Gaza.

We all hope that we will break the blockade and celebrate on the shores of Gaza, but in reality, we know that our ships will probably be intercepted by Israeli forces and we will be illegally detained.

My favourite time is during the night watch. One of us must stay up with a crew member during the sleeping hours to help keep watch. It is during these intimate midnight hours that the most profound sharing occurs.

With just ourselves, our souls and the endless dark sea, no one can hide from the truth. Through this experience, we have made profound bonds and gained a deep sense of connectivity, despite our differences.

Everything takes three times more effort and infinite patience on little Zaytouna. I am learning about my threshold for living in a small space with little privacy, managing difficult emotions that range from fear to frustration at not being able to stand up without flying into a door, the stove, or a shipmate.

I often think of my three children, all teenagers, who reluctantly gave me their blessing to join this mission.  I am very proud of them because they have taken the time to understand the importance of this project.

My oldest daughter, 19-year-old Maryemma, tucked a letter into my luggage telling me that she was proud of me and that she supported what I was doing.  It is so important for me to have my children’s blessing.  They have safe, happy, privileged lives, which allows me to do this work.

They understand that people suffer all over the world, and that by saying nothing, we are all complicit in crimes against humanity.

We cook together in our tiny kitchen, sharing recipes and traditions. When the Zaytouna bumps up against a wave and our dishes go flying, we cannot help but laugh and start again.  We all know that where we are going, there are many more hardships than this.

We know that on previous missions, such asthe Mavi Marmara, peaceful activists were killed and badly injured. We know that there are many risks.

At night, under the full moon, we sing songs, share stories about peaceful resistance, and talk about our families. Laughter is a welcome companion. We recognise how blessed we are to be able to make this journey.

During our many conversations, our minds always turn to the resilience of the women in Gaza, who are raising their families in what has been described as the world’s largest open-air prison.

We have set our course to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade and to bring messages of hope to Gaza.