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Viva Palestina convoy reaches Alexandria

Dear Friends,

I wish I had more time to write -- maybe I will be able later -- but I wanted to send a brief update now, as I have internet capability her in Alexandria. Let me explain.

Most of the Convoy participants gathered n NYC on July 3, the majority flying out together on July 4 and 5, but with many others -- including me -- having made other arrangements to get to Cairo from various parts of the US, Europe and the Middle East.  The group is very impressive  -- about 250 people all told -- led by British MP George Galloway and some of his staffers, plus a variety of organizers from around the US -- including a young Iranian-American woman named Fatima from Idaho(!) and many Palestinian-Americans.

Perhaps 2/3 of the Group are Palestinian-American youth, mostly from NY-NJ or California.  It is touching and inspiring to listen to these youngsters, whose parents or grandparents suffered the
Nakba/expulsions of 1948/1967 and who have raised money in the community for their participation.  They are very Arab and very "American" too! You hear them talk in a hybrid Arab-US hiphop mode, like Shu hadda, Bro' ("What's this?")  Let's go Shabbab. . .  Most are Muslims -- as are the older Palestinian-Americans and they pray when they can along the way or when we have had a chance to visit mosques in Cairo or Alexandria ("Alex").

Among the group are some men, US citizens, in their 40's who have family in Gaza and are hoping to be able to see them -- this is their only hope in the face of the Israeli blockade.  Maher went to Gaza with his wife in the 1980's and returned a few years ago to his job in  the US.  He left his wife and three children -- all US citizens -- behind in Gaza and they have not been able to get out; Mohammad and Abdurrauf ("Ralph") both have siblings  aged mothers in Gaza -- Mohammad's is 90 years old -- and none of them wrote or phoned ahead that they were coming in fear of disappointing their families if we don't succeed in getting into Gaza.  (Of course you don't have to worry about relatives being "away" when you visit unannounced from far off because there is no place to go if you are trapped in Gaza!)

We gathered in Cairo (Giza suburb, actually) earlier last week, about 250 strong, arriving with all the medical supplies that had been donated or bought in the US -- including wheelchairs, walkers, blankets and medicine -- while teams were spread out to gather donations from Egyptians -- there has been a lot of publicity here, despite a near blackout in the US.  Surprisingly, one of the real shortages is paper, which the Israelis will not allow into Gaza, so as to make basic organization and administration more difficult.

Fundraising in the US was tireless, mostly in the Arab community and through speaking events across the country by George Galloway.  Over $1 million has been collected and successfully transferred to Egypt, where we are purchasing supplies and vehicles for transport -- actually 4
ambulances (Fords and Toyotas) and 57 vehicles imported into Egypt from China (manufactured by a subsidiary of Mitsubishi) -- 7 pickup trucks, 7 mini-buses and the rest cars, all of which will be left in Gaza, as transport is sorely lacking there.

Because the vehicles are being picked up from the Alex port of entry and will be driven to our staging place at El Arish -- we hope tomorrow (Sun.) -- the group split up, with the drivers (me included) going to Alex to get the vehicles and the remainder staying in Cairo continuing to gather relief contributions.  Everyone is planning to mebehindet up in El Arish, where our vehicles will be loaded -- and decorated with US and Palestinian flags and signs -- for the short drive to Rafah and
(Inshallah -- We hope) to Gaza.

People in Egypt have so far been very supporting of our effort, offen which us well on the street (many of us where "VivaPalestina/US Convoy T-shirts). Look for updates on www.vivapalestina-us.org

I will try to be in touch when I can.  Wish us luck!

Peace / Salaam,
Jeff/Jaffr Klein

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