Gaza Kids to Ireland 2017– Media

Here’s some of the coverage of this year’s brilliant visit from the kids from the Al Helal Football Academy, Gaza, Palestine #COYBFG

Leitrim Observer

FAI Report

FAI Palestinian children take part in Irishtown friendly

Warm welcome for children from Gaza ahead of football tour around Ireland

From Gaza to Sandymount: Teens living under blockade enjoy first trip abroad and enjoy kick-about on Dublin beach

Gaza Kids to Ireland welcomes young footballers for Irish tour

Children Arrive for ‘Gaza Kids to Ireland’ Football Tour

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Beautiful shots at Ballinteer St. John’s GAA
PICTURED: Gaza children arrive in Dublin to play hurling and raise awareness

A GAA-s time for Gaza kids

Great TV3 Report on Sandymount Strand – about 11.30 minutes in
Gaza Kids on Sandymount Strand

‘Gaza Kids’ soccer tour #COYBFG kicks off in Ireland with welcome by Dublin City Mayor

Galway Bay FM: Gaza Kids Come Back to Galway

Gaza Kids To Tallaght call on local community for support

Gaza Kids to Ireland welcomes young footballers for Irish tour

Ocean FM: Palestinian children to take part in Manorhamilton Rangers matches

Great piece by Emmet Malone in the Irish Times

Palestinian visitors melt Irish hearts as football finally takes centre-stage

“By the middle of next week, they will be back home again, and trying to play their football again in what has often been described, even by then British Prime Minister, David Cameron, as open air prison. In 10 years time, if they get the chance to develop their talent, they might be representing it and the rest of what they regard as their country in international competition. As things stand, though, there is absolutely no basis to believe that the challenges they face will be any different to now.

Fifa will still be kicking to touch with perhaps the most likely thing to have the changed, the number of clubs defying the rules and making life a little awkward for handsomely rewarded officials who just want to be liked by all the members of the great, dysfunctional fiction that is the football family.”

Video: Gaza Kids touch down in Dublin

RTÉ Video Report on Manorhamilton Visit

Palestinian footballers taste success on Leitrim visit

Cork: Palestinian youth side to play against Blackpool’s Castleview tomorrow

Today FM, Al Porter Show Gaza Action Ireland Coordinator Zoe Lawlor 40 minutes in

Zoe Lawlor Today FM

Young footballers from Gaza arrive in Cork for Mardyke Arena game

Strong piece in the Irish Times on the Cork visit

Gaza academy u-15 team get warm welcome in Cork for soccer friendly

Academy president, Ayed Abu Ramadan was delighted with the welcome they received in Cork. “We are overwhelmed at the generosity of the Irish people for inviting our young players here and I can see the impact that it has on them, not just as footballers but also in terms of their personal development as it teaches about the other,” said Mr Ramadan. “It’s great that they get to see that the world is not all like Gaza because back home we don’t see any other people – we see just ourselves and the Israeli army and they think the whole world is like Israel so a visit like this reinforces hope for them for the future.”

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The Shebab from Gaza Came Back

They came back again, the shebab from Al Helal Football Academy in Gaza came back! Big brown eyes, big wide smiles and huge hearts, that’s what they brought to us, again. After bringing the Gaza Kids to Ireland last year and how successful and uplifting it was, we decided to do it again. The project is about practical solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza and opening up windows between here and there. We want to show the people there that although they are living under a brutal, illegal siege, with the full complicity of the international community, including the Irish government, that there are lots of people here who care and who want to show solidarity. It is also a way to raise awareness of what is going on in Gaza, in Palestine. The media here ignores the constant violence that Israel inflicts on Gaza, it ignores the power cuts, the raw sewage flowing into the sea, the mass poverty and unemployment, the chronic state of the healthcare system, the prison conditions and the daily cruelty of the siege, the occupation, the apartheid. They only talk about Gaza when it’s being militarily attacked, and then it’s through an Israeli and racist prism.

We want to share and amplify the voice of Palestinian children, to let them show how brilliant and lovely and deserving of the exact same rights as all kids they are. And we want people to see their football skills!

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It seemed like it might not happen this year, with the worsening squeeze on Gaza and the total unpredictability of Israel’s control of people’s movement, Palestinians need permits from Israel to exit and enter Gaza, with most refused and even thousands of severe medical cases denied every year. It is essentially a prison with all movement controlled by Israel.

This situation also makes planning very difficult, you have to make an itinerary with the proviso that it may all be delayed or may never happen. Until the night before they travelled, the group had no idea whether they would be granted permits to leave Gaza. When they did find out at 9 the evening before, the leader and Chairman of the Academy, Ayed, was in Ramallah and had to get to Gaza and get everyone and everything organised for the following morning. It’s amazing that he did it, that they all did it.

As always with apartheid Israel, nothing is fully ‘allowed’ and every effort is made to mess things around. None of the Al Helal coaches were granted permits to leave, and neither was one player, the brilliant and lovely Khaled Jouda who was here last year. The journey from Gaza to Amman to fly here, although not long, takes a very long time and is arduous. One child who was also here last year, the lovely Yousef Jendaya, was turned back at the Erez crossing, despite having a permit to travel. Imagine the disappointment of that for him, he had to leave the group and go home, he was so upset, what cruelty to do that to a child. And every time you wonder why they do it, why do they behave like this? And it’s because they can, because cruelty is the default and, at all times, power and control must be exercised.  Due to the hold ups and questioning, the group missed their flight and had to scramble to find somewhere to stay late night in Amman and we had to try to find new flights, 21 of them, the next day.

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But they came, they came, and, despite that extra long, tiring journey and arriving into Dublin at 7.25 am, they played football that morning – against the Iveagh Trust and on Sandymount Strand. And they posed for photos and did media and smiled and played football and hurling, they had to be dragged in out of the rain. Their energy, enthusiasm and resilience was constant throughout the trip, they are the absolute best.

The reception the kids get all over Ireland is heartwarming, people are really delighted to meet them. They were welcomed and fed everywhere they went and we could have brought them to every county, so many were the offers. We couldn’t get everywhere but we did get to Dublin, Kinvara, Manorhamilton, Limerick and Cork. The kids played great football but they really missed not having a coach. Although we had the brilliant Azeez Yusuff with us again this year, the language barrier made coaching difficult, it is of course deliberate by Israel to prevent coaches from travelling with a team for a soccer tournament. So, they didn’t win every match this time, but they were always fast, skilled and brilliant. They also sang songs, danced, played the drums, played hurling and Gaelic football, visited waterfalls, parks, beaches, climbed walls, swam, did acrobatics and circus tricks, they had a mental shopping time in Limerick. The Shebab went to the Dubs game in Croke Park, getting recognised and acclaimed all the way to Croker. They were guard of honour for the Shamrock Rovers V Derry City game, in a great initiative by #GazaKidstoTallaght. They had met the President Michael D Higgins last year at Galway United but this year he came to Tallaght, for his first visit, especially to meet them. He made a speech and took loads of photos with the children, he chose to do that and we take it as a serious act of solidarity.

Being with the kids for the whole time they were here is a real privilege and I’m so lucky to have been able to do it. It means you get close and it’s an intense, emotional time. They are kind, funny, sweet, loving boys and they know how to slag! Last year’s bilingual ‘Nothing’ joke was a winner this year, as was a new ‘cooler’ one and the inevitable finger whirl on the high five,the craic of them. We had other jokes about bananas, my attempted banning of Despacito and the various smells on the bus. It was fun. Every night there was much running around corridors, dragging mattresses around the place, Facetime with family (usually sitting in the dark) and the mornings were a manic rush to replenish banana stocks, lash out the cheese and hummus sandwiches, and the ultimate challenge: trying to get everyone on the bus. On time. We never succeeded but Ayed, Azeez and myself gave it our best shot, every day.

This project is a real break for the kids from living under siege and this time they were much more emotional going home, I think it’s because of how much worse conditions in Gaza are now even than last year. At night, talking to the children’s families and friends online, they were almost always sitting in the dark due to only having a few hours of electricity per day. The situation there and what is being done to the people in Gaza is barbaric and it has to stop. From the solidarity shown to the group here, it is obvious that the Irish government is totally out of step with people here in its approach to Palestine. We will do this again, it’s not possible to stop something so enriching, so full of love and solidarity, and fun. This is absolutely a two way experience, in fact, it might just be more rewarding for people in Ireland, I know it lifts me up immensely.

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I miss the shebab and I talk to most of them every day online, still getting slagged…!

I want to see them again but it’s almost impossible to get into or out of Gaza. Will they be able to come again? Will all of them grow up with freedom of movement, with their rights upheld? That’s our job, to work as hard as we can to support the Palestinian struggle, especially through the BDS campaign.

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There are many people to thank for their brilliant efforts and organising, that’s for another post. This is just my personal gratitude to the kids for being, and for being here.

For now it’s #COYBFG and shukran shebab!  Ana mishteklekum. Abdelatif, Tamer, Khalifa, Abunajie, Karam,  Ahmed Abunajie, Seyam, Abu Nada, Abdelrahman Awad, Hanafy, Wael, Ismail, Motasem, Mohammed Abushar, Mohammed Yousef, Kemo, Abood Abusafia, Mahmoud.

Gaza Kids to Ireland 2017 Events and Fundraising

The Gaza Kids to Ireland are coming back!

As the trip last year was such an uplifting, joyous experience, we are doing it all again this summer! At the end of July, the kids from Al Helal Academy are coming to Ireland to play football and meet you!

The children will play against teams from Dublin, Leitrim, Kinvara, Limerick and Cork during their visit and will participate in family events. We want to show them some hospitality while they’re here so we hope you’ll come out to our events and support them.

You can read about last year here:Gaza Kids to Ireland – It Happened

If you want to give some money to the project, please do so here:  Donate!

July 20th

Limerick, Upstairs at Dolans – An Evening of Palestinian Music and Culture in Aid of the Gaza Kids to Ireland 8pm

July 20th

Gaza Kids Al Helal FC to Ballybrack FC! Fundraising gig July 20th 7.30pm Purty Kitchen, Dún Laoghaire

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July 23rd

Night at the Musicals in aid of Gaza Kids to Ireland 23rd July 8pm Civic Theatre, Tallaght. An evening of song and laughter featuring the songs of hit Broadway musicals such as Les Mis, Wicked, Rent, and more, performed by professionally trained singers. Tickets available here

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July 27th

Gaza Kids to Manorhamilton Table Quiz Thurs 27 July 8pm Gurn’s Bar, Manorhamilton, Leitrim. 

July 31st

Rematch! Kinvara United V Al Helal Football Academy, Gaza City 3pm Killina pitch, Kinvara, Co. Galway 

Palestine Comes to Kinvara! Tully’s Bar 8.30 pm

Music, dance and spoken word with renowned Palestinian percussionist Raed Said and Irish musicians.

The kids have been invited to the Shamrock Rovers V Derry game on 4th August, this is the Gaza Kids to Tallaght page, they are doing great work!

Facebook   Gaza Action Ireland
Twitter @GazaAI1

Email: infogazaactionireland@gmail.com

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Gaza Action Ireland stands with the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign as Bank of Ireland closes its accounts

Gaza Action Ireland (GAI) stands with our colleagues in the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC)  and strongly condemns Bank of Ireland’s inexplicable and outrageous closure of their accounts.

The Bank’s action, which has caused financial difficulty and much administrative reorganisation to the IPSC is simply unacceptable and totally wrong. For a long established, well respected human rights organisation, itself a long standing client of said bank, to be treated in such a manner, with no explanation forthcoming and very little time to act on the directive, is absolutely shocking and seriously calls into question the Bank’s operations.

The IPSC is one of Ireland’s leading solidarity organisations, acting as it does for justice for the Palestinian people, and has the support of many members and organisations, including GAI. The Palestinian people have called for a campaign of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) while they are subjected to apartheid, ethnic cleansing and war crimes by the Israeli state. The IPSC advocates for BDS, as does GAI and thousands of people all over the world, from the very famous to the average person. The BDS campaign is legitimate and justified and, whether one agrees with it or not, is  everyone’s right to engage in.
The Bank of Ireland’s actions are in direct contradiction with the right to advocate for justice for Palestine, and we condemn them.

This is part of a broader attack on solidarity organisations. As apartheid Israel is losing the battle for public opinion as the world sees its crimes against the Palestinian people, the BDS campaign is becoming more of a target – because of its success.

We reiterate our support for our friends at the IPSC and call on the Bank of Ireland to reinstate their accounts.

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Gaza Kids to Ireland – Media

RTE – Ballybrack Match Report 

Irish Times – Children’s Football Team from Palestine Arrive for Match

Gaza Kids to Ireland – Sandymount Beach

Clare FM from 31.45 – Interview 

Clare FM article

Newstalk  Interview-  About ¼ way through

Newstalk article – The Kids are their Window to the World Outside

Newstalk – Watch Gaza Kids Leave Ireland

Electronic Intifada – Gaza Football Club Dazzles Ireland

The Soccer Show – Al Helal Gaza Academy V Kinvara United

Lmerick Post – Gaza Brings Fancy Footwork to Limerick

Wexford Welcome for Palestinian Youths

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Limerick Live – Limerick Hosts U 14 soccer Team from Gaza

Palestine Monitor – Gaza Children Return After a 10-day Football Trip in Ireland

Broadsheet – Meanwhile in Nenagh

Galway Bay FM – Gaza Children Visit Kinvara

PNN – Israel Didn’t Break Spirit of Gaza Kids to Ireland

Irish America – Gaza Kids to Ireland Scheme a Success

Ireland Today – Kids Football Team from Gaza Enjoy a Historic Trip to Ireland

Tipperary Star- Nenagh Opens its Doors to U14 Gaza Soccer Team

FM 104 – Gaza Kids Play Football on Southside

Zazafl: Gaza Kids to Ireland – It Happened

The Shebab from Al Helal

Blixa Bargeld and Teho Teardo, Don’t Play Apartheid Israel

Dear Blixa and Teho,

Since the beginning of this campaign, we have been pondering the fact that Blixa has made a film for television on the ex-Israeli musician and activist Dror Feiler, which is due to air on the Arte TV channel four days before Blixa’s own planned concert in Tel Aviv on 15 September.

It is commendable that this film will shine a light on Dror’s activities, which most significantly include his participation in several of the flotillas to break the Israeli government’s brutal siege of Gaza. However, Blixa’s planned concert in Tel Aviv, four days after the broadcast of this film, would completely negate any positive impact coming from it, and would amount to both an affirmation and amplification of Israeli propaganda. The proximity of the broadcast to Blixa’s scheduled breach of the Palestinian BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) call inevitably gives the impression that the former in some way is expected to justify the latter. The Israeli government, by viewing “culture as a propaganda tool of the first rank”, has created a zero-sum game scenario, the iron logic of which allows for no ambiguity and can only be successfully opposed by a boycott. By weaponising culture itself, the Israeli government further compels artists to decide between providing it with further ammunition or refusing to be complicit in this. It is precisely for this reason that Palestinian civil society has called for a cultural boycott of Israel.

In addition, while the tension arising from the broadcast of the film and the breach of the boycott immediately afterwards appears to give rise to an interesting dialectic, this scenario is achieved at the expense of Palestinian suffering. It seems, therefore, that Blixa is instrumentalising Dror Feiler, but also, and more importantly, the wider political situation as a whole purely for effect. By the same process the Israeli government will be able to instrumentalise Blixa for its own propaganda aims. We wonder if Blixa feels comfortable being used by a state that employs culture as a weapon while also using physical weapons such as cluster bombs and white phosphorous against the Palestinian people, killing and maiming thousands.

Furthermore, artists should not think that in using their performances in Israel as a platform to criticise the state and its policies they are constructively contributing to the Palestinian cause. They are doing nothing of the sort, but rather they facilitate Israeli government in its propaganda by allowing it to portray itself as a democracy tolerant of criticism, when, in fact, this is not the case.

Nor is the argument valid that there are other states in breach of international law, the point is that the Palestinian people have called for a boycott, just as those struggling against South African apartheid did. All that is being asked of you is that you not cross the Palestinian picket line.

Even if there is no direct government involvement of funding in this particular gig, PACBI’s guidelines stipulate “In general, PACBI urges international cultural workers (e.g. artists, writers, filmmakers)… where possible and as relevant, to boycott and/or work towards the cancellation of events, activities, agreements, or projects involving Israel, its lobby groups or its cultural institutions, or that otherwise promote the normalization of Israel in the global cultural sphere.” And “It must be emphasized that a cultural product’s content or artistic merit is not relevant in determining whether or not it is boycottable.”

The reality is that for Israel any show that isn’t cancelled because of BDS appeals is considered a political victory over the Palestinian struggle and international solidarity with it. Hence any artist that’s been appealed to and refused to boycott is a win for Israel, in the view of the state.

Performing in Tel Aviv means playing for a segregated audience, on ethnically cleansed land, can you really see yourselves doing that?

For these reasons, we must repeat, with added emphasis, what so many international groups wrote to you in their first letter: “The call to boycott Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights was first made in 2005, by over 170 (now over 200) Palestinian civil society groups. The boycott is a non-violent tactic against oppressive state power. It would be extremely disappointing if artists of your stature chose to break this call for solidarity with the Palestinian people, particularly at a time when Israel is escalating its daily attacks on them.”

In all of this the plight of the Palestinians is once again pushed into the background and the foreground struggle becomes that of yet another high-profile western artist refusing to use their position of privilege to stand in solidarity with people who have only asked that they do no harm. Therefore we would like to conclude by quoting the Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel’s letter to you:

“We are asking you to not side with the oppressor by performing in Tel Aviv 15th September. Don’t let your music normalize the racist brutality and the ethnic cleansing Palestinians suffer from day in day out under the control of the Israeli Apartheid regime. Instead, let your music stand on the right side of history. If you do so, you will look back with a clean conscience when the day arrives that we Palestinians are granted the same human rights as anyone else.”

Letters

From Gaza

 From International Groups

From Boycott from Within (2

  From Don’t Play Apartheid Israel

From Boycott from Within (1)

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Palestinians hold their national flag as they ride boats during a rally to show support for activists aboard a flotilla of boats who are soon to set sail for Gaza in a fresh bid to break Israel’s blockade of the territory, at the seaport of Gaza City on June 24, 2015. Freedom Flotilla III

Tel Aviv https://electronicintifada.net/content/jaffa-eminence-ethnic-cleansing/8088

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The Shebab from Al Helal

They came, they saw, they conquered – every match and every heart. The boys, coach and chairman of Al Helal Football Academy, Gaza City finally made it to Ireland, and it was beautiful.

The Gaza Kids to Ireland project has been years in the making and has been majorly stalled a few times, not least after apartheid Israel’s vicious attack on Gaza in 2014 where more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 556 children, were murdered. We launched officially with Brian Kerr in late 2014 but it was only early this year that things started moving. The logistics of trying to get out of Gaza are very complicated. The group needed Irish visas, permits for Jordan and most problematical – permits to leave Gaza, these granted or not by Israel. Palestinians are the only people who need permission to leave their country. One of the major hasbara tropes trotted out by Israel is that it pulled out of Gaza and no longer occupies it, rubbish – Israel controls most aspects of life for the Palestinians in Gaza, and it controls whether they can leave or enter the Strip.

Freedom of movement is a fundamental right and those of us lucky and privileged enough to have it should recognise its importance and fight for everyone to have it. From seeing the terrible difficulties Palestinian friends experience and spending time with people on the move through Fortress Europe, I’ve never been more aware of how crucial this is to our shared humanity.

This was definitely the case for this project, the visa/permits processes took months. We had huge difficulties regarding permits – the group was initially to be in Ireland on the 13th July but their permits weren’t granted so we had to reschedule the entire programme. Eventually the permits were granted but one player from the 15 – Karam Zedan (who had been injured in 2009) – wasn’t given a permit and neither were 5 of the adults due to travel, including the only woman. The utter cruelty of Israel denying one child from 15 the opportunity to travel to Ireland bears further consideration, it really is unspeakable. Imagine how a 13 year old boy must have felt seeing his friends and teammates going on a big adventure that they had all been preparing for together for months. To stop just one child from the whole group is purely sadistic. Of course, in the massive catalogue of Israel’s crimes against Palestinian children, this is at the lower end of their scale of violence, but it’s still brutal and needless and rotten. Karam was injured by the 2009 Israeli attack on Gaza and it’s likely they didn’t want him as living evidence of their war crimes. However, despite not being in Ireland,  Karam was in everyone’s thoughts throughout the trip and the children remembered him, making videos singing “We are all Karam” everywhere they went, he was always with us. But he should have been with us in person as well as in spirit. Another cruelty inflicted on a Palestinian child by the apartheid state. Why do they do it? Because they can.

Israel also prevented five adults from travelling with the group, the only woman, Hadeel, a specialist in children’s mental health, two coaches Mohammed and Eyad, a journalist Mohanad, and administrator Salah.  Not allowing these adults to travel is again cruel and needless, it’s an assertion of control and power. Imagine how they must have felt, having Israel’s absolute control reasserted so cruelly. It’s beyond my imagination because of privilege, and I want it to be beyond everyone’s, because of  justice.

Preventing them from travelling was also designed to cause maximum disruption to the trip. The journey from the Erez crossing to Amman airport in Jordan is long, difficult and full of checkpoints. That journey for only two adults with fourteen children is extremely tough and it is testimony to Ayed and Mohammed that they made it and indeed undertook the whole trip for the sake of the kids. I can’t say enough about these two men, they are fantastic. The Israelis were strategic, they allowed only one coach, one English speaker and no woman, with a group of boys who had never left Gaza before. But despite these obstacles, they coped, they thrived and they were brilliant.

And they arrived! Right up to the minute I heard they had boarded the plane,  I couldn’t believe it would happen. It happened. And they arrived, 14 really cute children with big brown eyes and bigger smiles wearing hot pink jerseys came to Ireland for an unforgettable ten days.

The kids played football, they danced, they sang, they were on the telly, they walked down Grafton St like celebs, walked the beach in Bray, went to the funfair, to SeaWorld, they dazzled with their feet in Dublin, Galway, Tipperary and Limerick. They went to parks and castles, went swimming and horseriding, they played hurling and rugby, went on boats and unicycles. They went mental in the shopping centre in Limerick.  They did the guard of honour for Galway United versus Dundalk, played at half time to the delight and cheers of the Palestinian flag waving GUFC ultras. Oh, and they met the President of Ireland there.

They played football against Ballybrack FC, Kinvara United, Nenagh AFC, Nenagh Celtic and Pike Rovers. They played on pitches, beaches and in parks. A highlight was their game in Ballybrack where the Palestinian community came out in numbers and reacted as if they had won the World Cup, it was raucous! 

They won every game, they played beautiful football, they dazzled.  Everyone remarked on their skill, their footwork, speed, their ability to keep hold of the ball. They are really good players. While their size compared to their Irish counterparts was a concern – and the siege of Gaza causes nutritional issues for the children there – their skill made up for it and they beat all comers!

They are fun and funny, kind, talented boys and it was a real privilege to spend time with them. Everyone who met the kids was delighted by them, they really lifted people’s hearts, the amount of love around the trip was special. Because there were only two adults let travel, I stayed with the group every night and this really allowed me to get to know them and enjoy their company, I loved it. The kids’  energy and enthusiasm is infectious. The evenings were spent moving mattresses around so they could camp in together (a nightly slumber party!), waving hello to their parents and family on the phone, begging them to go to sleep and helping them to pack! My greatest achievement of the trip is being the butt of two running jokes, in English AND Arabic. These kids know how to slag. I loved their camaraderie, how they looked after each other, especially if anyone was a little homesick, how they respected their ‘captains’ and how they interacted with everyone here. They really are great kids, brilliant representatives of their families, of Gaza, of Palestine.

It was also a privilege to spend time with Ayed and Mohammed who had to take on the mantles of guardians, coaches, organisers, translator, media people and coordinators during the trip. They did it with smiles throughout, they are lovely men.

It was great too to hang out with my Gaza Action Ireland fam and marvel as they pulled events together at the last minute and were as solid and decent as they always have been. They rock.

This project was intended as an act of practical solidarity with Gaza and to further build civil society links between there and here. We wanted to give the children a break from life under siege and for people here to have the opportunity to meet them and to see the richness of Palestinian culture, life, sport. We want all the time that people in Gaza know that they are in our hearts, on our minds, that we want to fight against the siege that deprives them of their rights, their freedom, that they are important to us, that we are inspired by their struggle, that we will do our best to show solidarity with them. Ayed said a few times that this trip was a window to the outside world for the friends and families of the kids, trapped as they are by the Israeli siege. And the kids were always taking photos and filming everything to show their families, they were that window.

As much as the visit was a window into the world outside Gaza for the kids, it was also a window into Palestine for us. A window into the strength and resilience of Palestinian culture, the incredible collective memory. Ayed described how when they were travelling from Erez to Amman the children were asking about their original homes, towns and villages and how he was pointing them out to them. It’s really beautiful how this memory of the home, the land is passed down through the generations, from those expelled in the Nakba to today’s children. Beautiful and tragic. They will return. 

I was overwhelmed by the solidarity and love shown to the kids by people here, everywhere they went, it was very special to see the Palestinian communities here so happy to meet them.  We could have brought them to every county and it still wouldn’t have been enough. So many people wanted to meet them, host them, feed them, do activities, just brilliant. It bodes well for future visits.

Since the kids went back to Gaza I’ve read missed them, much more than I could have imagined. I talk to them online all the time and endure the jokes being sent repeatedly in Facebook recordings! They got under my skin and I want to see them again and for all of them to be safe and happy always. And we have to work as hard as we can so that they don’t have to live under siege and under threat, the siege has to be lifted.

It’s almost impossible to get into Gaza and it’s almost impossible for people there to get out, that denial of freedom of movement and human connection, so often between families in Gaza and other parts of Palestine, is one of apartheid Israel’s greatest crimes, it has to end.

When the permits were denied, I was talking to  Mohammed Abuaita who wasn’t allowed to travel. He wrote these beautiful words and has let me put them here.

    “We know that we live in a big prison
     This is our destiny..
      Let me tell you something..
     From the center of the siege .. we make Hope
      We draw a smile to the world.”

Palestinian resistance is poetry.

There are many more words, but for now I miss the shebab from Al Helal and I am immeasurably enriched by spending time with them. I wish them to be safe with every part of myself, body and soul. Kol she tamam?  #COYBFG

Shukran shebab! Khaled, Mohanned, Abdelatif, Tamer, Raed, Shabiba, Yousef, Khalifa, Zizou, Hassan, Damo, Abunajie, Amjad, Ayoub. FB_IMG_1471122134075 #COYBFG

 

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