The reception waiting for us was immense. Shaking hands, hugging and kissing the people who lined the streets and offered profuse thanks. And we thanked them back, for being strong, for resisting brutal oppression.
Every member of our by now huge convoy was put up by Hamas, the democratically elected and seemingly popular government of theGaza Strip. As we arrived at our hotel to be greeted with generous servings of chicken, rice and bread, I don’t think I was the only person who felt like a true revolutionary.
The next morning we all went to a big field in Gaza City where all the vehicles of aid were parked, ready to hand over our keys to the Palestinian people. There were incredible scenes – as the Sun shone down, journalists and press ran around, eager to photographically document proceedings and to hear our “message to the world”. As George Galloway exclaimed “we have broken the siege!”, my friend Imran turned to me and said:
“We’re making history!”
At the end of the speech, Galloway pulled out a bag containing £25,000, and handed it over to one of the leaders of Hamas who was sitting next to him:
“This is not charity, this is politics.”
The convoy from Bolton, who I had merged myself into, covered their most impressive vehicle, a huge generator which would be used to power a hospital in the case of Israel cutting off the electricity, with Palestinian flags and banners. Some of us stood on the roof, some at the front with banners, and I stood on my wheelchair with a flag draped over my shoulders. Immediately, we became the centre of attention for hundreds of press, with our chants of “Free Free Palestine” and “In our thousands in our millions, we are all Palestinians” ringing through the air.
Undoubtedly, a momentous occasion.
The hospitality just didn’t stop, with a feast waiting for us in the sunshine. We were not going to be hungry during our time in Gaza.
In the evening there was a final conference to mark the end of the convoy, and during his long and inspiring speech, George Galloway’s sentiment that “the spirit of Che Guevara is in this hall today” was one that I wholly agreed with.
Towards the end of the conference, Ahmed Alnajjar, the Director of International Affairs and one of the kindest people you will ever meet (he broke down in tears when the final members of the convoy left) took to the stage to say a final thank you to us:
“And I want to say a special thank you to Jody McIntyre…”
The whole room, including Mr. Galloway, gave me a standing ovation.
Around fifty members of the convoy (including myself) rebelled after the initial 48 hours, and were eventually allowed to stay for a further two days. But the security got frustrating – I wanted to be free and to talk to the people. It was during this time that I met Eva and Caoimhe, two girls from England and Ireland who had been working here for a few months, and planned to stay a lot longer.
Talking to Caoimhe in the evening, she told me about her life up till now. Rejecting all privelige as a teenager, she worked in a New York soup kitchen for a year before travelling to Mexico and Guatemala to join the resistance movements there.
I couldn’t believe it, a real life guerilla revolutionary. And at that moment I made my decision to stay in Gaza long-term.
But… security was tight, circumstances were difficult, and I’m back in London. But all my focus now is directed towards getting back to Gaza as soon as possible. And next time I’ll be staying for a lot longer.