SA volunteers head to Gaza on solidarity mission

2013-04-08 00:00

A 37-MEMBER team of doctors, teachers, social workers and businessmen left yesterday for Palestine to offer support and solidarity.

Team SA was originally invited to take part in the 42 km Palestine Marathon, but the race was cancelled.

However, the team is going ahead with the humanitarian/solidarity part of its mission, which is to provide aid and assistance to the area.

The doctors’ contingent will observe medical conditions and provide aid, while teachers will be offering assistance to schools and teachers in Gaza.

Businessmen on the trip will be seeing if there are ways they can improve economic ties between the occupied Palestinian territory and South Africa.

Sarah Khan, an IT specialist, and her husband, Imran, have been to Palestine twice before. They have spent the last three months organising the logistics for the trip.

“We are excited because we are sure that so many of the volunteers will be able to make a huge difference to the lives of the people in Gaza and we are also sure that this trip will be life-changing.

“There is so much in the media about Gaza, but you cannot know what it is like until you actually go there and you realise how huge the need really is,” she said.

“Many of the volunteers have skills which are needed and they come from affluent backgrounds. It will be an education for them.”

Preparing for the visit was a bureaucratic nightmare: multiple visas had to be organised and those arranging the travel logistics were never sure exactly what requirements were needed for entry to Palestine. It is not exactly a tourism destination.

“I wanted to make sure if I could use my credit card in Palestine and the man at the bank said he did not even know if such a country existed,” said Khan.

Pro-Palestine activist groups have rallied around the Team SA volunteer group and were at the airport in Durban and Johannesburg yesterday to give the volunteers a big send off.

Most of the volunteers come from Durban; the rest from Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The group will be posting their work on Facebook and hope the mission will be successful and will become an annual event.

To follow their mission, visit the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/GazaMarathonTeamSA.

UN: turning point for Palestine

LAST year was a turning point for Gaza: on Thursday, November 29, 2012, in a 138-9 vote (with 41 abstaining), General Assembly resolution 67/19 was passed, upgrading Palestine to “non-member observer state” status in the United Nations.

This meant that Palestine’s status is now officially recognised by the UN. The vote was a historic benchmark for the sovereign state of Palestine and its citizens.

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