24 February 2003
Team back - and thinking of the futureThe Dove and Dolphin team is back from Gaza. Time for reflection on what has been achieved and on what the future holds.
There will be a video you can view; perhaps a book and certainly the Dove and Dolphin will live on.
In what form? Watch this space. The decisions will be announced.
Message to the crew of M V Barbara….
Dear Heine, Preben and Per (if you are still with the ship), Claus, Johnas and Brian.
There was a lot that was surreal about our voyage.
This feeling persists as I sit writing this letter to my comrades at sea in faint spring sunshine and with the birds singing here in the quiet of Dartmoor.
It will of course be only a week tomorrow that we docked in Ashdod and three days since we left Palestine via Tel Aviv.
Big cheese price…
Julio Liberman and his assistant Ave dealt with us in a kindly manner but leaving Ashdod was an expensive business for myself.
Some of this was entirely proper but this certainly did not include the examination of the Cheddar cheese by the Ministry of Health at $710 which effectively added a tax of 71 cents per kilo on a food for hungry children.
This and other charges will be discussed with the Israeli Embassy here since some reduction at least was promised in Ashdod.
A book on the way?
I could write a book on our four days in Gaza, Khan Younis and Palestine - I probably will.
We found the folk resilient, philosophical, patient and determined. Their sense of humour and their warmth enveloped us.
The arrangements for the division of the food and its distribution were scrupulous and just as I had requested.
Coupons with a dove printed on them were being handed out to 2000 of the families with the most needy children in Gaza and Khan Younis.
The larger families were getting two or even three coupons.
They were pleased with the quality of the food, particularly the honey from South Devon, and I was pleased that another aim of mine was fulfilled.
The distribution of the woollen garments, blankets and the wool for weaving will take place more slowly.
I should add that many flags had been screen printed as I had arranged with Adli and the largest had the message 'With love from the Dove and the Dolphin and the people of Britain' followed by an appropriate translation in Arabic. Many smiles and warm handshakes followed.
Pictures tell the story
Phil will be getting all his stuff back from the BBC and will make a 25 minute documentary out of it. He intends to show this at the Phoenix Art Centre in Exeter in about a month and on a day when the schools of Devon have an art exhibition there.
I think it is likely to be very good and of course it will be available for other showings. Phil is going to select some of the most appropriate shots for the web site.
The Dove and The Dolphin will sail on.
It has a great deal going for it including its friendly and meaningful name. We are thinking hard about our future direction. It will certainly involve children.
We hope to get a lot of twinning going between primary and secondary schools in the Westcountry and Gaza as well as with the West Bank probably.
We may be able to assist the poorest children with materials and with the little fees that they cannot afford which stops them going to school.
Finally we will do our best to strengthen those bonds of friendship we have made already with the Palestinian people and to speak of their plight.
This will lead us to urge a just settlement for them which is the only way to peace in Palestine.
Warm welcome and a cardboard fire
We were given a warm welcome by everyone we met in Gaza, even though some had no idea why we were there.
We visited one large family, cooking their daily bread on a cardboard-fired stove on the path outside their house. There were twenty of us including the film crew, but in spite of the glaring poverty, everyone was given a piece of bread.
We visited a primary school and I was able to sing John Lennon’s “Imagine” to a class, all filmed by Sky TV, though I don’t know if it went out.
A school in Devon will be “twinned” with this school and, hopefully, more will follow.
One of the team who flew out to meet us, was responsible for filming all of our visit and a video is now being edited. It will have its first showing at The Phoenix Art Centre in Exeter and we will each have a copy to show in our own villages and to any group that expresses an interest.