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In solidarity with the Gaza delegation

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I was so excited when I received an email from a friend about joining a delegation of women to travel to the Gaza Strip for International Women's Day. I felt it would be a wonderful opportunity for me to be able to meet Palestinian women and peace activists from different cultures and different religions. It would also be an excellent opportunity to share, in a very different way, the suffering of many women, children and families who saw their houses destroyed, their loved ones disappeared under the bombs and the rubbles.

The recent three-week war on Gaza, in which more than 1,300 Palestinians were killed, including at least 346 children, was covered daily in the media and the passion and feeling ran high. It now seems that everyone forgot about it and, unfortunately, we barely hear anything about the ongoing suffering of the population now that there is a fragile cease fire.

I said to myself it would be my own small human contribution to create some pressure on Israel and the International community in order to open the border crossings so that aid can start entering and helping the population. As many Canadians, I felt so desperate during the war watching the degree of destruction and horror of the war and felt so disappointed that Canada didn't throw its weight as break dealer for peace but instead chose an almost passive approach. But amidst my excitement, I came to forget that on March 6, one day after I was supposed to leave with the delegation, I had a speaking engagement at Brescia College in London, Ontario to speak for International Women's Day. The dilemma started and for almost a week I was torn apart about cancelling my speech in London or leaving early with the delegation to Gaza.

But after a long reflection and many attempts to find an early flight so I can be part of the group, I opted for doing things properly and not overwhelming myself with many commitments at the same time and after all who knows there will be more opportunities in the future to raise awareness about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. So I ended up staying in Canada to fulfil my prior commitment.

Yes indeed, I missed an opportunity to meet an amazing group of people. Most are coming from the United States but also from Canada, Australia, France and other countries. Unfortunately, I will not be able to join this diverse group of participants. Yes, I will not be able to meet with Palestinian NGOs, women and some of the population affected by this violent conflict nor hear and watch on the ground the degree of devastation. But, the delegation will be in my heart and prayers everyday and I will be so eager to hear from the participants once they are back here and we can think together on how to help bring some relief but also push and lobby for a just peace in the Middle East.

Monia Mazigh is the author of Hope and Despair: My struggle to Free My Husband Maher Arar published by McClelland and Stuart in 2008. She lives in Ottawa.

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