“We’re here today so the people of Gaza know that they do not stand alone. And we will not stop until we see justice and peace,” Sandra Ruch told the crowd that assembled Sunday across the street from the Israeli Consulate in Toronto.

On Sunday, 1,360 people from 43 countries around the world gathered in Cairo, where they’ll travel to the Gaza strip and plan to march arm-in-arm Thursday with 50,000 supporters in the Gaza Freedom March.

“End the siege,” shouted the crowd. “Justice and peace for Palestine.”

But the Egyptian government, said Ruch, “is doing everything they can to stop the March, stopping people from gathering in groups over six.”

Some members of the International Gaza Freedom March have already been detained for arrest. “But they are not going to stop,” she said. “Like us they will continue to march for an end to the siege.”

A year ago, Israel began its numerous attacks on Gaza, eventually killing over 1,400 innocent men, women and children.

As a Jewish woman, Ruch reminded the crowd that this is not her Judaism. “My Judaism is healing the world,” she said. “I taught that never again meant never again for anybody.”

This is also the Judaism for other Jews who stood at the corner of Avenue Road and Bloor on Sunday, as well as those who are gathering in Cairo to march to Gaza.

“It’s time for us to heal the memory of the Holocaust, to stop being held hostage to the memory of the Holocaust, to move ahead and be good citizens of the world, to say never again for anybody,” said Ruch, Canadian Coordinator for the Gaza Freedom March. “Speaking out against the Israeli government that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism.”

She said, “It’s our right to speak out against the Israeli government just as it is our right to speak out against the Canadian government, the U.S. government and the European Union because every country has blood on its hands.”

Ruch has visited the Gaza twice this year. She’s seen the destruction and the families forced to live in tents. Standing outside on Sunday as the cold winds whipped her face, Ruch couldn’t help but think about the cold and the rain that Palestinians are forced to endure in Gaza because the blockade has seriously hampered rebuilding efforts.

“We will end the siege and rebuild Gaza,” she said. “The sewage system is failing, fresh water is becoming harder to obtain and many foods are banned from Gaza.”

But the people in Gaza want more than humanitarian aid. They want their freedom too.

“Free, free Palestine,” chanted the crowd.

An organizer with the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA), Mary-Jo Nadeau said that “key Palestinian activists are being arrested” and “Israeli state repression of Palestinian activists is on the rise.”

She said, “We need to make the connection between the war on Gaza and these ongoing imprisonments.”

Born in Gaza, Hammam Farah is a member of Students Against Israeli Apartheid at York University. His family struggles through the Israeli siege yet managed to survive last year’s attacks on his homeland.

“It seems as though the world has forgotten,” he said, as inaudible chants from pro-Israeli supporters across the street echoed in the background. “The powerful remain silent as $4.5 billion dollars in aid to repair the infrastructure of Gaza are frozen in place and that Israel continues to deny the entry of even the most basic supplies.”

Although today’s marchers remember what happened in the Gaza a year ago, Farah said, “There are times when remembering simply isn’t enough.

We can boycott, we can divest and we can pressure sanctions.”

Click here to see more photos from the march. 

John Bonnar

John Bonnar is an independent journalist producing print, photo, video and audio stories about social justice issues in and around Toronto.