Where did the journey begin that led to my husband, former NDP MP Jim Manly, accepting the invitation to be the Canadian on board the Estelle, the Freedom Flotilla boat sailing for Gaza to break the blockade?

Our decision was a joint one, a result of 53 years of working together as a team and supporting each other in both individual and joint pursuits. When Jim and I first met, I was attracted to his sense of humour, his ability to think “outside the box”, and the fact he did not fit my stereotype of clergy! After all these years, we still make each other laugh and are still able to surprise each other.

Another thing drew me to Jim: he has the courage to follow his convictions and the guts to act on them—even when these actions are unpopular. He is also one of the least confrontational people I know.

Over the years, Jim and I have worked together on many justice and human-rights issues. We are grateful to the Haisla people of Kitamaat, with whom we spent the first four years of our married life and whose friendships and influence we continue to cherish, for opening our eyes to the issues facing First Nations people and other indigenous peoples. This led indirectly to our involvement with many other human-rights struggles: those of the Mexican American farm workers, the refugees from the coup in Chile, the people of Nicaragua and El Salvador, the Maya of Guatemala, and refugees from Colombia and Nigeria among other places. It also led to our involvement in church sanctuary for refugees, refugee sponsorship, and accompaniment of people facing death threats. Through all this we avoided the issue of Palestine/Israel, accepting the line that “it is too complex”, too divisive, and likely to alienate friends.

So, people ask, when and how did that change? Well, our knowledge of the issue grew gradually till we were finally impelled to action when we read Drinking the Sea at Gaza by Amira Haas, the Israeli journalist who lived in Gaza and reported for the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. We heard Jeff Halper, founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, and for the first time we began to understand the true nature of the “Separation Wall”, known among Palestinians as the “Annexation Wall”. We learned all we could on the issue (much of it written by Jewish Israelis) and became active locally in helping form Mid-Islanders for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, a group that includes several members of the Jewish community, and more recently in the United Network for a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel. We participated in a Pilgrimage of Solidarity, visiting some of the growing number of both Israelis and Palestinians who work together for a just and peaceful future for all. They inspire us to work with them.

In all the years I have known Jim, he has avoided the limelight (strange for someone who went into politics). It was only his strong sense of the importance of engaging with this issue that led him to agree to put his name forward. He is on the Estelle to bring attention to the suffering of the Palestinians of Gaza.

He is there out of a commitment to human rights and social justice. He is there in the hope that his action will bring awareness to his fellow Canadians about what is being done to the Palestinians in the name of Israeli security.

He is there in the hope that his actions may bring Canadian members of Parliament from all parties, but especially the NDP, the “party of conscience”, and particularly the younger generation of NDP MPs who were elected with the hope for change, to break the walls of silence and speak out.

Jim is on board the Estelle, and if there was room for another Canadian I would be there with him. There is no other place I would rather be now. May he come home safe.

Eva Manly of Nanaimo is married to retired NDP MP and United Church minister Jim Manly, who is sailing to challenge the Gaza blockade. For updates, see the Gaza’s Ark website.