A group of female activists from various countries and backgrounds have set sail from Barcelona to the Gaza Strip in an effort to end the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian enclave.
Sailing vessels Amal-Hope and Zaytouna-Oliva had moored at Bosch I Alsina dock in the port of Barcelona from September 12-14 and various events (concerts, talks, nonviolent workshops, a street parade and visits to the boats) were held to bid farewell to the women leaving to attempt to break the blockade on Gaza.
The women, numbering about 20, were given a warm farewell by the festive crowd, including Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau as they departed on Wednesday evening.
The organisers told the media the women should arrive in Gaza in early October, and their aim is to deliver food and medicine which is urgently needed.
"The Women's Boat to Gaza seeks not only to challenge the Israeli blockade but to also show solidarity and bring a message of hope to the Palestinian people," the organisers said on their website.
By launching a women’s boat, women from all over the world aim to highlight the undeniable contributions of Palestinian women who have been central within the Palestinian struggle.
Laura Arau, who is with Spain’s WBG partner, Rumba a Gaza, said the launch point from Barcelona has a special meaning for the community there and added, "we have been a sister city with Gaza since 1998, yet we have been unable to visit with one another, we want our sisters in Gaza to know they are not forgotten and that with these boats and women, we are sending to them our message of hope, love and solidarity."
Two boats will first stop at Ajaccio, France, and then make their way to another Western Mediterranean port before reaching the shores of Gaza in early October.
The passenger list for the first leg of the trip includes such names as Malin Bjork, a member of European Parliament from Sweden; Zohar Chamberlain Regev, an Israeli who currently resides in Spain; and Ann Wright, a retired US Army colonel and former US diplomat who resigned in 2003 to protest the invasion of Iraq.
Each leg of the journey will have different women participants representing over 15 countries.
Chamberlain Regev, who chairs WBG’s steering committee has said, "While we come from very different cultural and professional backgrounds, we all share a common bond. We find the blockade of Gaza and the occupation of Palestine absolutely unacceptable."
But tragedy struck in a similar protest in 2010, ships carrying aid to the Gaza were raided by Israeli soldiers resulting in the deaths of 10 Turkish activists.
According to a 2015 World Bank report, since Israel imposed the blockade to put pressure on Gaza's governing Hamas party nearly a decade ago, Gaza’s gross domestic product has been cut in half and it now has the highest unemployment rate in the world. Gazans cannot leave the enclave without special travel permits and face extreme difficulty in acquiring even the most basic necessities.