Amira Hass / How we busted the naval siege on Gaza
'Previous successful trips encouraged people to donate, making purchase of our 240,000 euro vessel possible.'
Saturday morning, 7:25 A.M., about 40 kilometers west of the Gaza Strip we discovered that we were led by a different ship than we previously hasd been. Within a few minutes, our suspicions that it was actually a Israel Navy vessel were confirmed when it identified itself to us through its loud speaker system.
It asked which port we set sail from and 15 minutes later asked us to report the names of the passengers aboard.
"That is not necessary," our vessel, part of the Free Gaza Movement, responded. "You can find our names on the internet and also make a donation."
The movement's previous successful attempt to sail to Gaza from Cyprus encouraged people to donate money, allowing our vessel to be purchased for 240,000 euros.
A few minutes later the voice coming from the Israel Navy vessel was heard again.
"Have a nice day," it said. "You too," we responded. We would be allowed to sail to Gaza. No surprise as the organizers had reached an agreement with the Israel Defense Forces because it justly realized preventing us from passing would only damage Israel's image.
At our port of call a fleet of different sized sailing ships awaited us and their sailors waved at us and shed tears. On the shores, crowds of people lined up. So many beards, I thought looking at the men and the changes brought about by Hamas' takeover of the Gaza Strip.
There are still no conclusions on Gaza. Hamas has not removed photos of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas from some walls. Surpassingly, we were handed out black and white maps of Palestine.
On the map, Gaza and the West Bank were colored in black. Only two little black marks.