After sailing for a day and a half from Scotland, including in turbulent waves in the Irish Sea, the Freedom Flotilla vessel Handala, sailing against the illegal and inhumane blockade of Gaza, arrived in Liverpool on Sunday 2 July, welcomed at the Liverpool lock by members of Liverpool Friends of Palestine with large Palestinian flags – what a welcome sight it was!
On July 3, 2023, Handala crew members participated in three excellent events organized by the Liverpool Friends of Palestine.
The first event had members of the City Council of Liverpool, two members of the Liverpool Fire Brigade and representatives of several Palestinian groups, who provided the Handala crew with a view of Palestine solidarity in Liverpool. Speakers shared why they stand in solidarity with Palestinians in their quest for equality and human rights.
At this meeting, the crew and passengers on Handala described the mission of the Freedom Flotilla and shared experiences of various flotillas. They thanked Captain Lee of Liverpool for captaining on short notice following Handala‘s “stranding” in the Caledonian canal in Scotland due to a broken swing bridge, resulting in a delayed Scottish departure, having to cancel our port visits to Glasgow and Dublin, and crew changes.
Two Palestinians in the audience had been on the 2008 Free Palestine Movement Boats to Gaza. Musheir El-Farra, the brother of Mona Al Farra of Middle East Children’s Alliance who lives in Gaza, was on one of the boats that got into Gaza! Ali, was on a boat that got 2 hours out of Nicosia when the engine stopped so his group did not get to Gaza but they too had spent several weeks in Nicosia preparing for the voyage.
In the afternoon we visited the oldest mosque in the United Kingdom which was founded by William Quilliam, a 32-year old lawyer and Methodist, who converted to Islam in 1887 and took the name of Abdullah. He founded the mosque in Liverpool in 1887. He converted other Protestants in the UK to Islam and by 1889 had converted 50 persons including the Anglican clergyman H.H. Johnson. He founded a boys orphanage and a girls school in Liverpool. He became well-known around the world for his humanitarian works and in 1894 was given the title of Sheikh al-Islam of the British Isles by the Caliph of Islam, Sultan Abdul Hameed II. After he left Liverpool, the mosque was used by the City of Liverpool and later fell into disrepair. The mosque has been revived and is now used by the Muslim community of Liverpool. Crew member Alex McDonald gave an explanation of the Gaza flotilla to those who attended the June 3 mid-day prayers.
In the evening Liverpool Friends of Liverpool hosted a community event with over 100 in attendance. The Socialist Choir opened the evening with a beautiful song of solidarity with Palestine. Palestinian Musheir El-Farra told of the continuing struggles of Palestinians and showed a short film about the Israeli targeting of medics during the Great March of Return. He also mentioned the 18 stories of people of Gaza that he has included in his book Gaza: When the Sky Rained White Fire. We had a moment of silence for those killed the day before when the Israeli military brutally attacked Jenin.
Dr EddIe told of the Liverpool International Transplant Initiative http://www.liverpooliti.com/ in which doctors from Liverpool have performed over 100 kidney transplants in Gaza since 2013 under very difficult conditions. He said that when they began the transplant program ten years ago 600 people in Gaza were having dialysis treatments 3 times a week. Now over 1200 people in Gaza require dialysis treatments!
The generous Liverpool Friends of Palestine events raised about 1200 pounds for the flotilla including a 500 pound donation from one of the city councilors!!!
Thanks to the Liverpool Friends of Palestine for their welcome to Handala and the mission of expanding awareness of the plight of Palestinians in face of ever increasing brutality by the state of Israel.