Couple to spend Christmas on Gaza convoy

For their Christmas vacation one Del Mar couple will be working to make a difference in a country far from home. Faith Attaguile, 63, and Larry Hampshire, 78, will join a Viva Palestina convoy of 250 vehicles to deliver medical, humanitarian and educational supplies to the residents of Gaza.

Viva Palestina, which was founded by a longtime member of the British parliament George Galloway, has already sent two convoys to the Gaza Strip this year. One in February was made up entirely of Europeans; a second in July was all Americans. The December trip involves American and European efforts.

“We’ve been very concerned about the situation between Israelis and Palestinians and how it can be resolved in a way that both parties are dealt with justly,” Attaguile said.

It will take 21 days, starting Dec. 6, for Attaguile to get to Gaza. The convoys will depart from London, pass through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece and Turkey. Hampshire will meet her in Istanbul on Dec. 15. Then they will head through Syria, Jordan and north along the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt, entering Gaza on Dec. 27.

The convoys will carry clothing, blankets, food, school supplies, first aid kits and hygiene materials.

“What Palestine needs to know is that people in the world sympathize with them and that they wish the fighting would stop,” Hampshire said.

The trip marks the one-year anniversary of the 22-day war between Gaza and Israel. During that conflict, which lasted from Dec. 28, 2008, to Jan. 18, 2009. Casualty reports are disputed but it is estimated 1,419 Palestinians were killed and 5,300 wounded; in Israel, 13 were killed. Homes, hospitals, schools, food production and construction industries in Gaza were destroyed.

Attaguile said that war was financed, in part, by financial contributions from the U.S. Last year the U.S. contributed $ 2.55 billion in aid. This year, President Barack Obama increased the amount to $2.75 billion.

“It’s really important to us to stand up and say ‘Not in our name, we disagree with this path,’ ” Attaguile said. “Especially in our country, where we can’t even find money for healthcare.”

Both Attaguile and Hampshire stress they are not anti-Israel, but against their policies that violate United Nations resolutions and the use of American money to finance their violence toward Palestinians.

The Gaza trip is not Attaguile or Hampshire’s first experience in activism. In the 1980s, Hampshire frequently took trips to Nicaragua to build schoolhouses. The pair met 11 years ago in the mountains of Guatemala, where they were both building schools for indigenous children.

The have already lined up speaking engagements for when they return from their trip.

After Gaza there will be more trips for the couple, no doubt.

“What’s life without adventure,” Attaguile said.

“There is always work to do,” Hampshire said.