Hi Harper Bubby Loves You

Harper in just a few days you will be 17 months old!! You are growing and learning and laughing and loving. This week you had a sleepover at Bubby’s house and tonight you are sleeping at Grandma’s. You love a good adventure and you adapt so quickly because you know how much you are loved. This month was Halloween and you dressed up as Snow White for your online music class with Miss Josie from Music Together in the Village.

Snow white
Snow White and Peppa Pig
Unicorn

There is a still a pandemic and we don’t get to go to places like libraries, community centres or have play dates with friends but we are still having a lot of fun. This past week we went to Riverdale Farm where we saw some different animals. We also had a visit with Aunt Paula and we had a walk in the park with Kenana. On Wednesdays now you go to Grandma’s for dinner and you have your bath there too.

Checking out the turkeys at Riverdale Farm

You still sit on the potty but you haven’t had a pee pee this month but we don’t care, it’s just fun to sit and ask for a piece of toilet paper and give your little potty a flush. You are aware now of when you go poo poo. You have started squatting and once this month you even went inside your castle tent to go poo in your diaper. When I ask if you have poo poo in your diaper you put your hands on your stomach and do a little squeezing action. I admit we have a lot of pee pee, poo poo talk but your Mommy always appreciated a good poo poo conversation.

You still love your food and Bubby delights in you sounds of enjoyment – mmmmmm, mmmmmm, mmmmmm!!!! you love to show your delight with a little wiggle and a big smile and sounds of enjoyment!!!!! You had clementines this month and you really love them. You love fresh fruit and Bubby finds it fun to follow the seasons and introduce you to new ones. Other favourite foods? Eggs (omelettes, hard boiled, fried or poached), cheese ( cheddar or marble slices, herb and garlic creamed cheese, feta and cottage cheese), oatmeal porridge, muffins (pumpkin, almond, and the cornmeal ones that Auntie Paula makes for you, peanut butter sandwiches, You and I were both crazy for some chocolate cookies I made with bananas and almond flour! Yummm. You were having none of the sauerkraut I had you taste and this week you didn’t like shredded raw carrots but you loved the carrots in the chicken soup with matzoh balls. You eat your broccoli and you love sweet potatoes and peas.

Oatmeal porridge
Egg salad on toast
Cottage cheese
Dinner at Bubby’s – hamburger, french fries and peas.

You’ve had a lot of teething issues – you’ve had rosey cheeks and been extra cuddly. You have some very beautiful teeth and an incredible smile.

Big smile photo by Kim Lovell

You are a great sleeper – 12 hours every night and a 3 hour nap every afternoon. I ask are you ready for a nap and you head to your bowl of clean soothers, take one and head right to your bed. You rub your hair, look up at me and wait patiently while I turn on your sound machine and shut your curtains. One week every time I came in your room to get you up, I found your stuffies lined up. One morning I caught you in action.

You still like helping around the house. You like to mop. dust, do laundry and put clothes in and out of drawers.

Mopping the floor, you then bend down to straighten the mat. Bubby’s helper.

Harper, you love books a lot. Lately you can sit on my knee and listen to me read 4 in row. You had me read Alice in Wonderland from beginning to end. You sit right down to read any new book that comes into the house. You play with a mason jar that was your Mommy’s. You can sit quietly putting straws in the little wholes in the lid for a long time every morning. Mommy used the jar for her homemade scrubbing powder. After breakfast every morning you sit in your armchair and watch Peppa Pig while Bubby finishes her coffee. We get a big kick about touching my mug and saying Hot! Owww!

Mason jar and straws

A typical playtime in your play room starts with you playing in your oatmeal/pasta mixture, then your wee refrigerator with the plastic groceries. You pretend to eat and it makes us both laugh when we both have our pretend ice cream cones. You like to colour or paint, build with your blocks, play a little hockey, get in and out of your little red car and when you are done you start up the stairs signaling me that we are done.

playtime mixture of pastas, oatmeal and rice
Picasso
What?? Daddy brought my little red car inside???

What makes you laugh? When I eat your toes every time I change your diaper. When I chase you calling out that I am the tickle monster. When I get on my hands and knees and crawl after you. You have a big hearty delicious laugh that makes my heart sing. This month we had a professional photo shoot with Kim Lovell. What a gift!!!

We love to get outside everyday for a good walk – sometimes we drive to a park, often play in your fabulous back yard or walk in your neighbourhood and go to one of the many parks. You love running after squirrels. You like to pick up twigs, stones and leaves. You like to smell flowers. Actually you love smelling things. Your mommy had an incredible sense of smell. Maybe you will too!

Joanna and Arnold, Allen Gardens, February 2020

Joanna and Arnold

We had the honour and pleasure of having Sandra Ruch officiate our wedding ceremony and could not have asked for a more delightful person. She was very professional and easy to communicate with leading up to the wedding. She offered a great deal of insight and flexibility with the ceremony, especially since we planned our wedding in a very short amount of time. Her energy radiated and filled the room during the ceremony, and we laughed plenty. We also received a compliment from our photographer that Sandra was great at finding the perfect spots to be in/out of photos, which is a skill I never expected! She surpassed all our expectations and we loved working with her. We would absolutely recommend Sandra for all your officiating needs!

Joanna & Arnold, February 2020

Alice and Melanie

Sandra Ruch was everything, and more we thought she would be. Our ceremony was personable and fun. We had an island theme and she dressed for the part. She had everyone’s attention and several people told us after the ceremony that they even cried, with how beautiful it was. We had a cross section of family and friends at our wedding and EVERY single one of them commented on Sandra’s officiating. Thank you Sandra! With much love….Alice & Melanie February 2020

Mom, you’ve got this: Words from beyond.

I miss Tovah so much.  I love hearing her friends tell stories about her.  I love talking about her with her sister and with anyone who knew her.  I love the stories and I love the pictures and I love the memories.  There are so many things I want to write about and so much I need to excavate for myself and it fills me up to get such wonderful feedback from those who knew her and from those who knew her from my stories.

I met with a medium last week.  She was recommended to me by a womyn I have known for many years and who is a member of the London Spiritualist Church.    I love visiting that church and have attended services from time to time over the past 20 years. I had a deep longing to connect with Tovah.

Lorraine is the spiritualist I worked with. We spoke by phone. She started telling me that she saw someone in ministerial garb around me – someone from way back – dressed in a brown tunic -like a monk.  His hands are in prayer and his head is bowed. He is praying over me.  She then said there is a woman around me with grandmother energy from my mother’s side.  My grandmother is telling me that things are happening but I shouldn’t let them bother me and to think of things happening as a puzzle and take a piece away to see the whole.  She told me that there are 2 younger people and 1 older person around me that are causing me trouble right now.  She told me that I am good at getting people to do things but I’m very good at just doing things for myself. She told me that these current problems are someone else’s responsibility and not mine.  She reminded me that we teach people how to treat us by how we treat them.

I then interrupted Lorraine to say I want to make contact with someone who had recently passed.  Lorraine then said she is smiling and she is standing behind your grandmother.  She has a healing process to go through.  She is so thankful to have had you as a friend.  I felt annoyed and said I was her mother.  Lorraine said but it seems she considered you a best friend.  She says that she is sorry she didn’t listen to you more. She wishes she had been a little smarter and that we didn’t always agree.  She heard everything you have said and says,  “Right back at you, Mom.”  I liked that because all I have been saying is Tovah, I miss you so much and wish you were here to raise your baby and to be with us.

Lorraine continued to talk about Tovah.  She says that Tovah was very clever and she achieved quite a lot.  She doesn’t have any regrets.  It was all part of her life lessons.  The monk is bringing her serenity.

Lorraine then asks me if Tovah was creative.  Lorraine said Tovah is showing her some of her artwork and that she is wanting me to look at it.  I assumed it was the pottery that she made in school and the painting of the butterfly that Raya has in her home.  Yesterday Raya and I went through a large container and in it we found a bag that neither of us knew about  with a sticker on it, “Artwork Do Not Bend”.  It must be from her studies at Beal Secondary school.  I went through the work and found a cloth with a woman on it that I have to assume is a self portrait.  Beautiful! I also found an old ring of mine that I must have given to Tovah.

self portrait
Tovah’s artwork

Lorraine now tells me that Tovah loved music and she wants me to listen to music.  She wants me to know that there are a lot of songs especially country music that resonated with her and that would be good for me.  Lorraine tells me there is a song by John Montgomery about a little girl hiding behind the couch and that her father killed her mother.  (I grew up in a violent home and this frightened little girl speaks to me.)  Tovah wants me to know that we are never alone.

Tovah has 3 ancestors around her right now and 3 angels.  Lorraine was clear about one being my grandmother and then described a man that I am certain is my father.  She said he has dark brown hair (not black) that is greying around a bit but he cuts it really short so you don’t really notice it.  He used a product called Vitalis and I think it made his brown hair appear much darker. I asked if there is another man there.  Remember she is doing this reading from me and she says that I have 14 ancestors with me.  She says there is and that he is 6 foot 3 or 4.  She says he is showing her 3 and then 4 fingers.  I never knew Hassan, my second husband, exact height.  I always say he was 6”3 or 4.  I know he is there.

Lorraine says that Tovah felt she was well looked after and was ready to go.  She decided that she had had enough.

She asked if Tovah had a sister.  She said she is holding a lot in and that I should encourage her to talk.  She said she has some concern that this will happen to her as well.  At this point Lorraine, while talking about Tovah’s sister, said she herself was having an overwhelming feeling of wanting to cry and told me that she had lost 2 younger sisters.

Tovah wanted me to know that she married Wesley because she really loved him. She said that I (SandraLaya) am following my heart and I am doing what she asked me to do.  She’s very pleased that I am determined to have things go as she wanted them to go.  She is confident that she asked the right person.

Lorraine now asks if there is a baby.  She says the sister (Raya) will be very instrumental in influencing the baby (Harper).  She told me to watch the baby and when she looks up and starts jabbering, she is talking to her Mom.  The hardest part for Tovah was leaving the baby.  She stayed longer and endured more for that reason.  She wanted to stay and love her as long as she could.  She realizes now she can still watch over her. My grandmother said that she is teaching her to do what she did when she crossed over.

Lorraine then asked if someone has lost a baby.  I told her that Raya had.  Raya’s son Henry Oliver was still born almost 9 years ago. She tells me that the baby is with Tovah.  He’s going to be close to Harper.

Finally she told me to watch for hummingbirds.  Tovah said, “Mom you’ve got this”. Thanks, Baby girl.

Our Life in our Magickal Cottage

Raya, Tovah and I lived in a little white cottage in London, Ontario for 10 years. It was not fancy.  I couldn’t afford any upgrades but I also didn’t want any.  I adored our wee bathroom with the wood paneling that resembled a sauna and our tiny clawfoot tub that I could comfortably soak in because I’m only 5 foot 2. I loved our country style kitchen with no counter space and no fan above the stove.  Tovah was constantly annoyed with me for broiling chicken without closing her bedroom door making her room and her clothes smell of chicken.  It still makes me smile.

Early in 1990 I sold our 3 story duplex.  I couldn’t afford the repairs and upkeep on the house.  We rented a lovely 3 bedroom home in the neighbourhood. With the sale of the house, I paid off all our debts, bought a new (to us) car and we spent the whole summer in Norway.  That is another story for another time.  We were in the rental only a year when the owner put the house up for sale and the next year was spent with real estate agents looking at our home, open houses and all that entails.  A whole year of it!!

One day I was sitting in my taxi – yup, I was driving a taxi full time that year.  I just didn’t have the capacity to work in a normal workplace environment.  I needed a break from bosses, corporate culture and all the BS that came with it.  So I’m in my taxi and I say a prayer.  “God, I need a house that my girls and I can live in until they graduate high school.  It has to be in the South Secondary School district.”  South had a great reputation as one of the best high schools in the city with about 95% of the graduates going on to post secondary schools.  That was my goal for my daughters.  I opened up the newspaper (that’s what we did in 1994) and there was a little ad “Rent to Own”, 3 bedrooms, Old South.  I called immediately.  Where is the house located?  It was exactly where I needed it – within the school district parameter. I’ll take it, I said.  The owner asked if I had seen it yet.  Nope.  He insisted that I go and look first and call him back.  I was annoyed since it meant checking out of work to go look and losing money that we desperately needed.  

I drove across town to find this adorable little white cottage.  I walked through to find 3 bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and a bathroom.  The basement was dry and clean and completely unfinished.  The backyard was ginormous!!! There was a long driveway and an old wooden garage.  Perfection!!!!!!!  I called him back and we arranged to meet at 4pm.  He told me the monthly mortgage amount – same as I was paying at the other house.  He said if I paid on time every month, he would get me a bank mortgage.  I found that very unlikely but a year later his wife cosigned for a mortgage and the house was really mine.  We lived there for 10 years. 

Our magical cottage

 The other miraculous thing he mentioned was that he knew we would want to paint and fix the house up so he would give me the keys right then and there.  We weren’t supposed to start paying for 2 months.  He said he didn’t live in town and he only asked if I was going to be there often to switch the utilities to my name!!  Later that day I called our landlord and gave notice asking if we could move in 1 month.  I had not put up a security deposit and there was no last month rent paid.  They called me back an hour later and asked if I would consider moving out earlier.  The end of the month was a week away.  I quickly agreed.  2 months without paying rent gave me the down payment I needed.  The next week was a whirlwind of cleaning and painting our new house, moving everything and cleaning up the old house.  I was working 12 hour shifts six days a week at the time.  My best friend Alice, Raya, Tovah and I became painters.  I bought our paint on the backroom shelf at the paint store for $5 a gallon.  Raya was about 14 years old and Tovah was 11.  We had our house and I had my miracle.  I chose fun colours – forest green for the living room, yellow for the kitchen, a green for my bedroom,  yellow in Raya’s and turquoise in Tovah’s.  A few years later it was evident that the colours were bothering Tovah and we painted her room and the living room white.  It was an instant attitude change for her.  

It’s a rainy summer afternoon today and it just reminded of similar hot and muggy days in our cottage home where I would sit out on the porch under the aluminum awning (listening to the sound of rain) stretched out on a papasan chair that I probably scavenged from the street. I loved finding things out on the street and bringing them home –  I still love a good find.  “Is that garbage?” brought a smile to all of us.  I once embarrassed Tovah because I took old railway ties that were out in front of the home of one of her friends.  They were there to be taken but Tovah was having none of it. Mom, how could you do that??  I found a child’s swimming pool and dug out a pond using the railway ties as a little walkway to it.  Hmmmm, wish I had a photo of that. Eventually I spent money on a pond liner.  I put in some goldfish and just loved this space.  I also had a hammock.  Memories that I am recreating on my little balcony here in Toronto.  Memories that bring Tovah into my space and hold her in my memory.

I can feel her here today as I can feel the humid summer air on my skin.  I have chicken cooking on a little indoor grill.  I would often grill chicken on an old gas barbecue that I inherited but I would fill it with charcoal because I also have a fear (like my fear of birds) of propane tanks.  I love summer so much and I hate using air conditioning after spending most of the year being cold.  This was an ongoing argument in our little house.  One day I came home to find an air conditioner in the kitchen window.  My girls had asked their father for one and he had come over and installed it for them.  Both their bedrooms opened onto the kitchen and this gave them the cool air they wanted.  I closed the door between the kitchen and living room where my bedroom door was.  Open windows and a fan!!! Summer breeze!  Summer bliss!

One summer I bought an above ground pool that was on sale at Canadian tire.  The upper rim was inflatable and you only needed to fill the pool from the outdoor hose and it took shape and we had a nice sized 3 foot pool.  At night the girls and I would wrap ourselves in sarongs and go out into the backyard – no lights on – and slip into the pool completely nude.  We’d swim around, talk, laugh and cool off.  Then into the house for a comfortable night’s sleep.  The girls with a bit of air conditioning and me with fresh air from my window.  

I remember one day I smudged the house with sage to clear the energy.  I don’t remember what was going on at the time but it felt like something that needed to be done.  I learned smudging when I had a contract facilitating a women’s group at the Oneida Community.  I have adopted it as part of my own practice since then.  Tovah came home from high school – the house was sparkling clean because that’s what I had been doing all afternoon.  Tovah was furious because she was certain that I had been smoking marijuana.  She wouldn’t believe that it was sage.  It’s funny because I don’t like marijuana (it makes me paranoid and is not fun).  There was no changing her mind or convincing her.  Tovah could have some very strong opinions.  For instance she was also absolutely certain that I ate raw ground beef. She swore she saw me do it!!   I never did but I did marinate steak and would eat it raw while putting it on the skewers to grill.  Just last year she was still convinced that I ate raw ground beef.  

At one point Raya lost her wallet.  She looked everywhere.  We all looked for it but we couldn’t find it.  One early evening Raya came into the living room and asked if I would use my pendulum and see if we could locate the missing wallet.  I felt it was worth a try but didn’t have much faith in the process.  I spun the pendulum – clearing the energy and asking for guidance.  All of a sudden Tovah comes barreling out of her bedroom and runs into Raya’s room.  We here some crashing and banging and then Tovah yelling, “I found it!”.  She had the wallet in her hand.  She said that she was sitting on her bed and out of nowhere she could see the missing wallet in her mind.  It was in Raya’s room tucked back behind a solid wood bookshelf.  That was my magickal daughter.

I asked Raya today what Tovah would have been doing in her room.  I realized that kids didn’t have the electronics they have today.  Raya said Tovah would try on clothes, play around with make up, do her hair and that she was always listening to music and both singing and dancing.  That’s my Tovah.  Raya asked Tovah’s friend Heather the same question and she said that Tovah talked on the phone ( we had a portable one).  She remembered Tovah’s comforter – white with jelly beans on it.  She didn’t think Tovah spent a lot of time in her room.  We often watched television together.  We ate dinner together almost every day.  Raya, Tovah and Mom – we were invincible, inseparable and we always had each other’s back.

Raya, Tovah and Mom in our little white cottage home

Visit From the Other Side

I have an irrational fear of birds.  I’ve had it as long as I can remember.  I have never seen the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds”.  I’ve just always been afraid. It’s silly and irrational but it is what it is.  I especially think they are going to attack my head and ears!! That will explain my plan to solve this dilemna. 

My daughter Tovah was with me in October, 2006 when I found my apartment.  She looked out the window and said that it was perfect for me since the balcony was completely netted and would keep out the birds.  We always joked that her eyes were like x-ray eyes – nothing got past her.  This sealed the deal and I signed the contract.  I love it here.  Eventually Tovah met Wesley and moved near me which was an added blessing.  She loved this Beach neighbourhood as much as I did.

After Tovah died, people including her sister Raya, said that she was visiting them as a Robin.  A robin came up to Raya and sat at her feet squawking loudly at her.  I have never heard of a squawking Robin.  I said she wouldn’t come to me as a bird because she knows how irrationally afraid I am.  Raya said that she thought she would anyway.

Just a week ago, I met with a spiritualist.  I truly believe that she made contact with Tovah.  I will write more about it soon.  She told me that Tovah wanted me to watch for hummingbirds  – especially the way they flap their wings wildly and don’t move.  There is a message there for me.  I have visited a butterfly conservatory and they also had hummingbirds.  At first I didn’t think I could go in but in the end I did and found that the hummingbirds didn’t frighten me. I was sure that this was the bird that my girl would visit me as.  I was wrong.

This morning I found a robin on my 100 square foot balcony.  Inside!!! Pacing on the railing.  Sitting on my hammock! Flying around!!  Trapped!!! I didn’t know what to think or what to do!!!  I texted Raya and my brother Peter.  Help!  What should I do???

A few days after Tovah died, I woke at 2am and felt an incredible urge to sit on my balcony.  I felt compelled  to sit there day after day bundled up in blankets with warm furry slippers that both Tovah and I loved.  I started making my balcony my haven and I have spent hours there.  One of Tovah’s friends gave me a gift card and I used it to buy a hammock.  I bundled up and laid and rocked in it since late in April.  I often nap in it or sleep a few hours in the night.  I feel closest to my baby girl when I am on my balcony.  

This morning I found that robin – trapped and afraid.  My anxiety was over the top!! What should I do?  I wanted to do this on my own.  Face my fears.  Be brave.  My brother suggested a broom to gently nudge the bird up to rip in the netting.  Raya suggested getting someone to help or to contact my building manager.  She reminded me that the wee bird was also very afraid.  A good friend then  called me out of the blue and agreed that she could come around noon to help.  That was 3 hours away.  So what should I do?

I decided to try.  First –  a hat to protect my head.  I had a large floppy brimmed hat that belonged to Tovah. 

The floppy brimmed protection hat

I then took out my Priestess Pom Poms that had been given to each womyn in my cohort at our ordination last summer. 

Then I prayed.  I stepped out on the balcony waving my Pom Poms and she flapped her wings.  I moved toward the end where the opening was and waved upwards and out she flew!!!!!!!!!  The whole thing was less than 30 seconds.

Warrior Priestess

I miss you Baby Girl.  I love you.

Sara and Kellie

Sara and Kellie

Sandra Ruch was a wonderful, warm and engaged officiant at our simple marriage ceremony. She knew how to strike the right tone. The vows that she suggested were perfectly attuned to our feelings for each other. We invited her to join us after our celebration because we felt that she was a friend as well as an officiant.

Sara & Kellie Nov 2019

Christian and Amanda

Christian & Amanda

Sandra Ruch was professional and warm and exceeded our expectations. She gently walked us through all the decisions and choices that we had, she helped make our ceremony personable and unique. We would recommend her to anyone. Christian & Amanda September 2019

Inspiring Front Line Activism- Building Hope for Palestine

By: Tiffany Goskey, August 2, 2012

A couple Tuesdays back, I had the opportunity to sit down with Sandra Ruch, an international human rights activist, Coordinator for the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, and a member of the Gaza’s Ark Steering Committee .

Sandra Ruch

Since 2004, she has been heavily involved in human rights work, advocating for the rights of the Palestinian people. Her involvement in social justice activities started with helping new immigrants become established in Canada. But, it was her experience in Palestine that sparked her passion for anti-occupation and anti-Zionist activism. Her involvement became very personal as the events she witnessed conflicted with her views of Judaism.

All her life Sandra was a Zionist activist, leader of a Zionist youth group at 13, later as a member of an adult Zionist organization and as a Hebrew Sunday school teacher. After WWII – Israel became the safe place for the Jewish people to reside. She whole heartedly believed in the rhetoric. Essentially, Zionists believe that Israel should be there for the Jewish people – and they don’t see it as a racist statement.

Sandra was born 8 years after Israel became a country and so it made sense to her. She believed that the army was there to protect. As a woman of faith, she thought the Israeli government were following the principles of Judaism: healing the world, acts of loving kindness, and obligations of charity. Additionally, the Ten Commandments are fundamental in Judaism – such as condemning killing. Sandra lived in Palestine for 2 years and witnessed a total disregard for human rights. She saw crimes against humanity; murder and theft by the Israeli army.

Because Sandra saw it personally – she can speak about the things she experienced. She was appalled by the human rights violations and the lack of respect for humanity. It was the catalyst for her work – however, she would fight for anything that disregards human rights and disrespects humanity. She has focused on this area because it is directly related to her personal experience living in Palestine.

Her work and life is now for the Palestinian people. The ones displaced in the diaspora and in Palestine. But, this dedication has created a riff with her siblings as they no longer speak to Sandra. She has lost much of her spiritual family as it has been difficult to find a temple for support. Many Zionists cannot understand why she engages in this type of work. Additionally, the arrest in Greece on the last trip with the Canadian Boat to Gaza could have resulted in jail time for 3 years. These events coupled by Sandra’s 2 year absence have been very trying on her family.

Although, many within the anti-occupation community have become her new brothers and sisters, she acknowledges the sacrifices that must be made in order to continue with her work. She is not afraid to be arrested – but outside of the activist community it is sometimes difficult to understand this level of commitment.

The most important element in whatever you are working on, be it activism or something related to your passion, Sandra believes you should follow your own heart. You must do what you need to do. Live authentically. You can never please everyone – so you must do what you think is right for yourself, and the rest will follow. Sometimes life is not an easy road, but when you overcome the barriers, and stay on the journey, your life will be meaningful and full of hope.

Sandra’s triumphs are in every aspect of her work. These triumphs have fueled her passion and continual commitment to this cause. Just starting a project and seeing it to completion is a personal triumph.

In 2005, the Women in Black, a world-wide network of women committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence, had a conference in Jerusalem. There were 700 female participants from around the world. It highlighted the occupation but didn’t make the news. However, it was such a powerful and meaningful experience to be around so many brilliant women who came to share their perspective on the occupation.

The next triumph came when the movement planned the Gaza Freedom March and 1500 people came to Cairo to attend the march. The Egyptian government locked them down – but they worked together. It was a catalyst for the movement. Then after the massacre of the Mavi – they went to the street and started a hunger strike in front of the Israeli consulate in Toronto. Every media in Toronto came out to cover it. It was a great awareness event. Did it take 9 people to be murdered? Yes, but it got the word out about the atrocities. Within a month, they announced the Canadian Boat to Gaza. Massacre on the Mavi – was in May 2010. They announced the boat in June/July – raised $400,000 even though the original goal was $300,000.

Sandra went to Greece, figured how to buy a boat, and hired a captain who happened to be the first one to break the siege. Then she arranged for the 47 people to attend. She coordinated the logistics while in Greece – hired lawyers, listened to Greek partners – there were a lot of sleepless nights worrying about the decisions made.

Through these experiences Sandra has learned that every person must truly believe in the work they do. Then connect with people who have strengths in different areas to build upon your passion. She states that they were the only boat to get out of Greece. They made it to Turkey and then sailed to Gaza. The difference this time is that they are going to refurbish and build the boat in Gaza – which is why Gaza’s Ark is such an apt name for the project.

Essentially, the issue is that Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade for over five years.  This means that the local fishers cannot feed their families or fish for trade. According to International law – Palestinians would have the rights to 12 nautical miles from shore. The Israeli government would only allow 6 miles. But, since the massacre, it is only 3 miles. This water is overfished, polluted, and their infrastructure is collapsing. Now the fishermen – are putting high powered lights on their boats to attract the fish. But, it is super dangerous – one person has been electrocuted. The Israeli army has been known to shoot anyone within 1 in a half mile off the shore.

Is the UN doing anything? Not really. According to Sandra, John Ging from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency has made statement after statement but not much has been done. The Gaza’s Ark team know their boat will be captured again. But, it’s the statement they are trying to broadcast to the world – to demonstrate how Israel is not supporting the Palestinian people and making up their own rules. For example, the Tahrir was in international waters when it was captured last year. It was brought over to Israel. The authorities made their team say that they entered Israeli waters illegally when they didn’t.

The Israeli government tells the world that Palestinians want to kill all the Israeli’s. This is absolutely untrue. The Israeli government enforces what food items can go in and out of Palestine, and what people can eat – essentially they have put them on a collective diet. Some items such as chocolate and tomato sauce have been banned. It’s a form of oppression.

Gaza’s Ark will carry local trade items, and distribute them to the world for sale. This is to help the local people work around the occupation and be able to feed their families from their earnings.

If someone is interested in getting involved – Sandra suggests checking out Gaza’s Ark website http://gazaark.org/ and endorse the project. Then donate to support the funding of the boat. Are you willing to go to your MP to state you don’t support this? She says “that it is important to get the message to the political leaders as that is where the power lies. You make sure in every election – you vote. Then – join the team. Get on a committee. Find out where your strength is – and join us. You will find great pleasure in working on something that you are passionate about”.

Sandra for a Just Peace

http://inspiredactivist.wordpress.com/

Inspiring Front Line Activism – Building Hope for Palestine

By: Tiffany Goskey

A couple Tuesdays back, I had the opportunity to sit down with Sandra Ruch, an international human rights activist, Coordinator for the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, and a member of the Gaza’s Ark Steering Committee .

Sandra Ruch

Since 2004, she has been heavily involved in human rights work, advocating for the rights of the Palestinian people. Her involvement in social justice activities started with helping new immigrants become established in Canada. But, it was her experience in Palestine that sparked her passion for anti-occupation and anti-Zionist activism. Her involvement became very personal as the events she witnessed conflicted with her views of Judaism.

All her life Sandra was a Zionist activist, leader of a Zionist youth group at 13, later as a member of an adult Zionist organization and as a Hebrew…

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When Racism Rears Its Ugly Head

 This is not a travel information blog but instead about several of the people from the United States that I met when I was in Puerto Penasco, Mexico.  They call this area Phoenix’ beach. I felt sad and discouraged and realized how sheltered I am in Toronto by friends and my family and our “radical left wing ideas”.  I have witnessed so much ignorance and so much prejudice here that it shocked me. I also have to add that I have an abundance of radical and awesome friends from the USA.

I met a couple and the husband asked me, ” why do people hate the Jews.  I just don’t understand it.”  The wife agreed and said – “it’s just a religion right?  We don’t hate Jews and we like you.  We like all people.  We’re not prejudice” -(note my secret eye roll here).  I replied that there is hatred everywhere and the American president is allowing it to escalate with his rhetoric.  Husband nervously glanced at his wife.  I said I worried a lot about Islamophobia.   He said that he totally understood being afraid of Muslims and anyone who believed in the Koran.  I said the Koran is a wonderful book and told them that Mohammed the Prophet said that “heaven is under the Mother’s feet”.  I said that unfortunately, men over the centuries have bastardized religion and weakened the role of women.  I knew this whole conversation was fruitless but I felt better just saying it. On top of it, they were both many beers in and not worthy of my time.  Then they told me they were very worried about the caravan and how it would affect them.  Goddess help me – where is the sense of humanity?

The things I heard repeatedly:

  • why should I work so that others can stay home?
  • I hate paying taxes. 
  • People are getting free money from the government and driving fancy cars, wearing expensive clothes -I saw them on television protesting that their cheques would be late.
  • The government builds them houses. 
  • Natives shouldn’t get assistance now – that problem happened years ago.
  • I heard complaints about people hanging out in front of the grocery stores offering to buy your groceries with their food stamps in order to get half the value in cash.  When I hear how no one wants to work,  everyone is lazy, no one is competent, it make my heart hurt.

I suppose there are always people abusing the system but why is that the only thing they see?  Why is the story I know about people dying from lack of health care, families living in cars, in tent cities, children going to school hungry.  I have never heard about this apparently generous welfare system in America that they are talking about.

On Facebook so many of my “friends” are speaking out about Anti-semitism.  It is definitely there and the escalation is frightening.  However, I can’t help but wonder where were our voices as we see this hatred for the blacks and the browns, for the Muslims, for the Indigenous?????????????

Remember the poem by by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984).

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I was invited to join a group of Jewish clergy at the border between USA and Mexico but the logistics didn’t work out.  I wish that I had.  My Judaism is based on Tikkum Olam – Healing the world.  One of the core commandments of Judaism is “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), sometimes called the Great Commandment

I am proud to be a Canadian.  I am proud to be known as a radical left wing activist.