Cape Town “pilgrims” walk the length of the Gaza Strip to raise awareness

March comes as US admits Palestinians are facing “acute food insecurity”

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Photo of Palestine solidarity pilgrimage

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Claremont Main Road Mosque, one of the stops on the route of the “pilgrimage” in solidarity with the people of the Gaza Strip. Photo: Matthew Hirsch

Hundreds of people walked from Simon’s Town to Cape Town’s city centre on Human Rights Day as part of a “pilgrimage” in solidarity with the people of Gaza, and to call for a ceasefire. The 41 kilometre journey is about the length of the Gaza Strip.

More than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s war on the occupied territory. Even Anthony Blinken, the Secretary of State of the US, Israel’s closest ally, has admitted that the population of Gaza is facing “acute food insecurity” as a result of the bombardment and blockages of food aid. The US has provided $216 billion in military aid to Israel between 1946 and 2023, more than double the next biggest recipient.

Although the event was organised by Christians, it was a multi-faith event. At a stop in Plumstead, South African Jews For a Free Palestine (SAJFP) led the group in prayer.

“It’s amazing to see the Christian community come together like this and to walk in a pilgrimage together has been incredibly moving,” said Mitchel Joffe Hunter.

“We’ve now covered 22 km. We would currently be halfway if we were walking south in Gaza. We’ve done half of the walk that people fleeing the North of Gaza have had to endure the past few months,” he told those who had gathered.

There was also a stop outside the Claremont Main Road Mosque. Edwin Arrison, one of the organisers, thanked those who came out to support the group even though they were fasting during the month of Ramadan.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the mosque to support the walkers. Chants of “from District Six to Palestine, forced removals are a crime”, and “free free Palestine” were heard.

Steve Schallert, an organiser of the event, told GroundUp there had been more than a hundred pilgrimages in about 20 countries. “It was an easy invitation from the very beginning for Cape Town to be involved. … There were Palestinian Christians in the West Bank and Gaza who said we need the church on a global scale to be our brothers and sisters and respond in some way.”

He said it was intentional to open the pilgrimage to people of all and no faiths.

According to The Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimage website, the pilgrimages were started by James Harris, a New Zealander, “who, heartbroken and feeling helpless, was moved to walk the distance of Gaza in prayerful solidarity”.

“Like many organisations around the world, including Amnesty International, as well as Israeli human rights groups and Jewish peace groups, we too want to accurately name what Palestinians are undergoing as fitting the legal definition of apartheid and military occupation,” the organisers wrote.

The pilgrimage was expected to end with prayers at the Groote Kerk church in Cape Town.

TOPICS:  Israel-Palestine

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