Hello Again

Hi Everyone,

It has been almost a year since my last post. Why? Well, work + life got in the way to my blog posts. Essentially, I was hired full-time as a Communications and Public Engagement Coordinator – and had to take a step back from the blog world. However, a year later – and I feel the online community is calling me back – including my passion to share stories that engage – and inspire community participation!

I should tell you – since February 2013, I have been involved in a GLOBAL effort to organize a world nonviolent march for peace and unity. It has been quite the adventure! I have met people from around the world through Facebook. Although, I have a hate/love relationship with the site – it has been monumental in spreading the news about the Global March for Peace and Unity(Event date – September 21, 2013).  Social media – when used for a global initiative like you know, world peace – increases the possibilities for positive change to actually take place. Sometimes I joke with my friends and say, “if I am the only one walking down the street with a peace sign – I will do it”. I am ready to be a NUT for peace. Or rather, I believe I am already a nut! But, it doesn’t look like I will be the only one. There are already 300+ attendants at the Toronto march. And the number keeps growing!

Ha, my mind went a long time ago. But, this initiative has been incredibly overwhelming, loving, and challenging. One of my greatest challenges – is assessing my own behaviors – and making sure they remain ‘peaceful’. Well, I think the main thing to address – is that I am not perfect. Non of us are. My actions haven’t been always ‘peaceful’ – and this march has really made me look into myself – and examine the effect of my ‘not so peaceful’ actions have on other people.

With that being said – this march isn’t about creating an utopia ‘peaceful’ world but rather striving towards considering how our actions affect those around us- and how we can apply kindness and compassion even in moments of chaos, hurt, sadness…

I think ‘peace’ has many layers – and to achieve ‘peace’ is not something that can be overnight. I find that much of the inability to achieve peace has to do more with our interpersonal relationships we have with each other – and the relationship we have with ourselves.

First, love yourself – then you can find ways to love others. Talk with someone about your concerns, let your conversation remain constructive and address the concern with kindness and compassion. Easier said then done! Sometimes, you have to go through several life lessons to get to this point – like I have now.

I truly believe that peace first begins with us. Inner peace will lead to ‘outer’ peace. But, it must be active – and we must work on it everyday! Pretty challenging when you live in a world of 7.1 Billion People! So, start with your neighbor, friend, mother, sister…ect. Talk about the way we can overcome our personal challenges in order to build a sustainable, peaceful world. Yes, this includes dabbling in the political…but, that also means you have that many more people to share creative ideas on ways peace can be achieved.

I also believe peace is connected to access – that is access to education, health, water, food, and opportunity. There are institutions in place that ensure access – yet, there are still millions across the globe that suffer from hunger and poverty. Equal distribution – and equitable access to resources will ensure our human family has what it needs for survival. Of course, this issue goes so much deeper – and is very interconnected with existing institutions, class systems, globalization, and social status. I hope to use this space to demonstrate how communities, from the local to the global, are working together to overcome poverty and social barriers.

Please unite with GMPU, for one day. Demonstrate your commitment to peace. Show that ‘we’ can RISE UP FOR PEACE.

Visit the pages I manage – and please share widely!!

Inspiring Front Line Activism – Building Hope for Palestine

By: Tiffany Goskey

Sandra Ruch

A couple of 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. 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 on Judaism at the time.

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

Sandra was born 8 years after Israel became a country and so this perspective made sense to her. She believed that the army was there to protect. As a woman of faith, she thought the Israeli government was 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.

This understanding was drastically altered when Sandra lived in Palestine for 2 years. While there she witnessed a total disregard for human rights. She saw crimes against humanity; murder and theft by the Israeli army. 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. While this is the catalyst for her work – 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. These events coupled by Sandra’s two 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.

When asked what the most important element is in whatever you are working on, be it activism or something entirely different, 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. Starting a project and seeing it through to completion is certainly a personal triumph.

In 2005, Sandra worked with 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. They had a conference in Jerusalem and about 700 female participants from around the world attended. It highlighted the occupation but didn’t make the news. However, it was such a powerful and meaningful experience for Sandra.

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 the movement worked together. It was a catalyst for the movement. Then after the massacre on the Mavi Marmara– the movement 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? It seems that this is unfortunately the case, as nonviolent movements with the same goals failed to get the word out about the atrocities in the past. Within a month, the movement announced the inauguration of the organization, Canadian Boat to Gaza. While the massacre on the Mavi Marmara occurred in May 2010, the Canadian Boat to Gaza was announced two short months after, in late June 2010, exceeding their fundraising goals by $100,000 by reaching the$400,000 mark.

With the team and funds secured, the next step was implementation. 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 47 volunteers to attend. She coordinated the logistics while in Greece – hiring lawyers, listening 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. This time 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. 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.

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 dangerous and 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 United Nations 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 instead is 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.

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”.

Body, Mind, Massage: The Path to Peace

By Tiffany Goskey

Inner Peace – a simple yet sometimes hard to achieve concept. Often our busy lives make it difficult to attain such a thing. Yet, according to Joanna Recine, a Licensed Massage Practitioner of goodenergybreak.com, peace is within reach. It begins with the mind and the body is the tool. The healing power of massage inspired Joanna to develop her craft. Nine out of ten clients have reported that within 2 sessions issues related to depression, stress, bladder infection, and other physical ailments have completely disappeared.

This ‘wow’ factor is at the heart of Joanna’s practice. It’s what motivates her to bring change to her clients’ lives. What began as a massage business has developed into an art that not only inspires and but builds hope. Joanna states that the more people tune into their bodies, the more people can free themselves and move away from their self-sabotaging mind. According to Joanna, the most important aspect to opening yourself to inner peace is to quiet the mind and end the chatter. This will then help you to receive the healing you need.

Currently, Joanna works one on one with clients. But, as her practice evolves, she is developing interactive group workshops to help individuals learn how they can obtain peace from the body. On Joanna’s end, inner peace has helped her cultivate her creative skills while bringing healing to others. Her work within the healing arts has inspired her to develop products that are good for the mind, body and soul. She produces green products that are totally organic and free from hazardous chemicals as well as inspirational t-shirts that come with your own personal message or picture.

T-Shirt with a Message

I am inspired by Joanna’s interest in healing the mind through the body, and her new endeavour: t-shirts with a message. Her own creative design is a reflection of how she has overcome life obstacles. Although Joanna doesn’t draw the picture (this is outsourced), she has created a product that takes personal expression to the next level. The great thing with a shirt, as with life, you can change it whenever you want to!

Contact Joanna Recine directly to learn more about her products and services at www.goodenergybreak.com.

Joanna Recine