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Toronto Boat to Gaza fundraiser makes waves

Toronto's fundraising cruise Saturday, Sept. 25, on Canada's largest river showboat, the Jubilee Queen, was fully attended, with 200 passengers aboard and turn-away hopefuls, requiring last-minute scheduling of additional food for the three-course, tastes-of-the-Mediterranean buffet, to accommodate the more than planned for demand.

The on-board entertainment available to the broad multicultural ship's passenger list included the musical group, Mraya, and renowned performer, George Sawa, historian of medieval Arabic music and expert player of the 26-stringed Qanun, similar to a zither.

The ship's popular upper deck dance floor witnessed a range of dance styles -- traditional to fusion. Especially popular was the Dabke, a popular folk line dance traditionally performed at weddings and other joyous occasions in Palestine and throughout the Middle East.  Middle Eastern-themed music was provided for the dancing by an on-board DJ.

Between buffet courses and musical offerings, a silent auction of paintings, donated by local artist Dr. Ibrahim Shalaby, raised more money for the Canada Boat to Gaza project. Telephone links to two former flotilla participants were established -- former U.S. Army colonel and official of the U.S. State Department, Ann Wright, and Mavi Marmara passenger, Canadian Kevin Neish. Both talked about their flotilla experiences.

Donation envelopes placed on each table were generously utilised for providing more funds for sending the Canadian boat to Gaza. The Toronto committee is still tallying the receipts and expenses but both from a social and fundraiser point of view, the evening proved to be a popular and financial success.

Wendy Goldsmith, one of the co-emcees for the evening, began by announcing there was a last-minute change to the itinerary -- instead of returning to the boarding quay, the boat was heading to Gaza - before she acknowledged the joke. Staring out at the Toronto skyline, feeling and witnessing the camaraderie and high spirits aboard, it did indeed feel as if we were well on our way to breaking the siege of Gaza.

Austin Whitten is a member of the Toronto committee of the Canadian Boat to Gaza.

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