The spiritual endurance of the evening demands that I take some serious rest. This is a day I sit transfixed to my computer screen and keyboard. The past few days have been highly eventful and the corresponding journal entries reflect this spirit. The symptoms of anxiety as predicted by Moulana Igsaan are apparent all across the group. It could be said that my room, 1201, sits at the crossroads to the Gaza. Since I share it with Shakir Baker, the national co-ordinator of the Al Quds Foundation, it inevitably recieves many visitors. They come armed with a barrage of questions on the journey ahead. By my association, it is sometimes assumed that I too should have the answers.
The finer preparations for the visit to Gaza are going well. After being assigned specific responsibilities yesterday, task groups are doing whatever advance planning that is needed for their assignments. One of the many knocks at 1201 this morning comes from Sisters Shenaaz Farret and Fatima Bhorat. They have come to see Shakir for some technical assistance on a powerpoint presentation they will be making to the women of Gaza on the extensive support women’s forums back in South Africa have tendered to the Palestinian course and the Convoy in specific. Filing through their photos, one is filled with a sense of pride for the inroads this convoy has managed to make.
With participants not yet sure whether the wheels of the Convoy will roll on Sunday or Monday, the suspense is thick. One bunch of clever blokes decide to lighten the mood. A knock is heard on the door and a group of convoy members who hail from Springs on the East Rand make a dramatic entry. They introduce us all to a certain South African they say they met whilst on a shopping errand in Cairo. He speaks up for himself saying that after having lost his passport he has not managed to leave Egypt and is thus making ends meet on the streets. He has a bandanna type hat, dreadlock type hair and decaying teeth. He surprises all of us by saying that he is aware of the presence of a Convoy to Gaza in Cairo. When pressed for clarity, he says” “You’ll be suprised how the word spreads.” But he does not stop there. He is a vagrant and he quite confidently calls his price. ‘I won’t leave this room without at least LE50,’ he says. He is persistant: ‘How can you be assisting the poor in Gaza, but not your own from South Africa.’ It strikes a nerve. Some in the room deny that we are ever going to Gaza, others tell him to speak to the leadership and yet others can be seen visibly shaken with sweaty palms. Sister Shenaaz suggests that Shakir give him $20. Shakir will hear none of it, but eventually digs into his bags to produce a LE5 note. Shenaaz even appears willing to hand over a $100 note. But the vagrant’s doting eyes still leave no one alone. He wants more and he even tries to play on my conscience. I have none of it, rudely brushing him aside. I know something is fishy about the whole setup. Who would be so naive to bring any stranger with you from town into the safety of your hotel room. Moreso, how did he manage to evade hotel security. He appears to be getting even more violent and even accuses us of wasting his time. The misery could have been prolonged, but totally unexpectedly he jerks his hand towards his cap and in a sharp motion pulls his hat off his head. His cover is blown. Dr Mohammed Patel of Springs appears to be having too much time on his hands. But he managed to pull wool over many of our eyes. And he walks away having being rewarded with a LE5 for his efforts. The room crashes in laughter. But he has already hit the road. The search for the next victim begins in earnest.
There are yet more visits throughout the day from individuals whose experiences in the university of life are truly enriching. One is Uncle Haroon from my hometown who has spent almost a month on the road with the land convoy. He is keenly looking forward to driving the special needs medical vehicles into Gaza. In all he says and does, he displays a total contentment with whatever comes his way and shows a liking for simplicity.
There is also Aunty Fatima(Tima) Robbertse who laments the effects of wealth on peoples character. They may be earning double digit salaries, she says, but many do not have the decency to call their parents or close family regularly. Which jolts me, another call home as we prepare to enter Gaza is certainly due.
Palm Cafe or ‘Palm Cafe Masjid’ as we refer to it is the hive of activity for the group. From meetings to Salaah, Zikr, Supper and Taraweeh-it all goes down here. This evening, Sheikh Ibrahim Gabriels bends my arm to lead the first 2 Rakaats of Taraweeh. He then asks me to perform another two. He goes even further and requests that I perform Witr and Qunoot. I chersish the opportunity. The senior Aalim from Mitchells Plain always tries to bring people back to the realities of the Hereafter. Once while in Palm Cafe, he made a dua that we all be reunited under the palms of Jannah. Today he reminds us that just as Ramadan will end, our lives will also end. But this ending will unlock the doors of eternity, which is what we should truly be aspiring towards.