A Manitoba delegation is heading to Israel this week for a five-day trip that will include visits to wounded Israeli soldiers in hospitals and a meeting with Canada’s ambassador to Israel.
The group, dubbed "Winnipeg to Israel with Love" was assembled by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. It includes Bernie Bellan, editor of the Jewish Post and News as well as former Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs leader Ron Evans, now chief of Norway House Cree Nation.
"A varied group of 19 from all walks of life has come together to demonstrate solidarity for Israel at this time of great stress during what we hope will be the final stage of Operation Protective Edge. Winnipeg Solidarity Mission 2014 chaired by Mel Lazareck and Michel Aziza leaves Winnipeg on Wednesday, August 20th for a 5 day intensive visit in Israel," the federation said in a statement Monday.
"We have all come together to show Israelis that we stand with them and that we care", co-chair Michel Aziza said in the statement. "The constant bombardment by Hamas of Israel and the Israel’s defensive action, Operation Protective Edge, have taken a toll on Israel and Israelis. We want to bring a smile to people’s faces and show them that we care."
The latest news reports noted that the positions of Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Egyptian mediated Gaza truce talks had hardened by Monday.
A five-day ceasefire in the conflict is about to end, although it’s reported that neither side is keen to resume the deadly fighting that has destroyed large parts of the densely populated Gaza strip.
The month-long Israel-Hamas war has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, according to Palestinian and UN officials. Israel has lost 67 people, all but three of them soldiers, say news reports.
The delegation is set to leave Winnipeg Wednesday. Of the 19 people on the trip, three are joining the group in Toronto and three will leave ahead of time and meet up with the arrivals in Israel.
"We are so proud to be part of the group... Fully one third of the participants are non-Jewish. Chief Ron Evans, from Norway House Cree Nation was one of the first to join the group. In addition we have business people, students, representatives of Bridges for Peace (an advocacy group) and representatives from a number of organizations affiliated with Israel, delegation co-chair Michel Aziza said in the statement.
Evans is expected to comment on his participation later today.