Category Archives: Tonia

Heading in 2015 – Happy New Year from Our Cosmic Core

This time of the year always brings with it newfound optimism and much personal reflection.  After a tough fall of instability in our lives, feeling overwhelmed at times with it all, and falling into exhaustion – Bassam and I committed to being well rested for the holidays so that we could enjoy being in the moment and making memories with our boys.

We find ourselves at the end of the holiday season, exhausted again – but in a good way.  The kind of exhausted you feel after a full day of skiing down mountains or after an all day hike through a forest trail.  The good kind of exhausted.  Blissful. Satisfied. And sleepy.

The boys, on the other hand, continue to be full of energy and creativity – finding endless ways to play new games with their Christmas toys.

This year we decided that we would start the year off spending time doing those things we love most.  So we planned a couple of jam-packed days that turned our overnight into a trip that felt like were away for a much longer than we were.

Last year at this time we stayed a few nights at the beloved Fern Resort, where we met Kathy and Kya in the first moments we arrived.  Our families connected instantly, and the boys loved that Kya was “adopted just like us!”, and they have asked about her often in the last year.  So on new year’s eve we finally saw Kya and Kathy again, a year since our trip to Fern, and our first stop was at the Skyzone Tampoling Centre in Mississauga.  After the kids successfully jumped themselves into a sweaty, flushed, and hungry state, we headed over to a Korean restaurant, where we sat on the floor to eat and watched our food being cooked in the middle of our table.

_DSC1036 _DSC1038 _DSC1027After a quick swim and some down time at the hotel we got dressed in costume and went to an awesome new year’s party!  All of us were wide awake for the countdown, left with very full bellies, and having had immensely enjoyed spending time with cousins. The Disney theme meant chilli dogs, popcorn, a candy station, and every kind of Disney snack you can think of!  Thank you Aunt Terry, Joe, Sue and family.  It was a fabulous event as usual!
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The four of us woke up tired but happy.  After another swim and check out, we headed to a cafe, where the four of us could spend some quiet family time together sipping warm drinks and being silly.  We grabbed a newspaper, some herbal teas, a couple of pens, and then we read horoscopes, scratched bingo tickets, solved Sudoko, and completed word searches.

Our last stop was at the Kuni’s – more cousins!  After a deliciously hearty meal – that good kind of tired set in.



This marks the end of the season, but the start of new one…..and us four will be spending some time in the next couple of days deciding on our goals for the year, those things we hope will come true for us, and together, which of those dreams are going to be in the making for 2015!!

We will be sure to share with all of you….stay tuned….we have some plans brewing!

Happy New Year to all! Love us four. xxxx

Talking about THAT child….

I just read an article called “Dear Parent: About THAT kid…”

Being the mom of two boys who often makes mistakes but who always want (and need) to be loved despite them….this article a friend posted on Facebook really resonated with me.

It is hard some days to watch my boys being judged for a seemingly bizarre reaction to a situation, when I know their secrets and so it all makes perfect sense to me….on other days it’s difficult to bite my tongue after receiving a judgmental glare from a parent who feels I just must not be doing my job properly…

_DSC7357Some days I wish I could announce to everyone how absolutely incredible my boys are and that they just have so much hurt and loss to deal with, and want to shout out that they have no idea just how far my boys have come….

Today I want to scream out that the same little boy who swore at a teacher, cried about his mistake when he was safely at home, that when she grabbed him to keep him safe he thought she might be trying to hurt him….Today I want to scream out that the same boy who annoyed everyone with his attention seeking antics has an insatiable need for approval and that he just has no idea how amazing he is because he still blames his own flaws for the mistakes others have made in his life.

Maybe you will read this article and see a bit of your child in THAT too…or maybe get a better understanding of mine.

Click here to view the article “Dear Parent: About THAT kid…






The HPV Vaccine and Cervical Cancer: Which is the Bigger Risk?

hpv vaccine, cervical cancer, risksDo you have a daughter? A niece? A sister? Well then I think you should be concerned about the HPV vaccine and I urge you to become informed. Even if you support other routine vaccinations, this is one that you should consider carefully.


The HPV (Human Papillomavirus) virus is sexually transmitted and can cause cervical cancer. In response to this medical issue, the HPV vaccine was created and is typically administered in schools to young girls in grade seven or eight, and can be given to girls as young as nine years old. It is encouraged by the government through its very approval. In fact, in the United States, the vaccine was deemed mandatory by the government, until massive concerns about the vaccination successfully overruled that legislation in some states.

The idea of the HPV vaccine (Gardasil and Cerevix) is to target young girls before they become sexually active, to safeguard them from developing cervical cancer. And if you read the the pamphlets given out for parents, this seems to make perfect sense. Especially when the pamphlets don’t start by outlining the risks or other factors involved in the decision to vaccinate your daughter, but instead outline the vaccination schedule on the assumption that you will support the vaccine through their clever school-based program. To really ensure your support they let you know that you “have the power now to protect your daughter from this harmful disease”.


Well I agree with one thing, and that is that you have the power to protect your daughter: by rejecting this harmful vaccine and then educating yourself and your daughter about far better methods of protection.


The HPV Vaccine and Cervical Cancer: The Power to Protect Your Daughter


Here is what those pamphlets should also be telling you:


1.  The HPV vaccine was approved after 33,000 people participated in clinical trials. Longitudinal studies (studies in which data is collected over time, documenting evidence over the long-term) were never completed. Again for emphasis, this vaccine was released to the public and subsidized by the government before any longitudinal studies were completed. In fact, long-term data is being collected currently, from your daughters, who are essentially participants in the experiment. The experiment, as I have labelled it, is now in its eighth year. Which is pretty short-term in the life of a vaccination study.


2. Reports put out by the vaccine producers claim that no significant safety concerns have been raised. So I have to ask, what is their definition of “significant”? Here is what I found (click underlined links to read articles throughout this post):  Some girls do report the expected effects such as tenderness, swelling, and fever. However, “thousands of women have also reported more worrisome issues, including crippling fatigue, paralysis, blindness, or autoimmune complications, and some have even died, according to CDC and FDA data.” I would say risk of paralysis, chronic conditions, and death are pretty significant risks!

Why does the FDA not report these very significant safety concerns if they have collected this data themselves? Vaccine developer and MD, Diane M. Harper, sheds some light on the issue. “It’s critical to note that more than 70 healthy young girls have died from a neurological reaction that occurred soon after getting Gardasil,’ says Harper. (The FDA is not required to act in response to any side effect that occurs in fewer than one in 10,000 people.)” Well it seems to me that considering death as insignificant to justify the benefits of this vaccine, is similar to labelling deaths as “collateral damage” to justify war.

hpv vaccine, cervical cancer, risks, worried teen girl
3. In order to develop real urgency around the HPV and cervical cancer concern, often large numbers are reported for shock value. In this case, about 1750 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in Canada, and about 470,000 world wide. This is certainly an issue deserving of our attention. However, let’s look at the real numbers from a data-driven perspective: how many of those women die from cervical cancer? What the research shows is that of the 1750 women in Canada who are diagnosed early through regular paps, the great, great majority survive treatment, and quite gracefully at that! In fact, over 90%! So when you make a decision on what you think is the greater risk, getting the vaccine versus not getting the vaccine, remember to consider the real numbers and that BOTH have reported death as a possibility.


4. You must also realize that it is important to ask, of those women who did die, how many died of the strains the vaccine targets, because the vaccine only targets, admittedly, 70% of the strains that cause cervical cancer. In other words, how many of them would not have even been protected had they got the vaccine (and put themselves at risk of a “significant” vaccine side effect)?


5. Take that a step even further. How many of those deadly cases could have been prevented if proper routes of prevention were taken? We don’t really know the answer to this, because this is not documented, but what we do know is that cervical cancer is very detectable and highly treatable with early detection. “According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for cervical cancer that’s caught early is about 92 percent; and when precancerous lesions are removed, a complete cure becomes a sure thing.”

In order to analyze the numbers appropriately, instead of just reacting to high numbers thrown at us by the producers of this vaccine, we should demand to know how many of these females had regular paps, which is significantly known to reduce diagnosis. Also, were they educated and guided in regards to protecting themselves when sexually active? Ask yourself about your own family, YOUR children, and consider what their actual risk may be if you guide them through first, other means of protection from HPV, and in the case of getting HPV (since condoms and sex education don’t always work), regular paps and monitoring to detect PRE-cancerous cells? What, truly, is the bigger risk and why aren’t we being given the real data to assist us in this decision?

hpv vaccine, cervical cance

6. There are a great number physician’s themselves who also disagree with the administration of this vaccine and choose not to recommend it to patients or allow their own daughters to get it. In this article, entitled: Another Doctor Testifies ‘HPV Vaccine Does Not Protect Against Cancer,’ “Leading OBGYN Dr. Uzi Beller stated that if the “HPV vaccine…were proven to prevent cervical cancer, that would be something else. But it hasn’t. The US Food and Drug Administration checks for safety of the vaccine, but not for efficacy. There is no evidence that the vaccine protects against cervical cancer, only [that it] counters the virus itself. No decrease in invasive cervical cancer… in the vaccinated population has been documented so far.(emphasis added)”  “Even one of the top scientists that helped create Gardasil came forward to admit that the incidents of cervical cancer in the U.S. are already very low and, because the majority of HPV cases resolve themselves within one (70%) or two (90%) years’ time, the vaccine really will not have an effect on the cervical cancer rates either way.”


7. And I must make the point that the HPV vaccine is the most expensive vaccine in history, and costs close to $400 to administer one three-dose schedule! This means that if four million girls are vaccinated a year in Canada and the United States, the creators of the vaccine bring in at least $1.6 BILLION dollars each year! Merck, the company that produces Gardasil, participated in extensive lobbying of the government to get their vaccine approved. And I find it very, very suspicious that a vaccine with no long-term studies attached to it, no real proof yet in regards to how it will affect cervical cancer rates (as the young girls who received it first have yet to all grow up), and data that includes death and paralysis as potential side effects was deemed mandatory for females in the United States public school system, and is highly encouraged in Canada. Merck did a great job of securing heavy profits using splendid commercials, government support, and school-based programs to sell their product.

 The HPV Vaccine and Its Risks: A Video

I urge you to watch the video below, even if you have time to review nothing else on this topic. Parents, who were never informed, and either consented for their daughter to receive this vaccination, or were forced to vaccinate their daughter, have united together to help ensure that other parents and daughters can protect themselves from this harmful, high-risk vaccination. Take note that since the release of this video, the evidence against this vaccine only continues to mount.


Question life, because that is always your perogative.

Comment below to help bring attention and accountability to the vaccine producer Merck.

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For the Love of a Child: An Adoption Story

This story is incredibly beautiful, a story of love and devotion that I can never forget, and that I have not been able to get off my mind since I watched it……grab a cozy spot with someone you love, and a box of tissues – you will need it!

Share your own stories and reactions in the comments below!

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3 Climates, 1 Weekend: Sailing Simcoe

The winds, as predicted, were strong and gusty, and had the cold chill of October despite being mid-August.  The days ahead were meant to be equally fall-like, with rain, low temperatures, and cold nights. But with the rapid dwindling away of summer weekends, coupled with the kids’ disappointment at the possibility of yet another weather-dependent summer trip being cancelled…..we decided to make the trip across Lake Simcoe by sail anyway.  Besides, the wind was coming from the right direction – a north westerly.

We had already forgotten that only an hour earlier we had been arguing about whose load to carry on board was the heaviest, or that we all blamed someone other than ourselves for the temporary misplacement of the dock keys, or the sense of urgency with which we crossed the final chores off the checklist: fishing bait in cooler, wined stored safely, water tank filled, toilet emptied, and all safety gear made accessible.  We had already forgotten that we had been a sweaty, irritated mess of a family, as the waves and the water quickly transformed us into a zen-like peace, where we moved at one with the wind.


Our Sailboat – Mast Confusion – on Lake Simcoe

Krazy Kid, who had never been seasick before in all his three summers as a miniature sailor, played games with the clouds to keep his eyes on the horizon, and his nausea at bay.  Roo played solo in the cabin, unaffected by the constant roll of the boat caused by four foot broadside waves, determined to finish his chapter in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, before bugging someone to join him in a game of Crazy Eight Countdown.






Bassam’s strength was well needed for pulling the ropes, as the wind, now at twenty knots, was shifty and the sails needed constant adjustments.  And I kept my eye on our destination ahead, not yet even in view across the vastness of a lake with no end.  The tiller revealed the force of our lake, and with its constant movement and fierce resistance, it appeared to be announcing its command of our journey.  And all the while, the wind never bowing down, as if to prove its equality in ruling our way, its presence is made known by its constant rush through the sails.  Its brush against our skin, after hours on the water, began to feel like an affectionate rub from an old, wise friend.


We passed by Johnson’s Beach, then Big Bay Point, then Hawkestone, and Carthew Bay along our way, but not without pointing out the obvious and taking a peak of these familiar places through the lens of our binoculars. Eventually, the shoreline on the other side of the lake showed itself, and the tower marking our destination came in and out of view as the bow of the boat bobbed up and down.  Our surrender to the powers that have carried us across our lake have made the five hour journey pass quickly.

Sailing 3


Sailboat 4









A part in the clouds and a window in time makes for two eager little boys who whip off their shirts, happy for the sudden sunshine and their arrival at Lagoon City beach.  The sand is still cool, but the shallow beach allows them the freedom to escape the shoreline for what feels like miles away, uninhibited by swim ropes or lifeguards, just two boys who think they are fish and are living in the moment.


Lagoon City beach is always the warmest on the lake, but the cold winter left the lake frozen too long and the cool summer has failed to warm it up.  It wasn’t this that invited their departure from the beach though, but the dark clouds rolling quickly in and the promise given by the distant rumbling of a storm sure to come.



Lagoon city

Lagoon cityWe spent two nights in Lagoon City, and all the hours of daylight that fit in between.  When the weather settled to a drizzle the boys cast their rods, and when we ran out of worms we found shelter in our 23 foot Sonic, or alternately, the Lakeview Restaurant, right next to where we were tied up – a place to put our feet on steady ground or get a little bit of space from one another’s energy.


Restaurants are typically to be avoided on sailing adventures  – as we strive to keep close to nature and spend hours swimming in the very waters on which we travelled – but this time the Lakeview became part of our limited world and a spot we ran to while jumping between puddles in already soaked shoes, looking forward to a warm tea and a welcoming smile.  There, with the comforting smell of peppermint tea, and the friendly conversation with our server, we began to appreciate that the poor weather had successfully slowed us all down.   Between deals for card tournaments, we found ourselves immersed in the lazy lagoon scene just outside the rain-soaked windows….mesmerized by the continuous, light tap-tap of drops running down to gather in the sills and the seldom passing by of other boats that also decided to test the waters.


And eventually, after a brief inspection of the drenched cockpit and the waterlogged on board barbecue, we lengthened our Lakeview stay and ordered dinner, a bottle of wine, and indulged in one too many turtle cheesecakes.  The food was good – but even better was the feeling of being invited for dinner at a neighbour’s comfortable home, of sharing cheerful conversation and connection with all those whirling around us, and the relaxation in knowing we only had to carry our full stomachs to our gently rocking bed a few steps away.

The weekend was one of those where one hour runs into the other, and one day into the next, and so it happened that we were sailing the distance back to where we came from.  Today it was an eight hour journey across the lake and down the bay.  We found ourselves at one time flopping and floating and sunny and windless (seizing the moment, we jumped off the boat into the chilly water and dared one another to do the same) and at another time in the strongest of winds, heeling so much that our sails were in the water (and letting out exhilarated hoots and hollers for the speeds we were reaching).

DCIM100GOPROAs we rounded the last bend and arrived back, slowly maneuvering through the marina to settle our Sonic back in its space, we knew this was a trip without a climax, and that our laundry bag was so much heavier going off board than when it came on board – not just being weighed down by wet bathing suits and evidence of incredible wet sailing, but also by memories of rain and dark clouds, and the irony of being forced to be idle in our ever moving tent on the water.


We roll into the dock, and in that very moment we spot, first by our ears and then with our eyes, a Bowrider leaping the length of the bay, and we smile at one another – knowing that a weekend journey for us would only take that noisy boat about 40 minutes.   I had thought all this time we had been somewhere else, and had been focused on the making the best of a wet weekend, on exploring old territory in a new way, and in the last hours, on my eagerness to reach home.  But now, as I stared towards the distance from which we came, and watched that motorboat quickly shrink from my vision as it sped away, I realized….despite our hours on the water we had never actually left home….It was in this moment that I experienced the peak in our trip, the break in our wave…Lake Simcoe was our backyard playground, the giver of adventures, the tester of our strengths, the enforcer of the rules of unwinding, the trickster in creating illusions with the passage of distance and time, and the wise teacher of the all the gifts right here at home.

Sunny Sundays and Lemonade Stands: Saving for our Trip Fund

Random Roo and Krazy Kid have been brewing a plan for their lemonade and cookie stand for a few weeks, and have been patiently waiting for a weekend day at home that was hot enough to entice customers.  Today they set quickly to work manifesting their little dream  – creating a  sign, bringing out the table, making ice, borrowing straws from the neighbour, setting up comfortable chairs in anticipation of a long day at work, and finding an empty jar to hold their float.

CLICK HERE: Mom spots our first customer

Lemonade standMama is very proud of their hard work and dedication – keeping close to their stand for HOURS, yelling out advertisements, washing cups carefully when needed, recruiting friends to help them, and treating all their customers with welcoming hospitality and excellent manners.

CLICK HERE: An exciting start!

At the end of the day we ceremoniously added the money they raised to our trip fund jar!  Today marks the inspiration for new ideas and the start of many fund-raising projects.


It has been SO MUCH fun to see their smiles and their eyes light up as they watched their hopes grow in a jar, and to see them get that bubbling up feeling inside because they believe what they have been dreaming about is now truly possible.  I hope they keep today forever in their memories of childhood summers and that when we finally have enough for our next family trip, that they feel the same pride in themselves that I feel for them today, knowing that it was THEIR focus on THEIR dreams that allowed them to manifest a new adventure.


Home Sweet Home

Home! Boys tucked in their own beds….and everything done that needs to be done tonight. Ahhhhhh! It is 4:30 am in Israel, so essentially we have been travelling for close to 24 hours. So tired! But the good kind of tired!



Homeward Bound….One Step Closer

Leaving Tel Aviv in less than an hour! All ready for catching up on sleep on the plane.

Sad to leave those we love…..happy to be heading home.

Thank you to everyone in Israel for your warmest of welcomes!


Five Days in Jordan

We woke up early on the morning of July 16th, ready for exploring Jordan, which borders Israel. This leg of our trip was eye opening, inspiring, and thought provoking.

Crossing the border was a five hour event that included a ride in a mini bus with the twelve of us (our family, Teta, Bassam’s sister Randa along with Maroun and Chris, and Bassam’s niece Mira, and her husband Khraish and their special little ones Alex and Maria, who are the boys’ best playmates!).  We loaded up, enjoyed a beautiful balcony breakfast send-off from relatives upstairs, enjoying a view of the Mediterranean, in the morning breeze, and then set off for the Jordanian border.

The border crossing involved several steps: security checks, passport checks, crossing fees, more passport checks, luggage checks, toilet breaks, duty free shops, the no-man’s-land two minute bus ride after an hour long wait (literally), passport checks, and then passport checks. _DSC7471









The rest of our journey took us past the Jordan River and through the towns along the roadway, to the Dead Sea. _DSC7506The Dead Sea is 400 meters below sea level!  The air in the day is balmy and dry, and at night the wind is hot.  The Dead Sea itself is a unique experience – a calm sea that you cannot swim in because the salt content is so high that a drop in your eye burns, and one in your mouth is nasty!  But for the same reason, you can sit down in the water or lay on your back and just float.DCIM100GOPRO  No treading or flotation device necessary!  Random Roo enjoyed the adventure and risked the butt crack burn!  He even rubbed the salt water on his lips. Yuck!  Krazy Kid could not get past the initial tingling and burning….maybe he was still turned off because of his jellyfish incident.  So he spent his time giving himself multiple Dead Sea mud treatments and covering every inch of his body….which was all good until he created mud boobs!DCIM100GOPRO

The resort we stayed at was spectacular, with awesome food, beautiful pools, luxury rooms, and amazing views.  We swam, floated, ate, swam, floated, ate, swam, floated, ate…..a real unwind.  A perfect way to relax.DCIM100GOPRO_DSC7497








After two nights, we parted ways, and the four of us ventured off to Petra – a place I have dreamed of visiting for many years….ever since Bassam told me about it when we met in 1997.  We spent two nights, and 3 days in the region, and every moment of our time there a dream coming true for me.  Absolutely incredible!!!

On the first day, we drove three hours through the Jordanian desert, checked into our hotel, and immediately left to go into Petra, with promises to the boys that we would check it out for a few hours and be back in time for a relieving swim at the hotel.  Water bottles, snacks, camera, and four very excited people!_DSC8313

Only the photographs can tell the story….and even then do not do justice to the majesty of Petra.  Awe inspiring structures… If you are interested in learning more about the fascinating history of Petra and how this ancient city was created, watch this video by National Geographic.

The boys were in heaven, finding caves to peak into or explore and playing, parkour style, on the rocks.  They were real troupers and the adventurous spirit that we always fall in love with again and again, gave them the stamina to climb up to see interesting structures and keep going through the hours that slipped away unknowingly.  We decided, after hiking up and down all afternoon and reaching the end of the map, that before heading back we would “go all the way” and take the steps up to the monestary – but by donkey!!! With our Bedouin guides we took the donkeys up, who are sure-footed but walk on the edge!  Walking up would have been exhausting for the legs, but our upper bodies got a workout holding on._DSC8209 _DSC7578 _DSC7595 _DSC7599 _DSC8147_2

_DSC7551 _DSC7675 _DSC7646 _DSC7639_DSC7705 _DSC8128When we reached the top we continued on by foot and followed the sign:

Little did we know that we would be greeted by some very friendly young Bedouin guys who offered us tea (delicious and sweet!) and tell us jokes.  We were enjoying a well-needed break in their tent on the mats, and swapping stories with other travellers taking a similar rest so much that we stayed for sunset!

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Downhill on donkey is even more unnerving!  And the donkeys knew that had worked a long day, so they were rushing.  Our guides who walked alongside us, directing their donkeys, shared their teachings with us on our way, pointed out the cave they lived in, spoke seemingly telepathically with the animals (dogs, mules, donkeys, camels everywhere!), and led us out as the night slowly came upon us._DSC7697 _DSC7789

After dropping us off at the treasury we continued the three kilometer end to our adventure through the gorge at night, under the stars.  We were tired, sandy, sweaty and on top of the world!  Holding hands in the night and already reminiscing about our day, we realized that the pool had long closed and we didn’t even care.  (If you can imagine! Krazy Kid wasn’t even disappointed!) Almost through the gorge we heard loud steps approaching, and the beautiful sound of the flute echoing off the rocks.  Random Roo decided that he was meant to be on a donkey, wanted to live with the Bedouins, and was willing to give up all his modern pleasures to live in Petra, where “everyone and everything lives in harmony”.  That is the core of our Random Roo.

We arrived at our hotel, had showers in record time and took the elevator to the roof top to eat dinner on the terrace, surrounded by dry Jordanian air, sandstone mountains, and  canopied by the stars. Ahhhhhhhhhh…..a good day…..and Our Cosmic Core felt connected in a new way, through our united love for our surroundings and a new understanding of each other._DSC8298 _DSC8297







The next day we took it easier, and chose some souvenirs from Petra and ate Bedouin food (mansaf).  We also swam, slept, were awakened by morning prayer being sung out from over a dozen surrounding mosques, and wandered around to new heights inside Petra.

On our final day, before heading back to join everyone back at the Dead Sea for one more night, we went into Wadi Rum to check out the Bedouin community and experience a desert trek by camel.  Super, super fun!!!!_DSC8432 _DSC8436 _DSC8363 _DSC8326 _DSC8334 _DSC8325

Bassam took as many photographs as he could – over 1000 – and over the three days we were there we planned for him to get the best shots he could, which simultaneously allowed us to see Petra in many different times of the day: midday, evening, sunset, sunrise, and even the dark, under the stars.



Protests in West Bank and Jerusalem

Protestors yesterday heading from West Bank to Jerusalem (which we crossed off our list of travel destinations after our arrival) shown in this video. Staying safe and well away from this area. Very sad and disappointed about this situation:

West Bank Clashes Protests for Gaza (CLICK HERE)

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