Encounter 131 – September 18, 2020

Shortly before the lockdown, we got together – Roni, Rami, Hanan, Malki, Uzi and Nahshi – to wish each other a better new year and keep the candle of hope alight, the hope of ending conflicts and oppression.
There were the traditional apple and honey, as well as wine, honey cake, bread and coffee.
After exchanging opinions about Corona in our parts as well as in Gaza, Hanan told us how the New Year is celebrated in his own kibbutz – Tamuz in the town of Beit Shemesh, and about life in general in a kibbutz that is “one-generational and one-time”.
Roni updated us about our friends across the fence, and told us about the two encouraging Zoom talks on the part of the Gisha organization, with Gazans taking part who showed initiative and are pushing projects for society and economy.
Rami told us he managed to donate to the “We are not numbers” group and even received a confirmation and thanks from the Gazans themselves.
We parted with Uzi’s New Year greeting: let it be a medium year – better than the one ending now, and less of the better one that will follow.
Happy New Year…
Nahshi

Encounter 130 September 11, 2020

The topic we discussed this week was the “neighborly Sukkah” (arbor, tabernacle) like (or different) the one we held last year. At the end of this report I’ll summarize briefly.
The circle today was different (at least for me) – it was “tired”. Perhaps some would blame the heat. Indeed, not as hot as last week (today temperatures reached 35 degrees compared to last week’s 43), but it was still hot. It didn’t bother me. Nahshi’s usual coffee was acceptable as always.
Even the conversation that Nahshi and Shmulik had with Gazan Ibrahim (one of the brothers who used to work in their kibbutz, Nir Yitzhak, in the past…) did not energize the circle and remained among those three.
The feeling was that the circle is “heavy”, that it needs some power to move it and even that works only for a short while, after which fatigue reigns again.
We began the circle with Hayuta, Rami, Shmulik, Nahshi and myself. We knew that Ghadir and Jaber were on their way. I hoped they would arrive and “arouse” the circle. Ghadir tried, and Jaber also yielded to the general tired feeling.
On the way home I thought that in fact, in the past half-year, we were disconnected from the two “life lines” that energized our meetings: one was the talks with our Gazan friends, that ceased after they were arrested, and second was the anticipation of meeting, inviting and talking with random travelers, which had challenged our discourse. We continue to come and meet every week, and it still instills in us the sense that we do something, but the lack of encountering different voices has a cumulative effect. The lack of those “life lines” over time has flattened the encounters and slowly created a condition where we might “fall” into listlessness once in a while. It happened today, and I believe we should think of ways to refresh these meetings.
As for the “neighborly sukkah”…

  1. If we are going into lockdown (which is really happening) clearly nothing can be done.
  2. If there is no lockdown, several suggestions were made. If I understood correctly, the suggestion that sounded right for now was to concentrate on two Fridays (the eve of Sukkot holiday, and the last day – Simhat Torah) and direct our efforts to those times. Extend the encounter and publicize it. Organize a Zoom meeting with many participants at the end of Yom Kippur, including especially people with special ties to Gaza. Since during the Sukkot week (if there is no lockdown, of course) members of “Women Making Peace” are planning to travel around here, and wish to have some guidance about the area, we would take it upon ourselves, including a circle and coffee at the end of the tour, at the Migdalor.

Other ideas, such as repeating what we did last year, were heard very indifferently, especially because even if no lockdown is announced, people are not traveling much and the logistics are not simple.
If anyone has a different new idea, naturally we’d be glad to hear.
That’s it. That was our talk…

Participants: Shmulik, Rami, Nahshi, Hayuta, Ghadir, Jaber, and myself
Oded

Encounter 129 – September 4, 2020

Today’s meeting took place under the present extreme heat wave.
Rami felt responsible for the participants’ health and notified them that “it’s better to stay home today”… but, (I allow myself to quote singer Sanderson…) – “We still made it”.
The place we usually sit in our circle is a few degrees cooler thanks to the wind, the shade of the trees and the spot’s altitude compared to its surroundings. But come on, 43 degrees centigrade in the shade…
Rami and I took off our shirts… Not a very attractive sight, but when it’s so hot and no women guests arrive, we take them off…
After going over the “angry” whatapp messges about our coming anyway, we began talking about old books, especially Rami and Shmulik.
Nahshi and I were more interested in the bread and olive paste that Nahshi brought long. And the coffee.
Shmulik spoke about old book stores in Tel Aviv and Rami about the book collection of the late Meir Buchsweiler who had been a member of Kibbutz Be’eri.
Suddenly, as some desert mirage, a car passed by with a man and a woman. Like survivors on some desert island we waved our arms, all four of us, but they didn’t even open a window to ask what… The heat had beat even curiosity.
Rami brought a subject that was put more or less as follows: since the 1880s, namely about 140 years, Zionism exists. It can be either totally justified, or totally negated. But if each of us had the chance to mark the point during that time when s/he began to doubt the justification of Zionism, where does this point lie on the timeline amidst the historic events… Fascinating! We all spoke and brought up emotion versus knowledge, books and facts, world history events versus local ones, and more.
Coming to our spot, we had thought the hot weather would shorten our meeting and we’d leave after maximum 2 hours. However, the talk became interesting and a breeze coming from Gaza’s beach improved things.
At 15:15 Uri came after Nahshi assured him we’re still there. He joined Shmulik, Rami, Nahshi and Oded.
As I wrote, we filled the weekly time quota of our circle, and finally got into our cars and turned on the air conditioning…
That’s it.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 128 – August 28, 2020

Following last week’s meeting during which we spent the last hour ‘working’ with Etty Hillesum’s cards, a conversation develops about ‘literature about civil matters under Nazi rule’.
Hayuta tells us about the book The Sky in Me that combines about 8 notebooks of the writer’s diaries.
Sholti tells us about The White Rose (the name of the underground which students at Munich University founded, and whose ‘warfare’ was the distribution of leaflets resisting the Nazi regime). Sholti also tells us about Yanina Altman who wrote the book, about his meetings with Yanina herself and their joint attempt to consolidate a way in which to ‘train’ people to be the just of this world… Naturally, we also spoke about Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada.
All this leads us to ‘open’ the circle.
Rami says there are ‘sounds and scents of war’. A complex situation.
Roni brings us up to date about our friends in Gaza. Things that were supposed to take place are being delayed. Especially because of the spreading pandemic and lockdown. There are those who want us to raise our voices, but others who wish us to continue in a less visible manner. She speaks about the boy for whom a piano was transferred, and his father forbade him to play, the boy made a film in favor of contact with Israelis, and participated with us in one of the Zoom meetings. Roni complains about the ‘reaction’ cycle on both sides.
Ghadir lists her identities and summarizes them saying ‘I’m from wherever you want me to be, from the whole world’… She too has spoken with a friend in Gaza who is very concerned about Covid-19. She was moved by a video (which she has sent abroad) in which a physician in Gaza sings to a Covid-19 patient while treating him. She asks how the Israelis can be humane towards Lebanon and still ignore Gaza… People should be told very loudly that “something terrible is happening here!” Ghadir also stands with Ethiopian mothers who demonstrate opposite police stations, protesting the treatment of Ethiopians.
Jaber says that in spite of Corona being everyone’s enemy, wars between people continue, we have forgotten humanity in the name of hatred. It is important to be human in all senses of the word, this will melt animosity. He is somewhat frustrated but is not losing hope. Times are hard since the death of his sister.
Shuloti has been trying to affect reality for years now, and if it is hard at least he finds consolation saying that ‘reality has not managed to change me’… Sometimes he thinks he should go elsewhere, but understands that this would perhaps alleviate his problems but not others’. There is a voice inside him that calls him to persist, and he knows he is paying a price. Three months ago they held an event for Gaza on Zoom – at the port of Akko, the port of Jaffa and various artists. Fishermen took part, riding their boats with banners supporting Gaza, speeches were held and artists read out and played their works. Sholti does not delude himself about the effect of such an event, but people who took part did do something there for themselves. He calls upon people to continue to act in the spirit of such protest. He spoke about a fellow named Rotem Levine and a group that makes films about shared civil existence, in Hebrew and Arabic, and distributes them. He also tells us about a group of educators that is active. A group of lawyers was supposed to hold a workshop in Akabah (Jordan) but didn’t do it because of the Corona lockdown there. Sholti invited Rami to workshops that he and his partner hold in Akabah, following his acquaintance with Rami in the circle.
Shmulik emphasizes the persistence of the circle that has reached the other side, and is appreciated there. Our ongoing presence here affects us and the situation in general.
Hayuta was moved to know we held an activity with Etty Hillesum’s cards. She was moved by Ghadir bringing the idea and the cards, and by Hillesum whose book she had read. She reads us several lines from the book. She thinks the book is a must read for all humans.
Ghadir takes out a Hillesum card every day and takes its message into her daily life. She reads out today’s card… Rami asks her to do it in Arabic as well and she does.
Zohar has just come from Bethlehem. For the past eight years she has been very active in the Free Gaza flotillas, and quotes a phrase she heard wherein hope and despair are not opposites. “The opposite of hope and despair is activity”. She has come to the circle for the first time, fresh off the boat to Gaza from which she has been taken off. She has been living in Spain for the past 15 years and trying to reach Gaza. One must do something meaningful as Israelis, and for that force needs to be exercised from the outside. The experience from the circle is that ‘it is good but not enough’… One just cannot continue life as usual. The flotillas are stuck now because of the Corona pandemic.
Mark feels that he has been a stranger here at this time. The activity of Rebellion Extinction has been attracting him more and more and it is depressing too… The organizer of that movement (in jail right now) says that one must reach total desperation in order for some action to begin. The rebellion has been running forward and forgetting specific goals. 23 tycoons hold on to half of the world’s capital, and 10% of the world’s richest people hold on to 95% of that capital. It is depressing and Mark does not see any candle flickering in the wind.
Salah connected to the circle and enjoys listening to the others.
Zohar’s friend from Bethlehem has sent word, and Ghadir reads the Arabic and translates for us. I asked her to translate and distribute… Towards the end I remind people that Sukkoth is around the corner, and we should repeat some concentrated hospitality as we had last year. Opinions, ideas, some emotions, and our time is up.
Energy flowed in the circle thanks to Hayuta, Zohar, Mark, Rami, Roni, Ghadir, Jaber, Sholti, Shmulik, Oded, Salah.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 127, August 21, 2020

Occasionally at Migdalor encounters, someone speaks of information they absorbed in our “circle”, or that came by recommendation of one of the circle participants. Thus, Jaber speaks of what he learned during his participation – of refugee-dom, human suffering, Gaza as a the world’s largest open-air prison. He thinks it is the fault of us all, but the situation in Gaza just cannot persist. He tries to come every week, it’s calming…
Shmulik, affected by Meron Benbenisti’s book “Dream of the White Sabra” – that we were exposed to it in Migdalor meetings thanks to Nomika – wonders if we are proceeding in the wrong direction… Shmulik relates to the chapter in which Benbenisti writes of political conflicts, and as one who has been dealing with the subject, presents a local solution. His conclusion is one land with a model of shared life. This has economic, demographic and many other good reasons that would benefits both sides. Shmulik (and I) find this a must read! Shmulik believes that like every other conflict, ours too will find its solution. As proof of his belief, he comes to the Migdalor every single week…
Roni and Gaza, neighbors and friends, a flower sent to her cellular phone every Friday, daily correspondence, and … “rounds” of violence that come repeatedly, sowing more suffering, wane and wax. Roni, in her endless sensitivity, understands what the Gazans undergo, and experiences the fires (caused by incendiary balloons hurled from the Gaza Strip) first hand. Her son, helping to put out fires, arrives angry… Roni explains, trying to make him understand. She studies Arabic with Haneen and speaks with her about the pain. Haneen resents the comparison of a burning field and a killed child. And Roni doesn’t want to compare, she wants to contain…
Ghadeer, who had been in a Gaza summer camp as a schoolchild, aches what is happening. She feels for her friends from the area who experience the “rounds”. She aches the injury suffered by nature, the fires, the people, the harm to the world. She thinks of those anxious at the alarms, and of those who have no alarm systems. She thinks about the children on both sides who only see the enemy. She comes to the circle to feel that she herself is not changing. Corona shows us we’re “all in the same boat”.
Menachem is an activist with “Women Making Peace” (“we are three men and 45,000 women”). Unlike Ghadeer, for him Gaza is less of a “personal” issue. The confrontation between the two entities is not going anywhere. Because of the politicians. No mother brings a child into the world thinking it would be killed in war. There is no winner in a war. Only dead and wounded. He cannot stay inside himself and say I’m outside the circle… The circle of killing must stop. Especially of children, in any way possible.
Hagit is touched by Jaber’s words. For her Gaza is the market she reached after the 1967 war, where she bought soap the scent of which follows her to this day. Smadar, her friend, turned to her and said it’s impossible for them not to do anything and just sit far away. They want to collect stories and publish them. Like the ones heard at Migdalor. Hagit wishes to hear the personal experience of each participant and make them into stories.
Tze’ela lives in the area. She was born here but moved to the center of the country as a child. Now she’s back. Gaza is a feeling of pain, a language of pain. She senses the pain that invades her and tries to get out of it, unsuccessfully. Still, she feels she must live around here. Experience the pain. She sees Gaza opposite her, and cannot ignore it. The experience is painful but unavoidable in its different shades.
Dor grew up in Los Angeles. Her father is from Zikim, her mother from Netiv Ha-Asara. She has been studying at the Arava Institute since February. She wishes to stay much longer. She has many childhood friends here (from her Israeli vacations) of Netiv Ha-Asara. She met them. It was difficult. One of them said she didn’t want to develop feelings of empathy with Gaza. Ignoring it is intentional and demonstrative. Closing one’s eyes in face of reality. A friend who had been a sniper inside Gaza. He saw an 8-year old child go up to the rood, reported him, and was told to decide on his own what to do… These are friends her own age. She cannot stop coming…
Noa is at Arava Institute too, with Dor. She met Ghadeer at a circle of Women Making Peace. She grew up in Tel Aviv, with a leftist family and a mother from Haifa with Arab friends. The Left, she thinks, has become center, and the center – right-wing. Talking with friends about Gaza, she criticized people who are not exposed to reality. The usual claims were made that we are being murdered and that the occupied territories are our own. She publicized a letter from an Arab friend who spoke of the will to live in peace, and a friend told her that when she reached the word “occupation” – she stopped reading the letter…
Hanan arrived at the Migdalor because of the kites… He builds kites. Comes more or less regularly. This week a picture was posted on the net of a mother and her children with phosphorous burns. Hanan knows a website where relevancy and truth of information on the net are checked out. Hanan checked the picture and thinks it’s from Afghanistan, but he also knows from a “B’Tselem report that the Israeli army did use phosphorous ammunition in Gaza. While looking for information on the picture he found out that the Israeli army has perpetrated many horrors in Gaza, but doesn’t think the specific picture is from there. Yesterday he saw alarms on Twitter and thought about his friends here. When home in Beit Shemesh, he says, we’re his friends from Gaza…
For Malki this is her weekly moment of sanity. She doesn’t come to demonstrations, so this is the little she can do. She is pessimistic… A picture of the recent week shows colorful balloons with explosives, near a living, fresh bush. Dissonance. At the website called “Friends Across the Fence” she read of someone from Gaza studying in Cairo who got to Beirut and discovered a poem by Dylan Thomas there – “Do not go gently into that good night…”. Malki’s mom loved Dylan Thomas and Malki knows the poem well. The discovery that she shares its experience with an anonymous fellow from Gaza excited her.
Maharan visited Gaza often in his younger years. The falafel, the scents, the beach, the memories, everything feels familiar. He entered Gaza four years ago, and everything he recalled from his childhood was gone. Except the military government building… In the Saja’iya there was a eucalyptus tree still standing where he’d remembered it. People complain of the difficult situation and miss Israel… Everyone he met speaks of this. There must be solution! The State of Israel must understand that Gaza is an independent entity. Peace must be made with the Hamas. The contact between Gaza and the West Bank is broken, and each is a separate entity. Historically Gaza was “difficult” for anyone trying to conquer it. Gaza is important as a hub of commerce, important for the economy, for development.
When Ghadeer meets young pre-draft-age Israelis, she tells them to remember they have mothers waiting at home, but their rivals on the other side also have mothers waiting at home. This morning she met a neighbor of Ethiopian origin. They spoke of yesterday’s protest demonstration (the Negev region demands employment, health services, schooling!) and had an interesting conversation. He got excited and wants to come to activities with Ghadeer. She says one must be active all the time even if it feels pointless. At the end of the day it is effective, and one cannot know at which point things will happen. Someone from the “The Movement for Quality Government in Israel” told her that the older generation of Israelis let things deteriorate the way they did, and she had a hard time listening to this.
In the circle, Hagit responds and says she thinks it’s harsh but true.
Ghadeer resents this.
Ghadeer brought Hillsum cards – a project by Dina Awad (West Bank) and Emma Shamba (Tamera community in Portugal). Before the activity she reads aloud a poem by Samih Al Qassem. She facilitates the Hillsum cards activity. The cards quote things that Hillsum wrote, among other things, when held at the concentration camp, prior to her murder in 1943. Each of the participants pulls out a card and relates to the quote. It was interesting, fascinating!
Participants:
Jaber, Shmulik, Hagit, Roni, Malki, Maharan, Ghadeer, Menachem, Hanan, Tze’ela, Dor, Noa, Oded
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 126, August 14, 2020

Women from the (Israeli) Jordan Valley are coming to our Migdalor circle today. We’re waiting…
In the meantime, two army vehicles arrive with water tanks for putting out fires. The driver-operators are invited for coffee. Some don’t stay, but continue to put out some fire. Three of them stay – Zohar, Ziv and Oron. “Operation Grandma”, the fire version… Three brothers, kibbutzniks from our area, all left and settled in various parts of the country, and now they have gotten together, and volunteered to help fight the fires… They are treated with coffee and also get Rami, who reviews for them the rationale of the phenomenon they are now witnessing – “The circle for Gaza awareness”.
Ziv tells us what he thinks is “the Left’s disease”, but a call to put out a fire break up his diagnosis too early, and they leave.
A bus arrives, with 15 women from the Jordan Valley and vicinity. The bus driver, Abed, joins the circle. Not all have visited with us before, so besides coffee, they too receive Rami’s explanation about the idea of the Migdalor – from the talks he had with Roni about the actual idea, through looking for the right place, to the verbal design that defines the idea – “hope can be navigated towards the place where a light shines”.
The group has reached us after visiting the “Black Arrow”, where the family of soldier Hadar Goldin and his army pals assemble every Friday. They spoke with Leah Goldin, Hadar’s mom. The Jordan Valley women came to us and are continuing from here to the Jerusalem demonstrations at Balfour St. (Netanyahu’s residence). The visit with us is short and they are many…
Rami concludes his opening by mentioning the wind that brings in the fragrances of Gaza, the sea, the port, the language and the history, and tells them about our friends in Gaza itself who know about us, and ask us to continue to remember and speak of their life conditions.
Tova, from the Jordan Valley, came out of curiosity. She is a member of “Women Make Peace”, demonstrates at Balfour, follows the goings-on in Gaza, writes in Facebook.
Tamar has been here several times. We are all Gaza, she says, all neighbors of Gaza. Rami attempts to “correct” her words – to say Gaza space. But the correction is not accepted. The State of Israel is not interested in those Israelis who suffer, not even Leah Goldin whom they have met. She tries to glean hope from the demonstrations. She says we have forgotten the people with all the demonstration hubbub. She misses the personal encounter with people. Solidarity that must dwell in actual encounter. At Migdalor she feels at home.
Abed comes from a bereaved family. He wants peace and security for everyone.
Untiring Roni creates ties and acquaintances with more and more Gazans. The contact began when she volunteered to transport ill patients from the checkpoints to hospitals in Israel. There is power in the personal encounter. Thinking differently does not mean the person is good or bad. She speaks of her contact with her friend Maha who lives in Gaza. They both participated in a conference in the US. Roni is helped by Maha when it comes to problems inside Gaza. Toni has a friend in Gaza who sends her a drawing of a flower every single Friday. Today he sent her a drawing of a lighthouse… She speaks of friends in Gaza who never give up and do blessed work trying to change the image of Israelis there. They wish for a normal life and want us to go on with our activity for this ‘trivial’ idea. Roni does not give up hope in spite of the difficulties. It’s easy to blame others, and responsibility should be shared by all those involved.
Rivka says that after Roni she has no words… She participated in a trip in March 2018, heard about our circle (as it was being born…) and came to check it out. She recalls being present when doctors (Arab citizens of Israel from the Physicians for Human Rights) who came out of Gaza, passed by Migdalor and told us first hand about the horrific hardships at the Gazan hospitals. Migdalor accompanies her ever since and she feels her own solidarity with the idea.
Shmulik wishes to say only three short things: It’s important to them, it’s important to him, and it will be solved.
Jaber found it so important to come, that he left a visit of a delegation from Aravah Institute who had come on a visit to his unrecognized village of Al Zarnouk.
Nahshi does not forget, and it is important that all his friends on both sides know it.
Racheli said that during Operation “Cast Lead” Israelis living near the border with Gaza evacuated and ever since they’re in contact. Gaza across the border is not on her mind in her daily routine.
Tamar says that here she feels more understood and understanding, more than elsewhere.
Esther has come “to clear her conscience”… But Rami’s optimism is contagious.
Edna did not speak but confirmed her support of what Esther said.
Roni says that wherever she sees light, there she goes.
For Noga, the encounters with people and their stories are touching, but it’s Sisyphean.
Ruti is one of Kefar Aza’s founders, she knew Gaza in the past.
Orit is here for the first time, Sarah for her fifth.
Tali says she is “sent to Gaza” (common Hebrew curse) by demonstration opposers. She was born in Beer Sheva and absorbed “much Gaza” in her childhood.
Miriam has come for the first time and wishes to continue coming, it’s enriching.
Anna too wants to continue coming. She too is here for the first time.
Moshe introduces himself only, for lack of time.
Manal speaks a bit about herself, her voice hoarse. The Jordan Valley women’s group leaves to continue their journey to Balfour, the circle empties, 4 p.m. grows near, and the refreshments from the Jordan Valley has remained on the table. Not for long… Until 4 o’clock we discuss present matters…
Participants in the circle (a bit elliptical…):
Zohar, Ziv, Oron, Rami, Tova, Roni, Oded, Shmulik, Manal, Nahshi, Jaber, Abed, Tamar, Rivka, Racheli, Tamar, Esther, Edna, Roni, Ruti, Noga, Orit, Sarah, Tali, Anna, Miriam, Malki, Moshe.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 125 – August 7, 2020

Ashraf El Ajami is a member of the “Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society” of the Palestinian Authority. He was supposed to come to our circle today, but about two hours before our meeting, he informed us that he fell ill… He’ll come when well again, soon… We wish him a fast recovery and good health.
Rami opened and said that he often wonders what the point of sitting here is, what does Gaza awareness mean… He received his answer from Fuad, a Gazan who has been with us twice this past month and said that when he heard about this circle, he came and Migdalor made him feel at home. For Rami, too, Gaza is an open space, home to us all. Gaza is an ever-widening circle of people who say this is home.
For Roni, Gaza means neighbors and friends. To receive a photo of a flower from someone in Gaza, a letter from a friend imprisoned in Gaza, a phone call from a Gazan friend. Gaza is a place where Roni has lived in the past, shopped in its market and learned how to drive. Gaza needs help and Roni helps, as much as she can within her meager means.
Ghadir comes to the circle to get energized. Gaza is large prison. The power of her friends is the wish for peace. She has a friend imprisoned in Gaza who asks her to continue her activities for normal life among humans who are neighbors.
Eli comes from the north of Israel. He sees South Lebanon from his home. Looks like Switzerland… But tense. He volunteers as a coordinator for organizing encounters of the Interaction committee with any body that wishes to meet Palestinians. He comes to our meetings personally, sees it as a mission.
Shoshi comes from the north as well. The situation in Israel is desperate, and it feels good to meet people and be encouraged.
Vivian says she has already met members of the Interaction Committee at a meeting she organized in her kibbutz. She was reminded of the time she ran programs with a Gazan partner who lives in Ramallah now. Everything is closed down at present.
Maharan, a teacher of citizenship and an attorney, remembers the qebab, the sea breeze, and Gazan markets. Childhood memories. His uncle served in the Israeli military government. He entered Gaza 4 years ago. An abyss lies between the 1990s and this last entry. The Saja’iya neighborhood lies in ruins. Gaza has changed, only the governor’s house stands as it always had. Neighborhoods are over-crowded. No Electricity. People don’t care to struggle any longer, they want to live. They recall the good old days until the PA came. He donates money during Ramadan. Maharan tries to stay optimistic, but the peace camp in Israel is weak. If it depended on people, peace would already be here.
Nahshi has worked and befriended the Gazans with whom he worked in the past. He comes to be reminded that Gaza exists and suffers, and hopes that on the other side they know he thinks about them. He feels good in the company of people who come to the circle, it enriches him with new insights.
For Limor the common Israeli attitude towards produces the endless stupidity and human cruelty. She feels optimistic when looking at the circle, even if it’s the only civil act she commits.
For Rinat Gaza means neighbors. She knows how much they suffer there. She feels sad and helpless.
Shmulik says the encounters are therapeutic and a “laundry” for the participants’ personal conscience vs. their neighbors.
David has arrived for the second time. As a child he used to hear “Go to Gaza!” as a curse. He came to Gaza during his military service. He stood at the checkpoints. He let a girl go through who said she was coming from the market with a bag of nuts for her family, and was scolded by his commanders for not having inspected her well. This made him begin to ask why? Why must we disrupt the lives of others. They too want to live and work and have a good time. From his home he hears the muezzin. He does not feel safe enough to enter the Old City of Jerusalem.
Karni, too, has come for the second time now. For her Gaza is a very far place with much suffering. She hears about it in the news. She looks forward to a space without borders, or at least open borders. She is not active personally.
Micha is a teacher and educator. He experiences with his pupils the bombings from Gaza at the school where he has taught. His pupils hated the Gazans. They had no idea nor did they care about what goes on in Gaza, nor did they want to know. The lack of understanding is unbearable.
Yossi has taught in the Middle East Department as well as the Politics and Government Department at Beer Sheva’s Ben Gurion University. When students complained that they do not learn enough about “our” conflict vis a vis other conflicts, he was asked to prepare a program that he named “Chosen Issues in the Arab-Israeli Conflict”, which became very popular among students. The students who come now lack much knowledge, and the program is very helpful in widening their horizons. Yossi says he wishes they would forget what they learned, and remember the word “narrative”. Each side has its own narrative and there is more than a single truth. Yossi chose to learn Arabic in high school (rather than French) because his mother told him that Arabs were his neighbors. He took part in encounters of Israeli leftists with Palestinian leaders as early as the 1970s, including Issam Sartawi. Yossi knows a lot and has many stories to tell from the time of his activism, and he offers a separate encounter for this subject.
Jaber sent a photo of our meeting to Marwan, and Marwan returned a greeting to the Migdalor participants, which Jaber read for us.
Nomika recalls a Mercedes Sosa song (which Nomi brought for our last session via Zoom) – “That is all I ask of God” – a song protesting oppression. Relating to Micha’s words, she wonders how he as a teacher passes on humanist values to the next generations. She suggests talking about this in of our meetings.
Dina lives in the area. Gaza is an unsolved problem that cannot be regarded indifferently. People there are suffering, and every one of us needs to do the little they can. Her kibbutz had Gazan workers and ties were close.
Smadar had ties with Gaza in her childhood because she grew up in nearby Ashkelon. When she returned to live in the south of Israel, Gaza came back into her awareness and she has daily Facebook contact with Gaza. She also has friends in the Negev who have family relations in Gaza. On Facebook she often gets the usual Israeli “Go to Gaza” (that equals “go to hell!”) and knows how to answer them. Smadar mentioned the we are not numbers website that she follows. Rami intervenes and suggests we all enter this website, and that of Yuval Avraham. Shelli came with a shirt that says “Justice to Iyad, Justice to Habtum” (Palestinian Iyad al Halaq was murdered by Israeli police in Jerusalem, Eritrean Habtum Zarhum was lynched by Israelis in Beer Sheva) in Arabic and Hebrew. She has never been to Gaza. She can hardly imagine life there. A security official got mad at her for her shirt’s inscription. He was in the 2014 assault against Gaza and came back traumatized. There is a wall of ignorance both between her and the Gazans and between her and other Israelis.
Mark says Gaza is madness. He has been living for over 20 years near Gaza. He feels shame and guilt. The situation with the Palestinians has brought us to immoral depths which he cannot begin to understand.
Arik says his significant ties with Gaza began 15 years ago at an encounter with young Gazans in Jerusalem. It continued with a shared blog, in attempts to help Gazans reach hospital in Israel, in the founding of “Another Voice”, encounters with groups and seminars. He is trying to cope with the two-sided madness of ruling from which so many humans are hurt. He emphasizes connection and humaneness with the other side. An attempt to separate the insoluble, desperate macro picture, and the micro meetings of people with each other. It is real and immediately felt. Our circle is an important voice against demonization and de-humanization of Gazans. He has a lot of feeling through connections (and sometimes disconnections…) with Gazans.
Jaber says that Al Zarnouk does not lack problems, but coming to Migdalor he realizes that suffering in Gaza is much greater. Gaza for him means family, neighbors and friends. He does not recognize the Separation fence that originated in sin. He feels good in the circle, has a common language with others. Israelis should see Gaza in a normal light. One day, the fence will disappear!
Ghadir gives us the regards she received from Ashraf, who received photos of the Migdalor. Ghadir tries to explain the Israeli response to the disaster that befell Beirut last Tuesday. She associates this with the disregard of Gazans versus the solidarity with the victims in Beirut. She wishes Israel would relate to Gaza this way as well…
Participants: Roni, Rami, Limor, Shmulik, Mark, Nahshi, Shelly, Oded, Jaber, Ghadir, Vivian, Smadar, Micha, Maharan, Nomika, Arik, Eli, Yossi, Dina, Shoshi, David, Karni, Rinat.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 124 – July 31, 2020

At last week’s Migdalor meeting, Uzi spoke of the Trump Plan, claiming it was not so bad, and that the Palestinians should accept it. Rami “challenged” Uzi and asked him to bring to our next meeting the part in the “Trump Plan” that discusses the Gaza Strip. Uzi took up the challenge, the Migdalor got together as usual the next week, and the combo of Uzi-Migdlor-Trump Plan is here for you…
Uzi opens, saying he read the plan several times. “Only” 181 pages in English, but – he reassures us – the English isn’t too “lofty”… (after all Trump needs to understand it…).
In the context of Gaza there’s an addition of two territorial blocs around the Halutza area and around Beer Milka. Which would add another 20 % to the Strip, with corridor connections. It remains unclear whether the connections are in the Egyptian or the Israeli area. Uzi holds on to his opinion that the Palestinians should accept the plan. They have something to gain (a state), which throws Israel into an internal conflict to such an extent that eventually Israel could not accept it and will look to the world as a refuser of the plan.
Hanan says he thinks that when something looks insoluble, we calm ourselves by drawing up a plan… Something we can discuss ad nauseum, but not execute… With or without a connection, Hanan tries to think about “tribalism” in the Arab world. He thinks that in the modern world of the industrial era tribalism disappeared as people left the rural countryside for the cities because that’s where work and eventually education lay. Arab society did not undergo industrialization and has remained agrarian/clannish/tribal, which can at times lead to violence because every tribe has its own rules. They need their own “Ben Gurion” to unite the tribes.
Uzi comments that they conquered the world as tribes (the Muslims) and Hanan says this happened prior to the industrial age. Hanan continues, saying this makes it easier for Israel to divide and rule. Hanan knows change will not come during his own lifetime, but he still holds on to hope. He doesn’t know how to change the tribal thing, but is not desperate.
Dina says there’s a kind of frustration because change is difficult. Change could be good for our neighbors. They are not open to progress. For example, she mentions the change that a school principal at Zarnouk wished to make and nearly cost him his life. His modernism clashed with traditional tribalism. She thinks that modernity should be combined gently with tribalism. It will take a long time. Our leaders and theirs do not try hard enough to work together… The ones from there who do come to us realize we have good things that they could integrate.
Malki has no actual ideology. For her, desperation is stronger than hope. There is an inability to deal with religion. She does not see any plan right now that could produce hope. Malki mentions the initiative of Shmulik and Nahshi who believe and act on the personal level, and make sure to reinforce encounters with Faisal and his family from Hizma. There are tiny flashes of hope, but mostly despair.
Roni is not willing to hold on to despair as a way of life, it neutralizes and does not help. She is reading a book by Gershon Baskin. She grew up on the “right-wing” side, and absorbed history strictly from the Israeli side, until she went on a mission to Egypt where she discovered that the regional ethos has a completely different side. So it with Gershon Baskin. He came from a religious Jewish family and his conscious trajectory was similar to hers. Roni emphasizes that she does not belittle the narrative with which she grew up but tries to accept the other side as it is and believes that the two narratives can be combined without confrontation. Still there is always the possibility of blaming the other side for not advancing, but that does not lead us anywhere.
Shmulik believes in historical processes that have historical depth. The past century saw processes that no one believed would take place. Here too. Shmulik believes that a single shared state will be founded here. The situation of the Gazans will have to be solved. Either by outside elements in some plan or other, or the two warring sides would do it by themselves. Shmulik has finished reading Meron Benbenisti’s book Dream of the White Sabra and like Benbenisti, he too has long since reached the same conclusion: One state!
Shmulik thinks that personal acquaintance with someone from a different world of content (like Faisal, for instance) breaks up condescendence of one over the other, for direct speech melts down prejudices. Benbenisti says that in the reality that exists between the river and the sea, no state can exist without being bi-national.
I (Oded) respond to Dina, after much reading and thought in recent years, that I try to be more aware of where I stand when I relate to the stance of the other. That’s why I do not see in myself or in my community the kind of example I should wish to emulate…
Namely, there is no community or person who is more or less “advanced”… There is difference! Differences can confront each other but if there is the will to understand, they can complement each other and even create partnership.
Rami thanks Uzi for the importance of precise information (the Trump Plan). We have very little knowledge about Gaza, says Rami, and it is very partial. Rami does not nurture hopes. Every week he takes with him from the circle new and interesting things. He also says this in regard to the encounter with Ashraf ‘Ajarmi who will join us next week. The circle will host him “as the circle does”. The situation in Gaza must change! Rami concludes.
Roni updates us on the state of our friends in Gaza. No news…
A bit before Manal and Salah arrive. They have been coming for three weeks now! They did not wish to speak, just say hello and drink coffee. It’s their holiday today, Eid Al Adha. Our heartiest holiday wishes.
Participants rounding the corners of the conflict…:
Hana, Dina, Malki, Uzi, Roni, Rami, Shmulik, Oded, Manal, Salah.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 123 – July 24, 2020

For some moments our age averaged about 45… Four participants over 65, and four under 25… In other words, we had some young in our midst!
Want to meet? Let’s, but today in English, which is a great excuse for my inaccuracies…
Shmulik shows how we introduce ourselves by mentioning his own name, place of residence and his Gaza awareness.
Gal, on the younger side of our age-mean, knew that Gaza is where rockets and bombs are launched at Israel… After meeting Fuad, she learned much about life there, but Gaza still frightens her.
Madsen (or “Madi”, her nickname) came from California. She is learning a lot about this place and situation. Gaza for her is a “black box” which she is trying to decipher. She says that most of the people she knows in Israel don’t know anything about Gaza. They think it’s a state. She fears the lack of knowledge about people suffering there.
Dor, who “built” our circle with us two weeks ago, has come back to Migdalor faster than she intended… She was born to Israelis in America, but spent all her childhood and youth vacations among her grandparents in Kibbutz Zikim and at Netiv Ha-Asara. Still it took her many years to understand the meaning of life in our area. She is conscious of the hardships because of driving Palestinian patients to hospitals in Israel. It’s a small conduit of information.
Rami mentions the speed at which we forget our feelings about Gaza and sink back into our everyday business. That is why we light a small “light” at Migdalor (Hebrew for lighthouse) every week. He emphasizes that a short while free of missiles from Gaza is “enough” for everyone here to forget Gaza and its people.
Fuad says that in Gaza one must actually fight for their health, it’s not accessible. Migdalor is the way to remember home. People are frustrated with the problems in Gaza that are only getting worse. People in Gaza are committing suicide. Unemployment and lockdown is frustrating and makes them desperate. One of the suicides was actually seeking help, and no one offered to help. When Fuad sees people living well and right next to them people hardly making it, he asks why it has to be this way.
Hayuta sees Gaza from her home. She tells Fuad that the fact that Israel has made it possible for him to come here to study is a miracle as far as she is concerned. Huyuta sees Gaza from her home but does not really know how hard life is over there.
Mark finds himself on the spectrum between understanding himself and understanding his environment. He is worried about what is going to happen to the world soon. Yesterday he finished preparing subtitles for someone foretelling the end of the world… These are the problems he is concerned about, the bigger picture. Gaza is the near example of the world’s decline environmentally. He says it’s not respectable to come here and not talk about Gaza, but he has a hard time deciding what is more important at the moment. Specifically Gaza with all of its different problems, or the global ecological catastrophe. He is filled with frustration.
Rami says that being here is being ‘active’. He tells Fuad that in order to meet him here, at Migdalor, it was worth coming here every week for 2 years and 4 months…
Malki has been in the are for 5 years already. For her Migdalor is a point of sanity. So many bad things are taking place around us, and coming here gives her deeper breath and calm, so she is a regular. To remain sane… Rami says that our Roni represents the meaning of Migdalor with her activity! She is the light that shines for those who need help in Gaza, and toward which they navigate! He asks Roni how not to forget…
Roni introduces herself and her activity, her life history in the region, and her mission in Egypt. When she was young she lived in Sinai, and was not interested in the issue of the Occupied Territories… Roni does not see herself belonging anywhere else, but sees Palestinians the same way. She asks what is to be done with the feeling of belonging of the two peoples to the same place. She needs a partner on the other side who belives like her that both belong here. And she has found them! At any given moment in her life she is in touch or somehow busy with something related to Gaza. When solution will come, both sides need to discuss it and agree. The situation right now is a lose-lose one…
Fuad wants to add something: his family came from a village that was demolished and its inhabitants expelled. For him, that village is his grandfather’s home. And the prickly-pears that still stand there are witness to it.
Roni says that her family too experienced expulsion and refugee-dom and had to leave its home and homeland, so she definitely understands the Palestinians’ refugee sense. She tells Fuad that the place he feels as his ‘home’ should become a real home.
Mark too speaks of his family’s ‘wanderings’, and that he always felt that Israel is his home. England, where he was born, was not home. But every narrative should be listened to and the problems must be solved together.
Shmulik says that after the 1967 war, many refugees came to visit the area of Kibbutz Zikim and Karmiya, where their villages had been and from which they were expelled in the 1948 war. For us, of Ha-Shomer Ha-Tzair it was a kind of a shock! (He didn’t say why…) Many families came with the keys of their home as a token of memory.
Rami notices that the dominant word in the circle is ‘memory’. He suggests we speak about the link between ‘home’ and ‘memory’.
Salah, grandson of the famous Sheikh Sliman Al-Huzail, says that the State of Israel belongs to us all and we should concentrate on the present.
Madsen came to Israel on the “Birthright” project. She wanted to know more about Judaism and Israel. From the moment she arrived she was told that this was her home. The history of this land belongs to us, they said. She wanted that this is indeed home, just as some of her friends wanted to move and live in Israel. Madsen was disappointed. She did not manage to feel that she belonged, even after 10 days… She says she could “decide” to feel this way. There are two groups here, she says, but only one of them has the right to say that this is its home. If she, born in the US, has the right to build her home here, then certainly Fuad should have the same right.
Dor says that her grandfather from Nativ Ha-Asara did not feel for a moment that this was not his own place. When he left the older (settlement) of Nativ Ha-Asara in the Sinai, he literally wept. He was born in Iraq. He felt that the settlement was his home. Home is something one creates and builds.
Malki relates to what Madsen said, that one needs to be free to choose one’s home. Destiny had decided on her own birth place and faith. In Israel she feels at home anywhere she lives. She does not believe she could feel that way anywhere else. She has childhood memories from Tel Aviv. There is a kind of nostalgia any time she comes there.
Fuad enjoys listening. He shows the Hebrew he’s learned! He says that if you are Palestinian, you have a document from the Palestinian Authority. This is what unites them, a document that does not even mention a state but only an “authority”. He spent a lot of time with his grandparents as a child. Bedtime stories about the village from which they were expelled. They wanted Fuad to realize that where they are now is not home. Home is in that village… For him home is where family is. His own family is scattered in several places around the world. But is every such a place, home?
Roni says she has been listening to everyone and noticed that each person has their own definition for home. She thinks it’s something strong, internal. There is a difference between her family home in England, and here. She feels divided between England and Israel.
Shmulik shares with us his insight from reading Meron Benbenisti’s book Dream of the White Sabra, where the author simply defines himself as ‘native’.
Mark tells us about his father who escaped South Africa. He himself did not like their home in England. His family has known expulsions, and he wished to build a safe home for his children so he came here…
Hayuta, in the past, needed to feel a real physical sense of home. Now she feels more balanced between the physical and the symbolic home.
Manal says she likes to come to Migdalor to listen. She has never had such an experience and wishes to go on coming. Her own life, as a girl, was better than it is now because she was not at all busy with the notion of home. They simply lived there… Now there is more alienation when they have a built-up house.
Salah thinks we should speak about the history of the Jews (the Bible…) which is also a kind of claim to the land.
Ye’ela says that the area is her childhood landscape more than her physical home.
Finally we spoke a bit about the intention to host a Palestinian member of the Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society, and wondered whether it would be recorded by the media. There were opinions in different directions. Then we left.
Present were: Salah, Oded, Gal, Madsen, Dor, Malki, Fuad, Roni, Mark, Hayuta, Manal, Rami, Shmulik, Ye’ela, Shani, Negev (grandson).
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 122 – July 17, 2020

While Shmulik and I lay out a circle of chairs and make the first round of coffee, here come Salah and Manal – travelers. They are invited to have a seat, and Salah asks us about ourselves and the old sulfur plant nearby.
In the meantime, more members of the Migdalor circle arrive and we begin our introduction circle:
Salah works on gardening projects (in Lahav, Mishmar Ha-Negev and other localities). He “goes back” to Biblical times and wonders about our origins and his. He concludes that “no matter what religion we ascribe, ‘proper behavior precedes the Toreah’. His father was the first Bedouin to have served in the Israeli army. He is very angry at the Israeli authorities for not letting him build, and only demolish homes, and hates the Gazans for frightening his kids when they hear the bombing sirens. He uses harsh hateful language that raises a debate and reactions to his spiteful statements about Gaza.
Manal does not elaborate beyond introducing herself, but is rather resentful of her partner’s words… Salah likes to quote the Bible. His uncle Taleb was the deputy governor of Gaza.
Roni speaks of her activity for Gazan rights. Every day all day she is busy processing different applications and requests for help of people locked up in Gaza. Some of them call her “our mother”. Roni says that her 10-year old grandchild was alone when a siren went off, was scared and cried, and when his mom came and he calmed down, he told her, “perhaps we should listen to grandma?”…
Salah and Manal take their leave, Manal is moved and promises to be back.
Uri asks about Covid 19 in Gaza. Jaber emphasizes and discipline and strict orders given by Hamas that have kept the disease rates low. A discussion begins about public discipline, from coping with pandemics to the point of dictatorship. Rami raises the issue of a mental shift (continued from last week…) and asks us to relate to the claim that totalitarianism is not necessarily bad and perhaps such a regime is better at coping with a pandemic crisis… Nomika suggests a “topic” to think and speak about: a personal event that has affected her frame of mind. She says her life in the town of Sderot, as a kibbutznik, has made her livein harmony with identities other than hers and to examine the meaning of ‘prejudice’.
A few years ago, at a European airport, Uri met a Syrian family. When introducing himself as an Israeli, the Syrian man hugged him warmly and told him how they envy Israelis who live under more freedom. “Back then I was a leftie, not right-wing as I am today”, says Uri. Nowadays if he hears Arabic being spoken near him in Israel, he is immediately on “enemy” alert.
Jaber says that the authorities in the Arab countries do not reflect what their peoples think. He once sat with a Moroccan Arab who said that his enemy was the Israeli, not the Jew. He has met a Jew married to a Muslim woman and she took the trouble to save him Kosher food for Passover. He was very moved.
Shmulik responds to the challenge raised by Rami, and says that many non-dictatorial states have overcome the Corona pandemic. He speaks about Meron Benbenisti whose book “The Dream of the White Sabra” he is now reading, and identifies himself as undergoing a process of “the biography of disillusion” that the author describes in the book. In the past Shmulik met Nathan Yellin Mor, and Uzi Ornan – the “Canaanite” brother of poet Yonatan Ratosh – who had both experienced a mental shift. The consciousness he has reached brings him to our circle here, which is a political act as far as he is concerned. Canaanite for him is first and foremost language, then landscape, space. He met a tour guide from (settler-colonist) Etzyon Bloc who was travelling with a book by Rachel Yanait Ben Zvi (wife of Israel’s 2nd president). Shmulik himself was travelling with the book “Khirbet Hiz’a” by S. Yizhar (a n Israeli book containing acknowledgment of the 1948 Nakba that was rather ostracized when it was published in the 1950s). They both reached the same conclusion: the country is for everyone, both from the right and from the left.
Uri says that defining left and right is a complicated business.
Rami says that the need to define makes for distance. When he lived in Mitzpe Ramon it took him years to connect to the “street” where he lived. Once he was hiking with a friend to the spring. They thought they would be alone… When people came, Rami and his friend challenged themselves and tried to set their ‘prejudices’ about those people. They were wrong again and again… Every person interests him as a person. He is “practicing” his ability not to define and have prior opinion about a certain person.
Roni speaks of the regime issue. Lately she been living between democracy that enables opinions, and their limitation. But if the majority has chosen, does she have a right to oppose their choice? A ruler needs to show ‘maturity’ and understand that he is also responsible for those who did not vote for him. She recalls going to conference in the US. When she left Israel, Peres was the elected Prime Minister, and when she arrived at the US, Bibi was in power. At the conference she spoke of this turnover and said that Bibi is responsible for her too, for Roni, although she did not vote for him. My own opinion, says Roni, is irrelevant if I don’t consider the other side.
Jaber says that most of us “follow”, don’t express independent opoinions. The ruling power directs us and everyone follows. People need at least to listen to one another even if the regime defines them as enemies.
Nahshi answers Uri about “problematic” definitions of left and right. This definition is political and does not at all cover economic definition and others. Left-wing, by definition, encourages study, discussion, asking questions. The right-wing adheres to absolute truths. Managing the Corona pandemic dictatorially does not “solve” anything but creates a powder keg that activates even “followers”.
Nomika grew up in a liberal home but still was not aware of the tremendous crisis that befell Palestinians in 1948. In a Palestinian-Israeli school project, the Palestinian children drew the country outline and wrote in it “Palestine”, the Jewish children drew the same map and wrote “Israel”. Nomike could hardly believe she was totally “erased” on the Palestinian map.
That’s it for today. We remind everyone that if conditions are right, we will meet on August 7 with a Palestinian representative of the Committee for Interaction with Israeli society.
Participants: Salah, Manal, Rami, Shmulik, Roni, Jaber, Nahshi, Limor, Oded, Nomika, Uri, Tomer.
Wrote: Oded