Encounter 148 – January 15, 2021

Rami: Hello, Matan, how old are you?
Matan: ???
Talya (Matan’s mom): 6
Rami: 6-years old, great! Want a story, Matan?
Matan: ???
Rami: Good. What would you say, Matan, if right here near us were a train station where you could board a train straight to the pyramids? Do you know the Pyramids, Matan?
Matan: ???
Talya: Suuuure! From Felix (“Letters to Felix”, a series of travel books for children. O.B.)
Rami: And do you know, Matan, that the pyramids are huge! (Rami invites Matan to stand and compares their height…). You see, Matan, the pyramids are much much taller even than me… So you should know that right here near us was once a train station where real trains took passengers to the pyramids and to Damascus.
The space experience for children, Rami’s version. This is how he explains to Matan, his parents Talya and Yaniv and his infant brother Itai about what we do…
When we arrived – Shmulik, Nahshi and myself – we had no great expectations… after all, a “tight” lockdown has been decreed.
In this spirit I sent a photo of our “symbolic presence”. Until Nahshi readies our first pot of coffee, we go down – Shmulik and I – to see how the olive tree is doing that we planted about two and a half years ago on a bed of peace seeds.
The tree and the peace seeds were brought by a Tibetan nun whose Tibetan name I don’t recall, but before her Tibetan incarnation her name used to be Yael… The tree, like the mission it was assigned, has a hard time developing, but we must note that it is struggling and surviving, and even showing green leaves!
In the meantime, a bike rider arrives and when he takes off his helmet, we realize it’s Mark. Of our circle’s veterans, Mark has lately been very busy in climate matters and taken part in the “extinction rebellion” group, fighting for preserving life on this planet. Unfortunately, the main struggle is with governments and big-money, and therefore it is a hard and Sisyphian one. Most of our discourse at this point focuses on climate matters that Mark takes the trouble to explain to us.
Two people arrive – Lior and Ayal. Ayal is ‘armed’ with a huge camera. They live around here, are familiar and invited to coffee. They accepted the invitation, had coffee and left before sounding any kind of Gaza awareness.
Rami arrived – just got his second Covid-19 vaccine shot today. Shmulik and I have already done so, and Nahshi is on his way to the second shot.
Maharan arrives. We’ll have “stories”…
Yaniv and Talya and their kids arrive too. Traveling. They’re from Rami’s kibbutz and for their sake we held an acquaintance circle the opening of which I already quoted above.
After Rami’s explanation, Mark says something I noted especially for these notes: “I am looking for a place where I needn’t be ashamed to say that I’m ashamed of my country”. Me too. Mark has been less enthusiastic about coming to Migdalor lately, but feels that we’re like family that one doesn’t always have to come visit… As long as there is quiet in the area, he says, it’s hard to remember the frightful moments.
Yanic grew up in Kiryat Ata (in northern Israel). He has come following his wife, didn’t know our area. He began to hear from friends about the history. He experienced Gaza in the confrontations since he has been living around here. Now he realizes that they too deserve to live, and that if we could help… His father came from Iraq, speaks Arabic, and therefore sometimes used to speak it with Arabs. Yaniv hadn’t given Gaza a thought. After the army, for his job, he came to the Occupied Territories, and only then did he get to know it. He works for a firm that produces ‘means’ for the Israeli army.
A discussion of history ensues, led by Rami, as Maharan – a trained history teacher – tries to “branch off” occasionally to the information he holds, away from what Rami is saying. This is no longer a proper “circle” and the speakers keep interrupting each other, but since only us veterans are left (Talya, Yaniv and the children left to continue their hike), there is much value in any information.
So this is what I managed to write down. First, Rami: For 600 years the Ottomans were an “area empire”, namely “empire” because of the size of the area under their control, and of these – 400 years in our area. They developed Jaffa, Jerusalem, Ramla and other places. Gaza was not of interest to them, nor the entire Negev desert. Maharan says that they hanged his great-great-grandfather for not paying taxes. Rami said that Beer Sheva did not interest the Turks until the Suez Canal was dug. The canal, dug by the British and the French, threatened them and they began to develop Palestine’s southern cities as well. Now an “argument” ensued between Maharan and Rami. According to the latter, Beer Sheva was a godforsaken village. In 1900 the Ottomans brought Austrian and German engineers and wished them to build a rail lines (the Hejazi train existed as well as local lines) in the direction of Beer Sheva, Ramat Hovav, Bir Asluj. They never made it. The Ottomans developed Beer Sheva as a gift to the Bedouin tribes so they would not cause trouble but cooperate in view of the British threat from Egypt. They took rocks from Byzantine Halutza and built a real city – grain mill, hospital, water wells (17). Everything in military fashion. Beer Sheva turned into a military center. In 1917, and after the First World War, the British lay a water main and a railway track from Egypt to Palestine within 3 months. The Ottomans realize belatedly that they should have fortified Gaza. The British disconnect them from Beer Sheva and fight for Gaza.
Travelers peep at is from above. Rami goes to convince them to join us, and in the meantime Maharan tells us about the Jewish tribes who supported Mohammad, and those who didn’t. About Ethiopia that was a regional power and wanted to destroy Mecca. About the Persian empire stretching all the way to Yemen. Yemen was Christian. The Persians brutalized the Christians and they fled, except for the inhabitants of two towns that were Bedouin. According to Maharan, the Persians saved Islam, that was about to be wiped out, and the Ottomans were determined to preserve it.
Moussa and Amjad arrive in the middle of Maharan’s talk, and listen. Rami asks them what Gaza means to them. Amjad’s mother is Gazan-born. I note that someone has already been here with a similar story, and Mussa says that half of the Bedouin town of Segev Shalom are families one of whose parents came from Gaza. According to them, at present there is hardly any contact even while family relations live there. For the youngsters, Gaza is “somewhere out there” even if mom was born there…
Rami explains about our circle and invites them to continue coming.
Participated: Yaniv, Talya, Matan and Itai (their children), Rami, Shmulik, Maharan, Mark, Nahshi, Oded, Ayal, Lior, Moussa, Amjad
Wrote – Oded.

Encounter 147 – January 8, 2021

All we wanted was to keep the lighthouse lit, make sure that anyone who needs it would not lose hope, even when it’s dark and closed all around.
When we got there, Shmulik and I, at the usual time – Rami’s firetruck was already there in the car-park and we got a thorough explanation of this magnificent ‘ship of the desert’ along with Doron, Sharon and their children, while sipping coffee and being updated on the news in times of closure.
The Golani Infantry battalion commander in charge of the area arrived. His wife and children came to visit him here because he has not been able to leave here for 3 weeks already. Rami takes the commander and his family for a round and explanation about the site and about us.
We do the same thing with the command-team soldiers – of the different Israeli locations of Holon, Beit Shean and Karmiel – who manage to agree that “it used to be happy here before we got here” and could be that way again.
After the military unit proceeds with its mission, Rami and Shmulik reminisce about their common neighborhood in Giv’atayim, and apparently Shmulik’s brith (circumcision ceremony) was held at the Aldema house opposite the Haruuvis…
Some more stories about Tzippora’s collective grocery, and then it’s time to say goodbye… Until next week.
We were Rami, Shmulik and Nahshi
Wrote – Nahchsi

Encounter 146 – January 1, 2021

Israel declared ‘lockdown’. On Whatsapp correspondence this week there were ‘hinted’ doubts about a Zoom encounter on Friday… On the other hand, whoever listened to the media this week realized this ‘lockdown’ was totally full of holes and whoever referred to it dismissed it as unnecessary and un-enforceable.
We came to our ‘lighthouse’ site anyway… Shmulik, Nahshi, Hayuta and I. We met a traveling couple who said they were already on their way back to the car, but remained only to hear who we are, and in the meantime the coffee arrived, followed by other interesting people, and the couple stayed for another hour and a half…
The woman, Sarit, turned out to be no less than Rami’s neighbor! And when Rami would arrive after a while, we would learn about their special connection. In the meantime, she wished to hear about us, and we told her and began our circle. I opened by explaining about us and the structure we are sitting in.
Sarit’s turn: she says that as a resident of the area, she was very frightened during the ‘security’ events (aka offensives), to the point that she needed professional help. Now, when something happens, she goes out to photograph and be impressed close up… She does not believe that in this life she will get to ride her bike to the beach at Gaza… She is no longer scared but does not believe anything will change. As a child she heard her dad’s stories about Gaza. How strongly they hate us over there. Her children are a bit ‘messed up” because of the ‘security’ situation, but she sees the place she lives in as her home and has no intention of leaving the area.
Morris was born in Sderot (also in the vicinity). He is no longer there. He has a brother there. The brother’s kids, like Sarit’s, are traumatized by the ‘security’ situation. Morris remembers Gaza from his childhood and trips with his family. In the army he served in the entire Gaza Strip.
Shmulik extends the information about our circle’s link with Gaza, for Sarit and Morris.
Nahshi wishes to relate to whoever comes to our circle the sense of normality that we once had vis a vis the Gazans. He reminds himself of it through our circle’s encounters.
Hayuta comes mainly to hear everyone.
Jaber arrives, with Ghadir. She is still on the phone and remains outside while Jaber tells about his unrecognized village, Al Zarnouk. Sarit questions him about life conditions there. Jaber says that the sheep and poultry in the neighboring Jewish village of Nevatim have a better life… Still he comes here because there are people whose life is even harder than his and they live over there, in Gaza. Morris asks about Jaber’s origins. Jaber tells him his forefathers were from the Negev, have always been there, and now they are scattered all over the area.
Rami arrives. In Kibbutz Beeri he lives near the animals and when anything happens, the first to respond are the geese, and right afterwards, Sarit’s security-room window slams shut… After the 2014 offensive he had anxieties. He couldn’t find peace and went walking a lot. When he came to the sulfur plant he felt no fear. He sat. Friends arrived. He began to invite people.
Sarit tells us that from early on her daughter has been connected to Rami and his girlfriend calms her fears. Rami adds that at the Migdalor a space has come into being where it’s possible to speak of our pains as well as others’. For him Gaza is a “great gift”.
For Ghadir, the Migdalor is a social and political encounter. She emphasizes them both equally. Gaza is one big jail. Before Gaza was closed off and came under siege, she participated in encounters that took place there. It hurts her that on both sides of the border children grow up seeing only an enemy on the other side, and they – the children – pay the price of their parents’ choice. Every minute, every second is critical in this situation, and one must not let go for a moment from acting towards peace and reconciliation.
Sarit responds to Ghadir’s words and says that her children too, and she herself, think about the Gaza children whenever there’s ‘an event’.
The Arabs’ situation in Israel hurts Ghadir, certainly vis a vis the Jewish Israelis and among them as well. Arabs should be ‘pushed’ into all of the political parties in order to look out for their situation in the country. She thinks that reconciliation with the Palestinians is more important than any peace accords. In the Lebanon war, a missile fell in the yard of her family home in Acco. Her own anxieties are identical with everyone else’s. The state of things with the Covid-19 virus is worrisome. Most of Acco’s residents at present are Arabs who escaped their villages in the area in 1948. Only two families (hers is one of them) remained in Acco originally. Acco’s Arab inhabitants were expelled to Lebanon in 1948.
Hanan came to Migdalor because of the kites. He is a kite-person and as such, it hurt him that kites were used (by the Gazans) for destruction. He likes to come, but has gotten a bit tired of worrying about Gaza… Trouble never ceases. He has come to nurture hope but feels that it has been too much.
There are fermented miniature carrots on the table! It is grown in Nir Yitzhak. A conversation ensues about farming… Rami speaks of his activity on various ‘operations’ as a coordinator on behalf of the state. He coordinated between farmers and the army on standby areas in order to prevent damages in farmlands, and coordinated with the state about restitution for lands that were damaged. So he helped fix the army’s damages on the one hand, and now helps to fix damages on the other side… Injustice is injustice and must be fixed…
Guests arrive! We hold an acquaintance round. Our guests are Eliraz and Noam. Rami tells about us. He quotes a Beeri poem (of the kibbutz’ 30th-anniversary) to say that the kibbutzniks defined themselves back then as ‘settlers’… He speaks of Ali’s well of which and from whom they received water, about the battle of Gaza waged between the Ottomans and the British (we Israelis were not involved?…) and about the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians expelled to Gaza in 1948. In 1949 Israel and Egypt signed an agreement that imprisons the refugees in a strip of 12 by 50 kilometers and at once the population grew significantly. At times, in the circle, family members and descendants of the refugees of yesteryear sit together.
Eliraz and Noam hurried home before the Sabbath and therefore only listened, and we- curious – hope they will come again and be heard too.
Words: Shmulik, Jaber, Hayuta, Oded, Morris, Sarit, Ghadir, Nahshi, Rami, Hanan, Noam and Eliraz
Tune: the wind, the space and the sound of Nahshi’s gas flame on which coffee and tea were brewed. Every week a new song is arranged here.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 145 – December 25, 2020

When I got to writing the present report, I realized I had begun to summarize the participants’ words only when Brian arrived, and that was already 2:30 p.m., half-way through…
So what went on earlier? Only from memory…
We invited Rina and Eyal and their three children who were just traveling in the sufur plant. Rina was born and raised on a kibbutz in this space and lives with Eyal and their children in Rishon le-Zion. The parents sat with us and the kids continued running around and playing hide-and-seek.
First we were Shmulik (making coffee), Roni and I. I began the “ceremony”.
From the ramp above us, five youngsters slid down into the structure. We invited them to share coffee. Two accepted – Anis and Kiram. The other three went out to explore the surrounding. I began again: “My name is Oded Nir, from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak, and we have been sitting here every week now for 2 years and 9 months”…
The other three then joined us – Talal, Mohammad and Seif. I began for the third time…
Rina and Eyal left…
The five youngsters introduced themselves. Anis, the talker, said they were all cousins, nearly all born in 1999, only Talal in 2000. They’re traveling.
After they heard us why we’re here and what’s the idea, Anis began a fluent monologue around the experience he and his friend had when they went to Hebron to fix something in their car, and what they had to undergo at the checkpoint on their way back. Problems arose because the friend had no ID on him (he doesn’t own one, even at home…) and innocently they had thought that if they just say they’re Israeli citizens everything will work out… Well, it worked out after about 9 hours. In between Anis talked about his insights of people in the area and his own will that everyone be fine.
Malki arrived.
The five used this pause and got up to continue their trip, not before they were invited of course to return on our next Friday sessions. There was something charmed in the loudness and aggressiveness with which they came down from the parking lot to the plant, the surprise on their faces when they were invited to sit down, and the calm and attentiveness that rested on them as they sat in our circle.
Nomika and Nur arrived, then Rami.
That morning I had suggested on Whatsapp that we read the interview Ravit Hecht held with Abrum Burg (in Haaretz). So we have something to discuss if we find ourselves alone. Well, we were alone for a while, but discussed things that had nothing to do with Burg nor with Gaza…
I believe Rami began to speak about “the state of the street and the town-square versus malls in urban space”…
A couple with a child passed by. Travelling. They sat for 2 minutes and left. We didn’t get to know them, except for the fact that they are Bedouins living in Beer Sheva, and their son goes to school in town.
Brian arrived and hurried to wonder about the fact that there are no Jewish teachers in Arab schools and vice-versa. He himself is working to change this (teaches a bit in the Bedouin town of Hura). Some hope is better than no hope… he says.
Wassim, Bashar and Firas arrive. They’re a bit shy, and Rami convinces them to stay. They sit and Rami tells them about us and about himself. How he grew up in Kibbutz Beeri, neighboring Gaza, and also raised his kids there… For years he has been feeling that the space is also home to others. He realized this through his Bedouin and Gazan friends. The area is shared by us all. 6 years ago, after a terrible war/attack everyone felt like coming to sit in this place, that was built by the British when they ruled here… The place is open to all four directions, and to everyone. He explains about the ‘Migdalor’ – the lighthouse. “One can navigate one’s hope towards the place that emits light”.
Nomika talks about a Zoom conversation she had with a Gazan friend who works with mental health issues in Gaza (the conversation was initiated by the Other Voice organization), talking about the harsh realities in his professional field.
Wassim is a young boy, Bashar has been a soldier in the army for about a year, and Firas is between his graduation from high school and enlistment, or continued studies. Bashar wishes to continue his army career. His grandmother is from Gaza and lives in Rahat (Bedouin town). There is no contact with the family, and she does not speak about hers. She has not been back to visit there for 40 years, since her wedding. “I am a soldier”, says Bashar. “Whoever comes to the fence wants to be a martyr. There are opening fire regulations.” His grandmother cried when he told her he was serving “in Gaza”. She said, “Don’t go there”.
Firas studied in Lahav, at the Joe Allon program, “Desert Stars”. Combining Jews and Arabs. Right now he works with his dad on the border, laying pipes and infrastructures. They work on kibbutzim and moshavim, in the area. There are good and bad people everywhere. It’s a bit scary to work on the border, but the army watches out for them.
Brian asks what they think about all citizens doing some kind of service. Bashar and Firas think it’s very good. Firas says that Arab girls do civilian service. The boys who do not enlist work or study. Sometimes those who study in Israel after high school must do some sort of civilian service. Rami says that Arabs with skills similar to those of Jews are discriminated against on the civilian job market.
Nomika relates to what Brian said earlier about Jews teaching in Arab schools and vice versa. She says that it’s not true, there are more and more Arab teachers teaching in Jewish schools and not only Arabic. Bashar says it’s true, he knows such cases in Ofakin. Bashar doesn’t want to study, he desires a military career.
Firas wants to study business administration, and Wassim doesn’t want school – he wants to be a truck driver.
Rami asks Bashar to bring his grandma to our circle… It’s closing time and we disperse.
Participants this time were Shmulik, Talal, Mohammad, Seif, Kiram, Anis, Eyal, Rina, Roni, Oded, Malki, Nur, Nomika, Rami, Brian, Firas, Wassim, Bashar.
Wrote – Oded.

Encounter 144, December 18, 2020

As Shmulik, Nahshi and I arrived, Rami was already on site, doing what he knows best: explaining to a traveling couple about his birth area, Gaza space.
We joined them and got acquainted with Yair and Amira. Yair is a tour guide who came to travel but also to prepare a tour for next Saturday. They are from the north of the country and insisted that they are on their way but Nahshi’s coffee won out and they sat down. Yair talked about two concepts connected with Gaza – gauze and ‘gazette’. Gauze – a Napoleonic term was called thus because of the cotton from which this bandage is made, growing in Gazan space or even just sent through the Gaza port, and anyway was named after Gaza; ‘gazette’ – newspaper or newsletter – was called after Gaza because the ships bearing goods came from Gaza (whose port was the largest and most important in the region) distributed them in the various Mediterranean ports. The captain used to deliver the list of goods his ship bore and because these came from Gaza, the list was named ‘gazette’.
In the meantime, Mari and Ilan arrived. A short discussion ensued on the difference (if any…) between memory and consciousness. Ilan says that the difference between them is that consciousness is present whereas memory is past but contains consciousness.
Many guests arrive, and Rami explains about the circle and his own Gaza consciousness.
This is the point to ask forgiveness of our regular participants: because of the great number of guests this time, today’s notes summarize mainly the words of our new guests and whether any of the veterans had any new insights.
Rami speaks of childhood, adulthood and the circle of life neighboring Gaza.
Nahshi speaks of the good people he got to know in Gaza.
Shmulik shares an experience which we had not yet heard about: an encounter in the past with the families of Gazan potters who sit and work inside the ground! He shares the essence of Migdalor. He thinks it is political (as opposed to Rami).
Uzi remembers better days. Now he senses deep sorrow and a feeling of missing out. To the circle he arrives as someone who believes something could be done.
Yunka and Haim are former settler-colonists at Yamit (a settler-colony in the Gaza Strip that was dismantled). When Haim lived there, his life ran in Rafah, peacefully. When he moved from there to a Moshav at the Shalom area, the workers from Rafah would come there… Ever since Israel’s disengagement from Gaza he no longer thinks about what took place in the past nor about Gaza. In the past he worked in security in the area. He recalls the workers who came to work in all of the settler-colonies. There was no hostility until we were separated. He doesn’t look back…
Maharan tells us that in Gaza sat an Egyptian governor (prior to 1967) who used to send out infiltrators to damage Israeli communities along the border. The Israelis decided to assassinate him by handing an agent a certain explosive envelope which he was supposed to pass on, without telling the agent what it contained. When he arrived in Gaza, he opened it in the presence of Egyptian officers. Two officers were killed and the agent was blinded. Eventually, his son returned in Arafat’s delegation. Maharan says that there are gypsies in Gaza and he liked to attend weddings there because of the festivities and the belly dancing…
Mahmoud is a truck driver who passes on goods to Gaza. He has phone contact with traders. He enters a demilitarized zone with his truck, takes down his goods and returns after two hours to pick up the platform that was unloaded onto Gazan trucks.
Itzik has a bakery in Jaffa. Through the bakery he got to know many Gazans. They attended family festivities mutually. Now he has no contact with them. He misses them. He recalls a worker who was hard of hearing, and was a dough master. He would make very special dough, a real professional. Children 9-10 years old would come to the flea market and to his bakery to work. He really appreciated their determination and survival instincts. They did every kind of work with full dedication. At present the situation, thinks Itzik, is a total miss of leaders on both sides. After 1967 he thought that was the moment to make peace, but Israeli euphoria killed it all. He talks about a meeting in Gaza attended by respected businessmen, and when an Israeli officer, even a junior one, entered the room, they got up. That is what they were used to from Egyptian days. The businessmen were told that here this was not necessary but there were also Israelis who thought that if the were not “held” short, it would lead to disaster, we must show them who’s in charge now…
Pnina, Itzik’s partner, grew up in Jaffa with Arabs. There was respect for humans and their customs. She met Gazans at the bakery. They were always nice to her.
Malki came out of despair (still…). Here, in our circle, it is more comfortable… She wants the circle to continue.
Nomika tells us of about the films observed a week ago (this was already written about last week). The discourse with the group, different from everything familiar, artists, Arab and Jewish students sang together with artists there over the screen! For Nomika this encounter with such youngsters in Sderot was extraordinary. Art with political and social commitment. But reality has its say and the Gazans had to say goodbye before the electricity cut…
Dina says that one cannot remain indifferent to the goings-on in Gaza. Sadly, she has never been to Gaza. Too bad peace is waged with lands and not enough with the immediate neighbors. Dina was born in Alexandria and went back there on a trip with her parents and their stories. Now it’s dirty and neglected and signs that used to be written in English, Italian and Arabic were not only in Arabic. Reality is sadder than stories… Her parents were born in Egypt. In the past she worked in a civilian firm with someone who used to be Gaza’s military governor. She heard many stories from him. From her childhood she recalls the unfriendly saying “Go to Gaza!” (the Israeli way of saying “go to hell!”).
Mari came because of the circle’s atmosphere of containment, and her attraction to complexity.
Dror lives in Sderot. She was on a service year this past year, which means less thoughts about what goes on in Gaza. This is national service with youth in a movement that calls itself “culture through art”. She has chosen not to serve in the army.
For Nur, Gazans are a part of her life. She does not believe in borders. The Covid-19 virus illustrates the absurdity of borders. She does not “count” them, borders. They have no meaning nowadays. Perhaps they used to… Separation between humans now should not be continued. Gaza’s deteriorating health situation is our responsibility too, and will affect us. Just as the Gaza sewage, the neglect of which is our responsibility, affects the desalinated sea water that we all drink.
Mark thinks that Gaza is a daily reminder for the State of Israel that it has chosen the wrong path and continues in the wrong direction. Mark sees Gaza from his home window every day. Since it is quiet now, he is free to ask himself questions, why this situation?
Vivian has a story: she was the construction manager in Kibbutz Beeri. When her son was 5-years old and one of the workers did not arrive, he asked why. Vivian said it was due to closure. Why? War. Over what? Land. The child went to the cupboard, got a bucket and wanted to fill it with soil and give to the worker… Vivian says that Hamas is just as responsible as we are. But here, none of our people care.
Rami went to the north. It was raining. He wandered among the ruins of Bir’am village. A Christian Arab village whose inhabitants were expelled in 1948 with the promise to return. They have not been allowed to return to this day. A villager, Abu Nasser, whom Rami met, says – with bitter cynicism – that they are still waiting for those two weeks to pass so they can return… There is an Israeli national park there now. He went in. Got a leaflet that says not a word about the village history. Only the local church is mentioned… He met a friend from Kibbutz Bar’am who told him that they were directed to found their kibbutz on the village’s grounds. There are two factions in her kibbutz who argue whether exploding the Bir’am houses was justified or not. Further on his way he met an old man from Iqrit. They had coffee together. The man belongs to a vigil that sits there all these years to preserve Iqrit consciousness. Until the 1970s everything was deserted. A few years ago they came back and restored a part of this second Christian Arab village. Rami finds a resemblance here to us, to the Migdalor. He brought the story of Iqrit and Bir’am in order to say that the topic, in his opinion, is the fear to face and speak about injustice. At present the villagers number about 1800 men and woman, mainly in the village of Rame and some in Haifa.
Dina responds: we as Jews underwent similar tragedies. There is a problem in perpetuating tragedy. We got up as a people and got over the tragedy. This is way of the world – one continues! Perpetuating injustices makes people get stuck in their past. It’s frustrating. We have not learned out lesson either, but one must continue. See how problems are solved rather than perpetuated. In Uzbekistan she saw refugee camps and suffering children. The suffering of refugees exists in many places in the world. One must aspire to get out of the situation, not get stuck in it.
Mark has a hard time with Dina’s words and tells her that Zionism is all about remembrance of the past, which Dina asks them to forget. The State has not been true to its word to let the villagers return to their homes. A state does not behave this way. We are no better nor worse than other people in the world and Mark, personally, does not think we have a right to tell others what to remember and what to forget.
Nomika speaks of Israel’s broad activity in making Palestinian memory disappear. She reads out Shalom Chanoch’s poem/song – “Just like you”. This is our concluding chord for today’s encounter. Come meet us next week!
We were Yair, Amira, Rami, Shmulik, Nahshi, Oded, Mari, Ilan, Maharan, Mahmoud, Uzi, Malki, Dina, Nomika, Dror, Nur, Haim, Yunka, Itzik, Pepe (Pnina), Vivian, Mark
Wrote- Oded

Encounter 143 – December 11, 2020

This time, for a change, our encounter began with art!
Roni brought an album she edited for her partner Ovadia’s birthday, in which his paintings are shown. Impressive. The album passes hands. Then Roni tells us about an encounter of “Another voice”. The message there was that “Nothing is being done…” About Migdalor, too.
Rami is alarmed. He thinks that the seeds sown in Migdalor sometimes get to unexpected places. He talks about an artistic alliance that was created for a joint Palestinian-Israeli project that sprouted from an acquaintance at one of the Migdalor encounters. This brought about an interesting artistic product. Rami met the creators and through him, they thanked Migdalor for being there and making possible the conditions for familiarization and creativity. Rami thinks that things do happen. There is no need to “push” activity by force…
Incidentally, there is talk of concentrating several student films and other creators at a single event. We have the content, and the audience, we only need a producer…
The noise of dirt bikes sounds from the entrance and dies out. I go there to see what’s up. The guys dressed in black take off their helmets and stare at me. I ask if they want some coffee, and they look at each other and… “Why not?” They come in, sit down, Shmulik serves coffee.
Rami says it all in his soft way (after all, black-clad motorcyclists) – he is from Kibbutz Be’eri nearby and was a kid during the 1967 war, with the innocence of a child. He remembers barbed wire that marked a border and women bent down in the field, and missiles in recent years and in his children’s childhood. Now disconnection. A reality which he refuses to accept. That is his Gaza consciousness.
The motorcyclists already get the picture… Before they get the floor, Rami adds that if peace is signed with Morocco and an Emirates prince purchases Betar Jerusalem Football Team, then everything’s possible.
Malki tells them and us that she comes here in order not to forget that people in Gaza are suffering. Our circle produces a different way of thinking that attracts her.
Elishai, one of the cyclists, grew up around here and heard his parents’ stories about the market and the beach at Gaza. He is grateful to us for our activity and wishes to experience Gaza in peace time.
Moshe, the other cyclist, says we surprised him. He is glad to see that there is such a “circle” that talks about Gaza. For him Gaza meant fear and bad things. Now, as an adult, his mind has changed a bit. He believes the world is going to a better place because strange things are happening.
Roni talks about the altered consciousness she acquired when she met Palestinians face-to-face during her farming mission-time in Egypt. It meant getting acquainted with the other side of the conflict. “No partner for peace” is a false slogan, she says, politicians’ slogan. There are partners, and they should be approached. The regime there is difficult and still there are people there who want other things. People are the partners. It’s important to see the people. 50% of Gaza’s population are under the age of 18 and have not met any Israelis. Roni tries to bring about virtual meetings between groups there and here. She sees the essence of the Migdalor and the possibility of shedding light on the people there.
Elishai and Moshe get up to continue their trip, say “Keep going this way” and leave.
Roni tells us of a Palestinian friend who visited the circle in the past. He studies in Israel and for bureaucratic reasons his visa was not renewed and he will have to leave the country in a few hours. In his desperation he tearfully turned to Roni. She got to it immediately! The matter was settled within a few hours. Roni is moved when she tells us about this, and so are we. Roni was helped by the Gisha organization, which looks after the freedom of movement of Palestinians who wish to leave Gaza for different purposes.
Rami calls up the Palestinian, who wishes us a happy Hanukka and says everything’s worked out.
Roni continues to tell us about a group of girls from a pre-military course, who came to meet her for a tour of the moshav. From their style, she realized what they hear at home. Their questions attested to it. But they listened very carefully to Roni’s answers and insights, and after a few days sent her an excited letter of thanks for her activism, her tolerance and her humane and containing attitude.
Shmulik tells about his activity as a youth in leftist organizations.
His anti-Zionism irritated even his peers. Shmulik says that his brother, who has had a glorious military career, complained that his “leftism” damages his military career…
Roni calls Gaza. We speak with Khalil who tells of his wife’s birthday and the original gift he arranged for her, video segments of friends wishing her a happy birthday.
Rami talks with him about Hanukkah light – the light being brought to the area. The smile it raises. Khalil wishes to come to the circle, and Rami makes the circle come to him by giving him a tour of all our faces in the circle, via smart phone.
Malki wishes that we see him come in this entrance, live (she points at the entrance to the sulfur plant).
Hayuta reads out a poem by Nathan Zach (who died recently).
Brian arrives. He comes often, may this continue… Rami asks him to tell what makes him join us. Brian says it gives him a sense of doing and not just talking for the sake of impressing anyone. Here people talk and do honestly, not phony. He tells Shmulik that he differs on his “sense” of Zionism, but it comes from a real place, not fake.
Bella says she was once punished by her father for having gone to celebrate May 1st.
Hayuta tells us about how she got off school for May 1st.
Rami marched in Tel Aviv with a red flag.
Shmulike says he’s a communist and an individualist.
Brian says this is a contradiction… Shmulik gladly agrees.
It’s already 4 p.m. but Patrician and Adi arrive. Agronomists. We stayed to have coffee with them. Rami summarizes about the sulfur plant and about us. They talk of themselves and what Gaza means to them. It’s 4:20, mingling before breaking up, and going home.
Participants this time were Shmulik, Bella, Mari, Hayuta, Roni, Oded, Rami, Malki, Elishai, Moshe, Brian, Patrician, Adi.
Wrote – Oded.

Encounter 142 – December 4, 2020

Hello, shalom, ahlan –
We opened our Migdalor circle – Shmulik and myself – with hosting two couples of travelers: Avi and Shula from Alumim, and their guests Galit and Yossi from the Golan. Apparently Shmulik and Avi had known each other previously as they are both certified dairy farmers (Shmulik is an Emeritus dairy farmer…). They sat with us and had coffee, showed interest. Galit expressed her appreciation for the idea and the execution. They left without leaving behind any kind of “Gaza awareness”. As they were leaving, Roni arrived, with Anne and Steve. Steve seemed a bit surprised to see only two elderly men in a circle of empty chairs. We told him that it’s only going to get better. Anne and Steve are both Americans, so our circle proceeded in English. I mention English because it is connected to my summarizing in Hebrew…
The circle participants probably notice that I am recording the circle statements in order to summarize later on – but my English leaves something to be desired, and I have a hard time writing in Hebrew and listening in English. Therefore this summary proceeds by leaps and bounds, translating while listening, and missing out on sentences in English.
Today, I lead the circle, and mention the reasons for my activity in our Migdalor.
After me, Malki has the floor. She says that after moving to Gvulot she became much more aware of Gaza and the fate of the Gazans. Physical proximity brought her closer mentally and she became very concerned with them. That is why she comes to Migdalor every week.
Uzi, too, arrives nearly every week. He says: “My kibbutz, Gvulot, was founded in 1943, and I am proud that it happened without battle nor violence. My British birth certificate says I was born in Palestine and I like saying I am Palestinian. Over time, this has grown stronger: whenever I met Arabs in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere, I realized that Palestinians do not resemble them, they resemble us more – us Jewish Israelis. For me Gaza means very deep sorrow and a sense of loss, for which both sides are responsible.”
Ghadir is with us today, too. She is glad to be back after a Covid-19 break. She thinks Israeli Arabs have an important role to play as they are the bridge to peace. She remembers Gaza from her childhood, when she went there on family vacations. Ghadir is active in various social and inter-ethnic groups for peace. She wishes to leave behind a better world. Ghadir does not have children and for her, all the world’s children are her own. Even when she will no longer be here, she wishes to be certain that her family and friends continue to be active for reconciliation and peace.
Shmulik thinks we bear responsibility and may not ignore the situation.
Anne understands the “spirit” of Migdalor rom listening to speakers before her, and is very sympathetic.
Her partner, Steve, a journalist for the Washington Post, is here on a job… He is writing an item on bridges and ties between Israelis and Palestinians. He is glad he came here with Anne for she always exposes other and different angles that do not occur to him. Steve is writing a story about Roni’s ties with a fellow in Gaza and uses the opportunity to familiarize himself with different aspects of neighbor relations with the conflict in the background.
Uzi is concerned for the security of the Gaza fellow, and Steve answers that it is all done with coordination and agreement. Roni, who has brought Anne and Steve to the Migdalor, says she speaks with the Gazan on a daily basis. Mostly just to speak. At times about his life, his family, and the general situation in Gaza. He wants people to know and act for Gaza and emphasizes the importance of knowing and being active. His talks with Roni make him feel good. He has no work at present. He wishes to get out from Gaza for a while and come back. Roni says that the American hospital will be opened on December 21st.
In the future, a theater hall is also in the planning. Roni will be the Israeli coordinator of the hospital.
Nomika lives in Sderot and is a member of the “Other Voice” organization. She agrees with everything that has been said… She mentions to Steve and during the first Gaza war, she was interviewed by the Washington Post…
Nur too lives in Sderot. She thinks about the horrific situation on the other side, and that we live our lives as if that were normal but it is not. People on the other side are hurt and we enable this. They are on her mind all the time. Far but near. Coming here is her way to protest. She is a pacifist. She decided not to serve in the Israeli army. She does not wish to harm anyone. It was clear for her that she was not going to the army nor to jail…
Rami says he visited the Haran area in Turkey (origin of our Forefather Abraham), in the town of Urfa. Local myth there has it that Abraham was born in a cave in that area. Rami and his friends hid their Jewishness (they said they were New Zealanders) but were immediately identified as Israelis. When he said his name was Ram (sic) and mentioned that he lived near Beer Sheva, he was greatly honored. Both because his name sounded like Abraham and because Beer Sheva is tied to his name. Thanks to this they got to enter the holy cave.
Vivian identifies with Nur. She recalls that one of her sons too did not wish to enlist. She feels we must be more active. Vivian has a friend who escaped from Gaza to Ramallah when Hamas rose to power in the Gaza Strip, and feels like a refugee in Ramallah…
Towards the end of our encounter, we spoke with Mustafa (pseudonym) who lives in Gaza. He wishes to be in touch with us, work together. Positive thinking is necessary for change to take place, he says. We must find people ready to confront and act.
Finally, Ye’ela also showed up…
This time, participants were: Galit, Yossi, Avi, Shula, Uzi, Ghadir, Shmulik, Anne, Steve, Roni, Oded, Malki, Nomika, Nur, Rami, Vivian, Ye’ela
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 141– November 27, 2020

Winter is here and has made us decide to hold our circle inside the sulfur plant ‘skeletal’ structure. The decision was taken in a deep discussion among Shmulik, Nahshi and myself on our way to the “Migdalor”. We picked up Hayuta on our way.
We get there, get organized, and realize we forgot to bring water with us…
Luckily Maharan arrives, with a container of water in the car. A call for help which Nahshi sends out on our whatsapp group is answered by Mari who promises to bring more water.
In the meantime, Maharan, a lawyer and teacher (citizenship and history) tells about some of his experiences as a lawyer and slips into an interesting historical review in which he details spatial allotment according to the Bedouin tribal organization system. Maharan says this entails the entire Sinai peninsula, the Negev desert, ‘Trans-Jordan’ and a bit further to the north. This division also stretches in time, namely from the 18th-century on… Fascinating.
Shani and Or arrive, the film students from Sapir College who filmed, edited and presented a short film about the Migdalor as a part of their studies.
Maharan goes on from Bedouin history to American stuff, giving us a sociological explanation of Trump’s fall. He proceeds to the fall of the Israeli Labor party (Barak finished that one off…), continues towards various versions of the end of the world in different belief systems, tells us about the dynasty of Genghis Khan, his sons and conquests, and finally ends up this world-history review with his conclusion that all of North Africa is descended from Palestinian Canaanites…
Mari arrives with her promised water, as well as Nur and Nomika.
We hold an acquaintance circle to catch up.
Maharan tells us that in the Gaza Strip they’ve lost control over the Covid-pandemic. The only way out now is ‘herd immunity’.
Nomika updates us on getting ventilation machines into the Strip.
To my request, Shani tells us that their film about the Migdalor received warm professional reactions, but because of details that might endanger others, it was seen only by their classmates, lecturers and us. 15 minutes-long film edited from 30 hours of shooting… Editing was a frustrating experience. Eventually they focused on the editing, with despair and hope of the average person as a leading theme. Shani also made a film based on a conversation she had – with the help of Ghadir – with Warda, the caregiver of Iyad Al Halaq who was murdered by Border Police in East Jerusalem. She focused on reactions of people who hear her interview with Warda.
Nomika reads the invitation to the film made by Adir and Liora (not yet screened…), also students at Sapir who have come (and will return?) to our circle. This film too could not be screened because it is based on contact with people from Gaza. We are considering holding a small event for invitees only to watch the three films.
Brian arrives and introduces himself. An ex-lawyer from Virginia.
Since Maharan is a lawyer too, right away a discussion ensued about psychopaths and good people…
Nur, encouraged by Nomika, reads us two poems she has written on her personal experience in the stormy relation with her Gazan neighbors.
For Brian’s sake we hold another acquaintance circle, this time emphasizing the matter of “Gaza awareness”.
Mari speaks of the complexity of these relations that attracts her to come to the circle and understand more.
Nahshi speaks with friends in Gaza. He talks them from time to time. The circle is interesting, new, people are showing interest. Waiting to get back to some semblance of peaceful routine.
Hayuta comes to support the supporters… Less across the fence.
Nur thinks about “Nur” who lives in Gaza and what her “double’s” life is like.
Nomika, 14 years after founding “Another Voice” wishes not to lose the ability of seeing the other’s suffering. Over the years, ties have formed.
Shmulik speaks of a single space in which he is partakes, hoping for one human space.
Shahak arrives on foot towards the end of our meeting, with a backpack, as he left his vehicle behind. He has been living temporarily in Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak, and a talk with Shmulik aroused his curiosity to come and join us. He doesn’t know Gaza. He came to the vicinity in order to get to know the inhabitants of the Israeli side. Although he runs for his own pleasure through the kibbutz fields and arrives at the Gaza Strip fence, it doesn’t make him want to get to know those who live on the other side.
Brian lives in Ashqelon. For his fellow inhabitants there, Gaza is the origin of missiles. He has come in order to remember that there are human beings living on the other side. Whoever doesn’t know that thinks that the ‘other side’ consists only of beasts, he says.
Or says that until he came to film us, Gaza for him was a mystery. And didn’t interest him. Filming and meeting us made him get interesting and realize that there are people over there who are suffering, but Corona has overtaken the interest in Gaza, again.
For Shani, Gaza has been quite an issue with her conscience lately. She has heard some details from a veteran member of Kibbutz Nir-Am whom she met while observing Gaza. He gave names to places she saw with her friend, and told them of villages that no longer exist. Shani realized how much her generation lacks information.
That’s it. We were thrilled to see Or and Shani again, listen to Nur’s sensitive spirit through her poems, see Brian for the third encounter in a row, listen to Maharan’s abundant knowledge, and as usual – drink Nahshi’s coffee…
Participants: Maharan, Shmulik, Nahshi, Hayuta, Shani, Or, Oded, Mari Nomika, Nur, Brian, Shahak.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 140 – November 20, 2020

We meet, have coffee, hallah, and make small talk about everyday trivia.
The important things begin to come up when Roni tells us about her Zoom encounter with 11th and 12th graders. They listen most interestedly, she says. It’s rather surprising and thrilling. One teacher asks/says that “I – unlike you – think we’re giving and not getting anything in return”. Roni says, “It’s important how one gives, not just what…” I ask her if facts would not have mattered a bit, and Roni says that dialogue is more important than confrontation, and anyway some facts did sink in and eventually, from every Zoom ‘window’ nearly all students said it really interested them, and even the teacher said to Roni that “she had given him food for thought.”…
Hanan speaks about Uri who joined us last week and challenged the (would be) “consensus” with a different opinion. Hanan thought about what Uri had said on his way home and summarized for himself that we’re here to preserve hope, not to solve the problem. On another matter, Hanan met someone who knows Rami and when he mentioned Rami, his conversant said “Oh, Rami from Migdalor…” For Rami this was proof that Migdalor has more publicity “than we are aware of, in fact”.
Brian arrives. He came as a traveler last week, was invited for coffee and came back today (do not underestimate Nahshi’s coffee-making powers😊).
We do an acquaintance circle so that we all get to know Brian and he gets to know us.
Brian came from the US about 10 years ago, and teaches ‘debate’ in several venues. The Hebrew for this concept is debatable, and Roni tells us that the Hebrew Language Academy set the word ma’amat as the official Hebrew translation of the English ‘debate’.
Afterwards, Malki introduces herself, saying she comes to refresh herself in the company of good people and not forget the condition of our neighbors’ lives.
Jaber emphasizes the problematics of his village Al Zarnouk and says that although he comes from a place that suffers harsh discrimination by the state institutions, he cannot forget that in Gaza suffering and despair are much greater. Here with us he feels good, it calms his spirit.
I say that one of the reasons I come is the fact that those “fence events” began parallel to the founding of our circle. I thought, so I said, that people from the area would arrive with a different mode of thinking and would find listeners for it here in our Migdalor circle. As for the shooting at the Palestinians that took place in those events, I said that “shooting was performed by our moral soldiers”, which had one of the circle participants remark “no to cross lines…”
Anyway we stopped our acquaintance circle because a friend from Gaza just called.
At the moment he is home in Gaza, but plans to get out as soon as he can. He wants to leave as a private person, not as a “representative” of a political or social organization. Jaber speaks with him in Arabic and translates. The friend says that at the moment it is very limited, and politically one must let time do its job. It’s a hard period for him right now. In the past he made his living as a journalist, and can get back to it, but the social activism he had been involved in is now a problem. He is less concerned with himself, and more afraid that his work would be hampered. Nomika asks where he would like to go? He does not mention a specific destination. He just wants to do it at first possible moment. He mentions his will to come back to Gaza stronger (perhaps with an added – citizenship – my own interpretation), perhaps with a different status that is not subject to the regime’s caprices. He is known publicly, and cannot or doesn’t want to become anonymous again. He does not want to be prevented from expressing his opinions or acting for the sake of the community as he believes should be the case. The thought that he is harassed because of his opinions and activity is a source of despair. His family, too, is pressured by its surroundings. He has an idea to enter business with a relative, vis a vis Israel. At some point he suggests that Jaber “keep his place in the circle” because he is sitting with good and honest people (we?)… He says that the “project” he set up is rather strong, and he thinks that his leaving will strengthen it further. Rami tells him we all think about him and let everyone have a round with his cell phone. We all greet him and are greeted.
Rami dwells on Nur with his cell phone, and Jaber tells him that Nur managed not to be drafted into the Israeli army on grounds of conscientious objection. He appreciates this very much. We take leave of our Gazan friend.
Rami asks if there was anything new this week in connection with Gaza. I told him that the coordination with the PA following the change of power in the US has been renewed, and it is helpful for ill patients’ transfer through Israel.
Roni says she heard that the Gazan health authorities have run out of funds to pay for patients going to Israel for treatment, and perhaps they will only get out to hospitals in the West Bank. This is really not good news.
That’s it. There must have been more important things. Whoever can think of any is invited to add them…
Today’s circle included Hana, Brian, Nahshi, Shmulik, Roni, Oded, Jaber, Mari, Nur, Nomika, Malki, Rami 1, Rami 2.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 139 November 13, 2020

All because of a little coffee pot.
When it seemed that we were a motley few, we spread our gear and found out that our coffee pot was forgotten at home… What’s to be done?
Nahshi, whom Shmulik had caused grave guilt feelings, was assertively sent to the storeroom at Kibbutz Be’eri. When he took his time and our throats were crying out in desperation, he finally showed up with an Arabic coffee pot, but our disappointment grew as it turned out to be full of holes.
While we were still wondering what to do, two youngsters arrived on a handsome buggy. They saved us from social death. Non-chalantly they treated us to coffee in their state-of-the art pot. Thus we began our hospitality circle with Ron and David, both from Netivot. Ron is headed for office training in the Giv’ati infantry corps, both are cadets of the military academy at Reali High School in Haifa. They spoke of themselves as listeners, hearing a different kind of music they usually hear at home. They did admit that they have been hearing the other voice at school.
Another guest followed – Brian from the US, with multiple interests in work, who at this point in life is busy teaching debate at a Hura high school and in the Bedouin communities. Brian picked up our talk easily and certainly blended in, claiming that the conflict is derived mostly from hatred.
With time, Rami arrived, who began sorting out his books but felt in strong need of caffein so came to have coffee with us.
It is important to mention that Shmulik was our country guide specializing in the Be’eri area. Last of our guests was Uri Utin who came to say that he does not agree with peace through mere dialogue.
Present, having coffee, eating and debating were Shmulik, Nahshi, Roni, Hanan, Brian, Mark, Ron, David, Mari, Uri.
Wrote: Hayuta