Encounter 161 – April 16, 2021

It’s hot. The landscape in the nature reserve here is drying up which means – less travelers. They must have done their thing yesterday, on the official holiday… in fact, our ‘lighthouse’ circle today hosts only us ‘regulars’.
Rami must leave early and leaves us to think about his holiday experiences. He defines himself as suffering from PTSD and there, says he, used to simply not be in the country from before Passover until after the Memorial/Independence Days (Zionism’s ‘national’ month). This period is difficult for him. In the past two years, because of the pandemic, there is escape… To our Migdalor today he came because of missing it. He said “missing it’, and left to take care of his aching body and soul.
He leaves and others arrive: Malki, Bella, Dina, Maharan and Brian join Hayuta, Roni, Shmulik, Nahshi and Oded.
Most of our talk right now is about the Holocaust Memorial and the Israeli Memorial and Independence Days, and the insights they bear. We decide to do this in our usual circle mode.
For Malki, Independence Day has changed. She has issues with it now. She does not celebrate it wholeheartedly. On Memorial Day it’s different. Her identification with bereavement is clearer. On Independence Day she asks various questions: What does it mean, that the state belongs to us? Since when? And other such upsetting issues. True, what’s in the past remains in the past and were here, but there is this contradiction, even vis-à-vis Zionism. On Memorial Day eve she watched the ceremony held by the Forum of Palestinian and Israeli Bereaved Families. On the holiday itself she was glad to meet family, but nothing else.
Roni says there are things we used to feel more comfortable with in the past. She used to be proud to be a Jewish Israeli. Today this feeling is nearly gone. Memorial Day is different, but on Independence Day she feels uneasy with her friends’ views. She thinks that if we’re here, it’s our right to think of ourselves. She has a problem with those who absolutely and exclusively blame our side. ‘They’ don’t want to leave, and if so, it means that even from their point of view we are also right. We must cut things and begin to live here together. We’re all here. Let’s make life out of this.
For Dina, in the past Independence Day means only joy. Lately there are many question marks and things that make us doubt. She read an essay by Avishai Grossman, who says that the strong win, but in other wars – after the fighting is over, the winners help the vanquished recover. She was called upon to light a torch on her kibbutz. She felt honored but that the texts read there are debasing. She says that the term “exhausted” (which appeared on her speech and she omitted) is not suitable. Must we not be weak? She asks. What’s going on lately? Everything beginning anew? Everything called into question? What is happening to us? Frustration.
Bella has trouble with the fact that Memorial Day and Independence Day are sequel dates. Every year more and more of her acquaintances disappear. She has a hard time being gay. Suddenly “a Jew’s soul is aroused” (translated words from Israel’s national anthem) does not feel right. Lucy Aharish (TV celebrity of Palestinian Arab nationality married to a Jewish Israeli) said her son has an aroused Jewish soul but she cannot sing it. Bella is a Holocaust survivor. She had no home until she was 16. She asks, how can those who have no home feel at home anywhere? How come no reparations are being agreed on to those whose homes were taken away?
Hayuta worked in the school system most of her life. She educated Israelis with Zionist values. For her Independence Day is the most meaningful of holidays. She worked in Ofakim and invested much in ceremonies. She says that on the Holocaust Memorial she had a hard time making the children listen, but on the Israeli Memorial Day they were very attentive. Ceremonies are important to her. She was also responsible for ceremonies in Nir Oz.
Shmulik, responsible for the Memorial Day ceremonies in his kibbutz, reads out a poem he worte.
Nahshi also feels that the nationalist use of the memorials and holiday is exaggerated. He is glad and proud of the state he has. He feels that there are those who wish to exclude entire part of the public from the festive occasions. It should be everyone’s holiday. It is a date that for some is a kind of disaster, and for others – joy, and things should be found that are shared, in common. He works on himself to remain optimistic. Memorial Day is closer to him because of his personal ties with bereaved families or people he knew who died. There should be a way found to share this with the neighbors. It will come.
Marahan: this sequel of dates – between the Memorial and Independence – is bad. For Palestinians this is Nakba, catastrophe. They have a hard time accepting it, as well as the national anthem Hatikvah (Hebrew for hope). It’s like putting salt on their wounds. In a discussion he held with friends they concluded that first of all the anthem should be replaced. One needs an anthem that connects, not excludes. From there, from the connecting anthem, all inhabitants of this country could be united. He talks about his great-grandfather who in 1948 helped members of Kibbutz Shoval who were surrounded by the Egyptians. According to the moves of that war, the man wished to connect to the Jews. After the war Israel’s governments wished to expel the Bedouins, who were forced to collaborate and demonstrate their joy with Independence Day. It’s time for a constitution to be drawn, and have equality. Not populism that raises nationalists to positions of power.
Brian is thrilled with Israeli Memorial Day. He compares it to Memorial Day in the US which he finds measly… He is thrilled to hear the siren and see people stand and bow their heads. He think Independence Day is when all discrepancies should be put aside and people unite for that one day.
Raising this subject in the circle, I thought speakers would link Migdalor’s influence on their positions. Gaza consciousness in the context of independence or bereavement… I wish to believe that contestation and thought of most speakers, especially about the ostentatious celebrations of Independence Day were also the consequence of our talking circles in Migdalor.
Participants: Rami, Shmulik, Nahshi, Roni, Oded, Brian, Malki, Hayuta, Dina, Bella, Maharan.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 160, April 9, 2021

There were once 40 chairs: every time the chairs were replaced at the local elementary school, we’d get the old ones. First, we fastened them to the wall with a chain and lock. Once in a while anonymous people would cut the chain and take it. Then the lock. At some point we changed our approach – we stopped locking and wrote a sign in 3 languages: “You’re welcome to enjoy the chairs, remember to return them when done”. It worked well, but occasionally their number would dwindle and the school would supplement them. Lately a strange thing has begun to happen: what is taken away and not returned are the signs… We shall keep you updated.
So today we arrived and found a group of 7 nice young folks who were hiking from Nahbir (old Beeri). As they had coffee and we got organized, we sat in a circle and after introducing ourselves and our activity, they told us they were all from Ramat HaSharon, all employed in hi-tec (each of them also has a name, but as we got going they all escaped documentation…).
In the meantime, Mari and Roni joined us. The group heard our stories, asked questions, complimented us, supported us, and continued on their way.
Gali Mesha arrived, who used to join us and took stars, now returning them colored. She was glad to discover we persist, and listened carefully.
Idit from Sde Nitzan came to visit. Sometime in the past she was responsible for the encounters that bore the contact between Rami and Oded (and the rest is history). She too was glad to support our persistence and came to check on more possibilities for action.
Hanan arrived eventually (with the kite that returned from repair) and the three fighters from Gvulot: Bella, Malki and Dina.
Our friend from Gaza called, reminding us that exactly today was a year since our large zoom talk, following which our Gazan friends were arrested by the Hamas. We congratulate him within our communication restraints, and wish for improvements, and he continues his talk with Roni.
Rami arrives, as well as Maharan and Brian.
Niva from Beeri was also a veteran of our circle. She volunteers on “The Way to Recovery”, reminds and remembers our friends from Gaza.
Atar comes from En Shemer (northern kibbutz) – he wishes to shoot a film here about a trip beyond time in a ghost ship… For him Gaza is the land of unlimited opportunity…
Noa from Pardes Hana arrives with him – she is a camerawoman working with Atar and remembers the bags of sweets her bus-driver dad used to receive from his friends in the Gaza Strip.
What did we talk about?
• The importance of everyone’s little deed, the drops that we all contribute to the large stream that is sure to come…
• Beautiful initiatives that began here and are still running.
• Ideas and plans for more activity.
Participants: the 7 from Ramat HaSharon, Mari, Roni, Rami, Gali, Idit, Hanan, Bella, Malki, Dina, Rami, Maharan, Brian, Niva, Atar, Noa, Shmulik and Nahshai – 24 in all.
Wrote: Nahshi

Encounter 159 April 2, 2021

I skip the “we came, chairs, coffee, Rami and Shmulik” part…
Sitting with us are Eti, Adir, Gal Liat, Judy and Asaf (“with us” – meaning Rami, Roni, Oded, Shmulik, Jaber and Hana, the “usuals”…).
Rami tells us a story about a girl who in 1917 was evacuated from Gaza by the Turks and became a refugee. She was returned to Gaza by the British who conquered Gaza from the Turks. In 1948, she was already a mother and had to absorb hundreds of thousands of refugees who need to raise their tents in the British army bases that were now deserted. The Egyptians (unintentionally…) are the sovereign, and they promise the refugees that they would be returned to their Palestine homes and therefore, do not invest in civil development. In 1967 our girl is already a grandmother – and becomes a subject of Israeli occupation rule, after in 1956 she undergoes another round of violence courtesy of Israel, encouraged by Britain and France. If she were alive today, she would be imprisoned in the large open-air jail called “the Gaza Strip”.
Eti raises the usual mainstream Israeli arguments, that “they voted for Hamas”, “true, they are to be pitied but we are not the guilty party”, “we gave them everything back and they chose the path of violence” etc. etc.
Roni gently tries a different kind of knowledge – she tells her own personal story about spending time along with her family in Egypt on an agricultural mission, and meeting a Palestinian family whose daughter made friends with Roni’s daughter in school, consequently realizing how little she knows about the narrative of Palestinians who became refugees in 1948. She tells about collaborations that take place today and get no voice in the media, and about the thirst for normal ties and cooperation. She also talks about her own everyday involvement in helping and supporting people living in Gaza.
Asaf says that the question is to what extent we are involved in the goings-on in Gaza in order to change the regime there.
Rami says that looking for the guilty party right now does not help anyone. There are 2 million human beings living under extremely crowded conditions, with no hope on the horizon.

Eti tries once more with the mantra about “religious-fundamentalist Gaza”, Rami gently responds, saying it’s somewhat of a “myth”.
Roni says that in our circle we listen to other voices. Once someone came to the circle who opened by saying that Gaza should be destroyed. After he continued to sit and listen to others, he told Roni as he was leaving that she had left him with “food for thought”.
Adir who was born in the area says that at home talk had always been against Arabs, even though the latter worked for the family. But since he met his wife and they moved to her community, overlooking the Gaza Strip, his views have changed a bit.
Judy lives in the north. We live in a bubble, working and living, she says, and she knows about Gaza only what the media publicizes. It’s significant for her to be here today, and that’s what she will remember from this trip.
Asaf says that the question is one’s awareness of the other. In this sense, what people experience there is still a riddle. We know more about other places in the world than we do about Gaza which is really close but still a mystery for him.
Roni receives a phone call from Gaza. Skype. She shows the caller the empty seats in the circle saved especially for them. She makes the “rounds” with her cell phone and we all wave in greeting, even our guests! We have no loudspeaker and the call is short. We take leave of those who sat with us until now, and other guests arrive.
Adir (another one), Esti, Yael and Hanan. “Our” Maharan joins us too.
Adir is a local. He is curious meeting such a circle… The conflict has intensified in recent years, he says, but we here all need to find ways to live with Gaza in peace. From his parent he has heard stories about the past and hopes that the situation will change.
Esti says that we must find ways to share this place, there is no other choice. It could save us from the present situation. At the end of the day, everyone wants their own quiet corner.
Maharan says that the West Bank Palestinians call the Palestinian citizens of Israel “Cream Arabs”… There is a difference between those living in the West Bank and those in Israel. The ones thinking more “progressively” will assimilate with Israel, and Gaza will be more “Palestine”. When the economy blooms, war stays far. People are interested in their immediate existence, their “food on the table”. Everyone knows that Gaza is an explosive keg, if no regime change takes place there. He doesn’t see where a regime change comes first – in Israel or in Gaza. Only this can change the situation.
Jaber says that the Gazans are the area’s future partners. They will be good neighbors if the media sow less conflict. The moment this happens, it will be strong! One must look each other in the eye. It will benefit both sides economically when Gaza is a partner.
Hanan prefers to share his experiences from election day. As in every election, he helped transport Al Zarnouk (unrecognized Bedouin village) to the voting urns. He drove Jaber’s mother… There were interesting talks and they said they were voting for Ra’am (the Islamic party) because the Joint List does not take care of them. Some blamed Hanan for helping Ra’am, helping Bibi… He said that his preference is to help without minding anyone else’s business. Including about Gaza…
Yael and Hanan only listened and told a bit about themselves, but finishing time and the cold wind dispersed the circle without our hearing about their “Gaza consciousness”…
Participants this time: Judy Asaf, Eti, Adir, Gal, Liat, Rami, Roni, Shmulik, Oded, Hanan, Jaber, Haan, Yael, Maharan, Adir, Esti.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 158 – March 26, 2021

Today we spoke about consciousness. It was fascinating. We agreed about certain things, not about others. Personally, I went home with many thoughts about who shapes our consciousness, and the link between knowledge and awareness. Are parents considered consciousness shapers? Teachers? Religious and political leaders are also influential. How then, and if not, how is awareness shaped? Does it change with time? What is the effect of knowledge, awareness, the lack thereof, or personal experience on the shaping of consciousness?
I spoke with Rami, our Gazan friend. He asked where his chair was, and indeed he had a chair saved for him, next to mine. I showed it to him on screen. Rami told us how important it was for him that we all go out and vote, also because of himself and because of other Gazans.
He asked that we demand of the elected government to choose another path, not everything is war. He asked that we help acquire the possibility for patients to get to treatment in Israel. Rami had watched the direct broadcast I had from Rahat (Bedouin community inside Israel) in which I encouraged people to go out and vote two hours before the elections. Among other things, I also spoke for the Palestinian residents of Gaza and the West Bank.
Today people came to our circle who had not been there for quite a while, and I felt this was in order to get charged with energy and a bit of hope after finding out the election results. Perhaps it was subconscious. At least it was in my own case.
The weather was amazing, visibility clear, so Gaza could be photographed very lucidly from the closest site possible.
Rami from Beeri tried to arrange his own throne-like seat but didn’t manage. Truth is he gave up too quickly and put the chair to the side along with the tool kit.
At some point it rained and we moved to a more sheltered spot.
A young woman joined us who had been grazing her family herd along with her sister. We invited them to have tea with us and she was glad to do so. She came to get it which was nice of her, told us where she was from and a bit about herself, and we introduced ourselves.
As usual, amazing Nahshi made the most delicious tea and coffee in addition to his own home-baked bread and tasty dips prepared by various friends.
Have a great weekend, and happy holiday to everyone celebrating the Jewish Passover.
Participants: Moshe,Jaber, Shmulik, Rami, Nahshi, Oded, Mari, Mark, Roni, Brian, Ghadeer.
Wrote: Ghadeer

Encounter 157 – March 19, 2021

This was one of those days when we sit among ourselves and no one else shows up, and then, towards the end, comes the big “story” and the usual finishing time goes by without notice…
“No one” isn’t quite right, since as soon as we got there – Shmulik, Nahshi, Hayuta and myself – four bicycle riders came by to our circle. Since they rented their bikes for a set time and had to ride them back to Beeri to return them on time, they preferred to hear us while having coffee, and when their turn came to talk about their own “Gaza consciousness” they already did this standing up and putting on their bike helmets. Each of them voiced a single short sentence more or less saying “I know that people in Gaza are suffering, and obviously want peace, we all do, but we can do nothing until they get rid of Hamas”… This is what Asaf, Ariel, Lior and Gal from the central part of the country said, traveling in the Beeri nature reserve. Thus they spoke and rode off to the horizon.
Then came Mari and Ilan, Uzi and Malki and… Nomi, spouse of Rami, the founder and ‘publisher’ of Migdalor.
Our talk moved between our coming elections and those of the Palestinians, each with the personal knowledge they received at home… At some point a family crossed our circle, some of whose children carried colorful plastic rifles. They did not accept our invitation saying they were filming, but after a half hour, on their way back, they passed by again. This time the parents chose to accept our invitation to coffee and the children continued playing outside the plant.
Immediately following came another couple and we opened the usual circle. I spoke in praise of our action since around us were posted pictures representing the organization “Stars of Hope” as well as an advertisement of “The Road to Recovery” – volunteers driving Palestinians to hospitals in Israel. I explained about those too. Interest was aroused and I was asked whether there is any communication with the patients on the way, and whether they realize that their drivers are volunteers. I explained.
About communication, I spoke of the language difficulties, and this connected to Michaela’s work as a midwife in Soroka Hospital, needing to communicate with Bedouin women giving birth without a common language. She went on to say that in Gaza live people in a desperate situation but she herself doesn’t think she can do anything to change this.
Her partner Tzvi said that Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip was a “crime against humanity”. Since then they have been suffering more and everything is solved by military force. They also chose Hamas to rule which definitely contributed to their suffering. He thinks we are a mere “comma in time”, and should see who will survive all of this in a hundred years’ time.
Rinat says that as sad as it is to say it, Gaza is transparent. She pities its inhabitants but is not especially empathic to their situation. “You are the heroes”, she tells us, “you who live close suffer”. Rinat is skeptical about solutions. Now that she is aware of the Migdalor’s activity, she emphasizes that it is important.
Uzi, born and living in Jerusalem, divides his words into three periods: the first is childhood. As a child he remembers going to a Bar Mitzva celebration in Yamit (former Israeli settler-colony in the Gaza Strip). They cross Gaza. As a Jerusalemite child Gaza reminds Uzi of the Old City of Jerusalem. Second period is his time as an officer in the Israeli army. Uzi speaks Arabic, and is “loaned” to a force taking care of “riots” as they were called, during the First Intifada. The army would arrest children and youth in demonstrations and wait for their parents to come get them. When the parents come their ID is taken and they are summoned to a talk/trial. Some children’s parents don’t come and Uzi’s job was to bring those children home. Sometimes Uzi and his pals had to take the child back with them because the boy’s father would beat up his son when he was brought home. For Uzi this is a memory that return to this day in his dreams. Now – third period, Uzi belongs to a group trying to promote the idea of building an island opposite the Gaza shores. He says there are economic and tourism possibilities for the project, and developers who would like to invest in it. It is Israel’s interest no less than the Palestinians’. It should be implemented in the coming years. He doesn’t see Israel returning to rule there. Hamas has not dismissed the idea. The State of Israel is able to make it happen. The Americans can invest.
Tzvi remarks that we should go back and rule Gaza, and Uzi says “Only as tourists”…
Shmulik hopes the fence would disappear and cooperation return. At eye level, one-on-one on much simpler issues. The potential in Gaza is huge, if only we could know how to use it.
Uzi (not the Jerusalem guy) says Gaza is “a deep sorrow and a huge miss”. He is ready to wait the century that Tzvi suggested. He thinks like Tzvi that the main guilt for their situation is theirs, but thinks that because we are the stronger side most of the solution lies with us.
Nahshi comes to remember that the present state of affairs is bad for everyone, and to hope that we shall get out of this stuck-ness with ideas like that of Jerusalem-Uzi. He wants to remember that things could be different. There’s great potential.
For Hayuta, her presence here is a sort of “demonstration”. The island idea gives her great hope.
Malki comes to become more hopeful, not to be depressed. Even though Migdalor doesn’t physically change things, something happens and continues. We should initiate more. On the other side people are living in a terrible state, and it is awful to think that we sit here and cannot do anything to help. There are people over there knowing about us and this cheers them up. We need shared interests.
Jerusalem Uzi asks us what happens when “security events” take place. How do we react as human beings. The answers number as many as the participants, and 4:30 p.m. is already here. We’ll continue next week, after the elections…
Participants: Shmulik, Nahshi, Hayuta, Oded, Asaf, Ariel, Lior, Gal, Naomi Haruvi, Mari, Ilan Uzi, Malki, Michaela, Tzvi, Rinat, Uzi
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 156 – March 12, 2021

We begin this summary on Thursday… Roni directed to us a group from the “Nachshon” pre-military preparatory year at Kibbutz Shoval. Nahshi, Shmulik and myself were glad to cooperate, and along with Mark who was already waiting for us at the sulfur plant, picked up the glove. A group of 34 participants and guides arrived, and we sat in one large circle.
Nahshi took care of the coffee, Shmulik of Communism, and I spoke and spoke.
Although I had spoken way too much, we managed to experience a proper circle with this group. After explaining to them the circle’s 2 lead principles: “What is Gaza, for me?” and “Each participant speaks in turn without being interrupted”.
Everyone had their say and voiced their opinions: most of them spoke little about Gaza, saying they don’t know very much.
In addition to their meager knowledge of the subject, I felt that Gaza is not really “interesting”. There were even those who spoke about those “[Israelis] who live near the Gaza border”, in other words about us, entirely disregarding the Gazans themselves.
It was difficult to find a different reference among all those who spoke. 34 persons – one mind. Zionist education works wonders… (“Who said you’re to judge?”, a voice inside my head wondered).
And now for Friday:
We knew beforehand that several activists from “Extinction Rebellion” were already waiting for us out there. This is a worldwide organization trying to prevent the climate crisis and its extinction of life on the planet. One of their activists is Mark.
Shmulik, Mark and I organized the chairs, the “rebels” joined us, as well as Maharan who brought his 4 children along.
After my introduction (have I already mentioned I speak too much?) Maharan told us that he visited Gaza a few years ago, and that it has declined greatly compared with his previous visit. He thinks Corona should be fought in Gaza and in the West Bank as well as in Israel. There is no peace, and therefore no expectations (hope) and hostility only grows. This he said, and left us to look for his kids who were more interested in the green pastures around us, so we didn’t even get introduced…
Michal doesn’t know much about Gaza. She has seen a documentary film on Gazan surfers.
Elinor said that human rights in Gaza are nil, people are really suffering. The children have no direction in life, there is no way for things to get better, no thought about the future. Anything bad about the world is far worse over there. No air conditioning in the summer, no heating in the winter. For us Gaza lies behind a curtain.
For Ofeq, Gaza is reminder of terrorism. He grew up in the area. He finds it important to hear other voices and “break” up the fears that he holds.
For Rinat, her first association with Gaza is a garbage bin. That’s where we throw our fear and loathing. This conversation has come at an interesting point in time for her – she is busy organizing an “alternative Independence Day” eve centered around talk of the Nakba (Palestinian catastrophe of 1948).
For Yuval, thought about Gaza leads directly to memories of military service. That’s the experience. He began as a combat soldier, but preferred working as a medic in order to serve on the sane, healing side. In one of their maneuvers he was required to answer whether he would save the life of a wounded terrorist, or confirm his death… His answer made his mates angry, and the mental process he underwent took him on to an early discharge from the army after 2 years of being inside.
Shmulik says that the water in Gaza’s wells is salty, and fresh water is brought in bottles. Sewage flows in the streets and into the se. In the circle he has met people he would not otherwise have run into. Gaza is a prison for 2.1 million people. He speaks about Roni and her activity to help the imprisoned Gazans as much as she can. Shmulik says it’s important for Gazans to know that people are working for them and remember that they exist. He is sorry that he can no longer meet Gazan friends with whom he had worked in the past.
Omer says there are several reasons for his decision not to live in Israel – Gaza and the conflict are a part. Even leftie liberals he meets regard Gaza with a condescending, disempowering gaze. Their lives are less important.
Mariel who grew up in France with Arab friends in leftie organizations, came to Israel in order to understand reality here, with her leftie ideas. She thought she would encounter demonstrations and protests, and is amazed that everything is so quiet… She loves Israel.
Hamutal says that Gaza is a place that concentrates all of our conflicts. The State was very important for her grandparents. Grandma had a map of the occupation’s “progress” from one confrontation to the other. When Hamutal was exposed to the map of the country’s partition (as drawn for the Partition Plan in 1947) she did not understand how one could live in such a small area. With the years she understood more about the conflict and the injustice of pushing out the Palestinians.
Ido has clear political opinions but has no room to contain all the suffering and sorrow around. It closes him emotionally to the situation in Gaza. Here he listens to others and this helps him feel a bit.,
Anatoli has not been in Gaza and never met Gazans. He knows things only through others. It’s nearby but with a different life. Suffering that is unknown to him. He would like the opportunity to meet and get to know them. If there is no communication, no ties can be formed. He would like to hear Gazans and experience them.
Mark tells us that his family distanced itself from Judaism and took a trip of returning to Judaism even when he was still in England. He was active in “Young Mapam” (leftist party) and when he decided to emigrate to Israel, he wished to get to Kerem Shalom (the kibbutz in its former version – leftist, revolutionary…). Mark came to Gvulot. With time he was swept in Israel to its mainstream. In recent years he has begun to seek answers to questions that bothered him all the time and were pushed aside by routine worries. Now, he says, Zionism has problems, especially the way we’re going. Mark is shocked that Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories has been ongoing for 53 years, and people know nothing about what happened and is not over. For them it is simply reality. What, he asks – are we not a part of it? Did we not cause it? Don’t we understand the reasons for explosive balloons and mortar shell attacks? Mark sees no awakening in Israel. He speaks of his skype talk with Haneen. In the past Haneen lived in the Gaza Strip with her husband and two daughters, obeying ancient traditions of woman’s “role” and her “place”. As soon as she had the chance, she left for the “Tamera” community in Portugal (a community that tries to create models for conflict resolution), leaving behind her daughters and husband. Her grandparents were expelled from a village near the Israeli moshav of Kochav Michael. Mark feels he shares the responsibility for the refugee-dom of her grandparents and her own. At present she is his Arabic teacher…
Ariel sees Gaza as one big disaster. He has difficulty relating for he has no influence on the matter.
Mark answers that we need to fix the situation because we caused it. If we admit our guilt, as was done in South Africa, dialogue will become possible.
Rami, who arrived in the meantime, says that as a nature and environment guide, a story teller and more, he has spoken so much about the area. In the 1990s he wrote an article about a track named “the perfume route” that begins in Saudi Arabia, ends in Gaza and passes by Beeri (his kibbutz)… He suggested creating our own reference to the part that passes through our own area. As a peace and reconciliation activist, Rami has toured the world but finally realized that the problem lies here at home, between Gaza and Beeri. He has no doubt that soon, still in his 85-year-old mom’s lifetime, the situation will change.
For Becky, Gaza is a news item, not present in her own life. On the news it is always present in the context of war. Nothing good is being told about Gaza…
The time is already 15:40 and a group of travelers, among them Nahshi and Limor, arrives. They had a social meeting and concluded it at the Migdalor. In the little time left until we leave, we listen to Rami recount Migdalor’s history to those who have just arrived and those sitting in the circle from the beginning. Rami emphasizes its importance for him, and the fact that these days we are marking 3 years of activity! “A place that sheds light [lighthouse] can be a destination…” he says.
That’s it – 4 o’clock. The Extinction Rebellion folks are getting organized to stay overnight. We’re not.
Participants: Maharan (and his 4 kids), Shmulik, Mark, Oded, Michal, Elinor, Ofeq, Rinat, Yuval, Omer, Mariel, Hamutal, Ido, Anatoli, Ariel, Rami, Becky, Nahshi, Limor, Peri, Dorit, Sal’it, Dror, Ilana, Hadas and Yuval.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 154 – February 26, 2021

Today, there were several kinds of guests: a group of motorcyclists had parked at the entrance to the sulfur plant before we arrived, taken out the chairs and sat down. When we came in they were leaving. They said the idea of leaving chairs for public use was great, and one even managed to hear from me about the history of the building. No circle, no coffee, no talk, no listening. Motorcyclists…
Then came Michal, Benjamin and their son Eli on Michal’s back. No circle, some coffee, no talk, some listening.
As they were leaving, a cousin of Jaber arrived with 8 children. No circle, some coffee (just he), hello and welcome, I am Jaber’s cousin, active in ‘Standing Together’” and they proceed with their travel…
At this point it’s just Shmulik, Nahshi and myself.
Then Mark comes, we have coffee, I talk about ourselves.
Marks ways that when he was still in England, his father – born and raised in South Africa – told him that Israel was developing its own apartheid. Mark didn’t believe it until he came here and saw it with his own eyes.
Shmulik says we’re all “stuck to the fence”, on both sides of the Gaza fence, all prisoners. Gazans obviously, have no freedom of movement, and therefore ‘prisoners’ in the full sense of the word, and we’re prisoners in a situation we cannot change. But, he is optimistic, for if enmity between Jews and Germans has been quenched, our local brand will also come to an end.
Nahshi says he is glad to come to our meetings, but the situation is unhappy – there’s a fence and people suffering. Still our encounters are interesting and instructive.
Jonathan joins us.
Rami arrives.
Jonathan, originally from Kisufim, remembers the days we spent in Gaza. Those days are over and will not be back for at least the next decade. The Hamas runs deep in Gaza’s Palestinian society. One day it will change. The population there is a time bomb.
Uri, not from here, says Gaza is a “headache”. It’s ongoing with no peaceful end in sight. One learns to live with it.
Michal says it’s nice to hear that people living here manage to see the other side. She’s from Beer Sheva originally, and remembers visits in Gaza in her youth years, the market, shopping… Her daughter was a soldier at Nahal Oz and thinks the situation has worsened, but Michal is optimistic.
Tal says Gazans were always visiting them at home. Trading and running business deals. He says the Gazans wish to get back to the period of Civil Administration when trade relations were possible. Families knew each other. As a kid, he used to sit with them by the campfire and eat fish.
Alisa connects to our humanitarian side but is against using the term apartheid the way Mark does. Alisa worked with South African clients and knows what apartheid is. It may be similar, but it’s not policy. She does not believe things will get back to the way they were. She has hopes…
Ofira, Jonathan’s partner who came with Dvora and Ethan says they’re tired of the present situation but there’s no turning back. We have gone some ways and hatred has also grown, “helped along” by politicians.
Dvora does not feel very connected to what we say, but is all for peace and quiet. Reality, politics, and people’s tendencies do not lead to peace.
Ethan worked with Rabin as an economic consultant. He was there when the buzz was created around the idea of peace. Now it’s all trampled and gone and that’s sad. He thinks we were on the right track. Apparently, our people do not want it.
Nomika arrives, and Shmulik.
Rami tells about himself and about us. He talks about his grandfather who went to Palestine on a train built by the British, then on to geological stories of a million or two years ago, when the Bsor river fell 1.5 kilometers into the Mediterranean Sea and a 1,000- meters-deep canyon was formed. Everything was covered in sulfur that remained as a sediment in several lakes, one of them near the present location of Beeri. As for the present… This area is chosen by the most people in the world. Abraham is placed as an icon above the rest. Half of the world’s populace sees him as a father (Christian, Muslims and Jews). He crossed lands but chose to settle down here in Grar country. Rami was in Urga, Turkey, a Muslim city. According to Islam, that’s where Abraham was born. Rami presented himself there as a Beer-Shevan, like Abraham… That’s how he met the town’s Imam. He and a friend were led into the holy cave where, according to Muslim tradition, Abraham was born and lived. Rami tells the circle about Abraham and Avimelech, King of Grar. He remembers his childhood close to the fence, and recalls times when he guided tours to Gaza, where even in quiet times one is tense. 3 years ago he felt something was lacking and founded the Migdalor. “I cannot hate”, Rami says.
Michal asks how many people come. Rami says there are about 10 regulars, and a second circle of several hundreds who already came a few times, and in the 3 years of the Migdalor’s activity, thousands have passed through.
Dina, Bella, Malki and Uzi show up.
Shmulik was a member of Kfar Aza prior to 1967. There were 3 kinds of infiltrators, he says. Those who came to see the houses from which they were expelled, some because the hunger in Gaza, and some to murder. Shmulik recalls one night when, while milking cows in the cowshed, he suddenly discovered a boy next to him who said he came to pass on information, in return for food… SHmulik took him to the military commander of the area and returned to his work. The next day the military commander told him the boy had been killed in an Israeli soldiers’ ambush on his way back.
Alisa tells about a citrus grove owner from Nes Ziona who was murdered by a veteran worker of his, from Gaza.
A family from Bir Hadaj arrives. Rami has known Farhan for years. From him he learned about Bedouin culture and the desert. Farhan founded the “Desert Ship” inn at Bir Aslouj.
With Farhan are his son Munir, a dentist, his son Siraj, wife Anhar and sisters Nihel and Asra. The Farhans have coffee and proceed on their way, not before Farham appreciates what we do.
Rami and Anat from Rehovot arrive. Before they came they were standing on the ANZAK memorial, looking toward Gaza. Rami said to Anat, “How can 2 million people be held hostage like this?” And so here they are, with us…
Uzi says that Gvulot was founded without violence nor dispossession! He feels sorry about Gaza, from both sides, but the responsibility for a solution lies mostly on our shoulders!
Malki recalls a 15-year-old girl from Jerusalem who visited the circle 2 weeks ago. The girl had said she cannot comprehend how girls her age live in Gaza.
Dina, as a local, feels the need to do something to try and solve the conflict. Everyone must do his own little thing.
Bella likes to come because we are like a family. Gaza is something between hope and despair. She is afraid of the coming elections and the “storm” that might follow.
Nomika says one must fight against denial and national callousness. Listen to the narrative of the other. She is a co-founder of “Another Voice”, a group trying to dialogue with Gazans. It is important for her to know she is doing everything she can. Shmulik recalls that in Kfar Aza he used to be a shepherd too, and the border was marked by a ditch (perhaps just a furrow deep). He was afraid that some sheep might cross the ditch… Gaza’s lights seemed very near. After the 1967 war he visited Gaza and was impressed with the hatred that people’s eyes there reflected. He participated in the founding of “Another Voice”.
Anat is not a local and admits they live in a bubble, in a comfort zone. Gaza is sad but that’s reality. The discourse among us is problematic.
Rami: The situation hurts, not only Gaza is captive in a terrible situation. We are all hostages of a leadership that wishes to preserve this situation. It’s a dictatorship on both sides. He says that perhaps we’re doing something small, but it might generate change outside the “reserve” in which we speak and live. He hopes that elections will change something.
Vera and Roni, Noa and Amir arrived, traveling close by with Doron, their guide. But they came close to 4 p.m. and made do with coffee.
Participants: Benjamin, Michal and little Eli, Shmulik, Oded, Nahshi, Jabar’s cousin with 7 kids, a group of motorcyclists, Mark, Uri, Michal, Tal, Alisa, Rami, Ophira, Jonathan, Dvora, Ethan, Nomika, Shmulik, Malki, Uzi, Bella, Dina, Anhar, Farhan, Munir, Siraj, Nihal and Asra, Anat, Rami, Vera, Roni, Noa and Amir, Doron.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 153 – February 19, 2021

This has never happened before. We were our own guests… Yes, just like that. When we arrived at our usual Migdalor site, Shmulik, Nahshi, Hayuta and myself, a family was already sitting there, from Rahat (Bedouin town). Fatma, Seif, and their four children – Fadel, Malak, Baker and little Mohammad. They were sitting on the school chairs we had brought, the school table in the middle, covered by a plastic sheet. Seif was busy over a small barbecue, Fatma with an eggplant-garlic salad. The children were around them, ready to help with anything. We greeted them, lay down our boxes, and Nahshi began to prepare coffee… We held an acquaintance talk, joined with the food-stuffs we had brought – halla and Nahshi-bread, spreads, pastries and cookies. It’s cold, sometimes raining.
Rami arrives, Roni arrives. We are invited to share the barbecue and offer tea, coffee and bread. We all crowd around the table. The children are not fluent in Hebrew. Fine eaters. It’s the setting for an encounter.
In order not to write too much here, I’m not reporting the talks – at times quite interesting, about plenty of topics unrelated to “Gaza”. So as usual, first of all – Gaza.
Only after an hour-and-a-half of mingling, Rami in his special way gently “threads in” the topic of Gaza…
Mari arrives.
Fatma, a teacher in a Rahat school, tells us her grandparents lived in Absan village, in the Gaza Strip. This already feels like close-neighbors talk. The village lies across the fence, up to which spread the fields in which I sometimes work myself. She visited there as a child. Today it seems like something she had dreamt… The sea, the market, grandma’s food and other little things that children do while visiting their grandparents. Memory-dream. Her mother maintains phone contact with the family there, not Fatma. The grandmother remained in the village until she died. The grandfather died in Jordan in the arms of another woman.
Rami expands and talks about us and the reason for our being here week after week. The world has forgotten Gaza, he says. We are here in order to remember it. The connection created today among the circle participants is symbolic of our purpose here. An encounter of people with each other. He explains the symbolism of the idea of “Migdalor” – lighthouse.
Seif says that most people want to live without dealing with the past. If Jews and Arabs can live together, it could be so marvelous that people from the whole world would come to see it with their own eyes!
Rami asks Fatma to bring her mother to the Migdalor. (72 years old…)
Fatma says her mom would be moved to tears!
Shmulik speaks about the Abu Al Qian family from Gaza. When he visited them with his family, many years ago, when it was still possible, his daughter played with the children there and they were all touching her hair to see whether her blond was real…
Nahshi wishes to speak with the neighboring Absan villagers.
Hayuta says she sees the villages of the Gaza Strip when she takes walks at the outskirts of her kibbutz.
Roni is afraid, but is active on a daily basis so there won’t be reasons to be afraid… She’s very up to date on the goings on in Gaza because of her ties with many Gazans who have her helping them. She spoke with an activist in Gaza who is certain that they will be changing their regime in the elections to be held there in May. She speaks about a field hospital founded there where everyone works on a voluntary basis. The Hamas is not allowing patients to get there. It’s inside the Gaza area but beyond the Hamas guard post… The hospital needs patients in order to be fully active but at the moment it is still facing trouble with the Hamas. She speaks about a social activist who is now at a crossroads about his activity, and about a woman-activist who is staying in touch with an Israeli friend even though she is no longer in Gaza. Roni says she heard a talk with Martin Indik who said that as long as Netanyahu and Abas are in charge it will be very difficult. He considers federation as a possible solution. But first each nation has to recognize the nationhood of the other.
Seif thinks that world should not blame an entire people because of a specific gang… There are good and bad people everywhere. Everyone wants to live. To meet on the beach, in the market, with the good life. Whoever’s “inside” is good cannot do harm. When the leaders “calm down” we could build a life of humans in cooperation and peace. The children are not to blame, we must bring them up on human values.
That’s it, now we all put back the chairs, table and barbecue…
Before we disperse, Hayuta asks Fatma for a big hug and gets it.
Participants: Seif, Fatma, Baker, Malak, Fadel, Mohammad, Shmulik, Hayuta, Rami, Nahshi, Oded Roni Mari.
Wrote: Oded