Encounter no. 119 – June 26, 2020

Another Friday, another meeting.
Hayuta opens, saying that indeed Gaza is the reason for our coming together, but she is not in contact with Gazans so she is here mainly to support the supporters…
Shmulik sits here because of the human commitment and awareness of the goings-on in Gaza and the people he knew there. He speaks about his visits in Hizma with Faisal. Unfortunately, his contact with Gaza has lately been broken…
Malki (like Hayuta) has no historical ties with Gaza. In her opinion no one in the country is privileged to do nothing. When a security event (terrorist attack? Military operation?) begins, she is concerned, but on second thought, she realizes that to a certain extent they (Palestinians) need to remind Israel at times that it has locked them in, and to remind the world that they are here (the world has an easy time forgetting all about them…). Malki feels good about this social encounter. She understands that the situation there (in Gaza) is abnormal.
Dina connects with the circle. The idea “speaks” to her. The Gaza issue is urgent. Can more be done about it? Beyond talking in a circle… There is a gap between the situation and our possibilities to do something about it. She didn’t know about the “young committee” in Gaza. She admits that she should come out of her zone and do more. Last week she learned much about the Bedouins through the circle.
Hayuta updates Dina about our communication history with the Gazan group, our disconnection from them and our duty to keep silent. Dina speaks about a window of opportunity that came up a few years ago for her to create ties with Yemen. She participated in a course for tour guides in Yemen but it was closed because the Israelis talked too much… It’s a miss. One needs to know when to keep silent…
Nahshi tells us he used to work, was acquainted with and met Gazans. Ever since Israel’s ‘disengagement’ from Gaza and his everyday life, Gaza was pushed in the oblivion of his consciousness. Since he began coming to the circle he found in it his chance to get closer to the conflict and know more about the reasons for the recent exacerbation. Gazan youngsters don’t know Israelis, and vice versa. In Migdalor Nahshi found his niche for activism. In historical perspective, past attempts of political frameworks have not succeeded. Israel erased Gaza from public awareness. Nahshi is doing something minor, and good – for himself as well. The forum is interesting. He believes that the grains of sand will unite as “terra firma” – stable ground. The anomality cannot last forever. He has renewed his contact with the Gazans he knew, a family who had worked on his kibbutz. Some time ago, he tells whoever did not know, a cooking gas container blew up. Said, one of the brothers he had known, dies of his wounds. They were glad to renew contact with Nahshi who even raised money in his kibbutz after the destruction of their building block plant following that accident, but now they are disconnected again. There is a mango fruit merchant with whom he speaks occasionally. He tells of the Harassment by Hamas. They have sought ways to meet. The man has dealings with Israel. They were looking for a way to meet through “The Road to Recovery” (Israeli volunteer actions to take Palestinian patients to hospitals from the checkpoints to hospitals inside Israel), so when some aunt of this fellow hade to undergo treatment in Israel Nahshi helped drive her and a chance to listen and speak. There are people behind the stories, and many years of erased awareness.
Bella came for her own sake. She can express her inner feelings. She doesn’t see them, but she feels them. Because of our group, there is hope. We are undergoing a bad period of time. There is nothing to expect from the leaders, they don’t count us. Here she is able to raise her voice for peace. We might despair, but the Gazans are far more desperate. She dreams of a better future and has came to the meeting for the coffee…
Mark feels frustrated about the circle but says it’s his own fault, not the circle’s. The circle was important for him. He found his own ability to change and raise his head. He recalls the European radical left’s own modes of action. People in the circle helped him dare ask questions that contest the mainstream’s idea of things. The next step, supposedly more active, is not yet here. He knows that as a Jewish citizen in Israel his own words and deeds touch upon non-Jewish citizens, and that injustice is carried out in his name. Environment interests him but there too it is theory and not practice that has the upper hand. Criticism has not helped, and his has no criticism of the others. He studies Arabic with Haneen who has left two children and a husband and moved to Portugal. He says Haneen is troubled by the upcoming planned annexation. She can be met on the “We Are Not Numbers” website. Mark speaks with her about the “Youth Committee”, about Alaa and Liora. She thinks that youngsters from both sides should be speaking about the occupation before they get into joint projects. Heneen is in a difficult mental state in the present situation, separated from her own family. Mark suggests that Migdalor participants bring up ideas in writing. Writing is significant. Perhaps publish an anthology of papers.
Michal has come because of Hayuta… She is not political. She is curious. Came to check it out… Mostly listening. Nomika has many activism items on her resume, in the framework of “Other Voice”. Today she was on a Palestine tour organized by the Ir Amim (Jerusalem) association that took place to show people the significance of annexation. Every few months she tours the occupied territories with a different organization. More landgrab, more confiscations. She spoke of a joint project that employs engineers from Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. There are many demonstrations protesting the annexation that are not at all covered in the media. The book, Alone in Berlin, is a constitutive book regarding am individual’s action resisting the ruling consensus. She suggests planning an event at the Erez Crossing. The PA’s committee on interacting with Israeli society has renewed its activity. They should be invited to the Migdalor circle. Finally, she spoke extensively about the American hospital project in Gaza.
And finally, an apology: last week I wrote that Nurit, Uzi’s sister, came for the first time. Not true! She has already been with us 4 times. All power to her…
Participants: Hayuta,k Shmulik, Malki, Dina, Nahshi, Mark, Oded, Michal, Bella, Nomika.
Wrote: Oded

encounter no. 118 – June 19, 2020

That’s right, we meet at our Migdalor (“lighthouse”) every Friday in order to preserve our awareness of Gaza. That Gazans would know that we’re not forgetting, and that we remember that people there are suffering and we should support them in any possible way, even if only morally.
But today was different somehow. Yesterday the destruction equipment of the Israel Land Administration demolished 3 structures at Al Zarnouk, an unrecognized Bedouin village situated about 12 kilometers east of Beer Sheva. Jaber comes from Al Zarnouk.
Usually when Jaber introduces himself in our circle, says he comes from an unrecognized village, but in spite of all the problems he faces as a Bedouin citizen of Israel whose rights are trampled constantly, he still knows that his life is considered rather good compared to that of the Gazans. But today, after the home demolitions in his own community, his feelings of frustration and rage are practically uncontrollable. Jaber is on the verge of tears. He speaks of his attempts to apply to the authorities to suspend demolitions, about the mental damage to families and residents, about the attempts to injure the Negev Arab society. Desperately he emphasizes the mean cynicism in the appointment of Yair Ma’ayan – the man who founded and is CEO of Regavim, an organization aimed at harassing any attempt by a non-Jew to settle in the country – to the office of CEO of “The Authority for Development and Settlement of Bedouins in the Negev”… Ironically, this is the authority that is supposed to be the one which Bedouins turn to when someone is to solve their problems. Jaber feels guilty for not having been able to prevent the destruction.
Coincidentally or not, today’s topic of discussion is “home”… After Jaber speaks, everyone remains silent.
Then Rami says he too feels guilty that such things take place while we relax at home. Home and land are certainly important, but it’s important for us to be there for each other. My home is your home, as the saying goes, as Rami says to Jaber.
Shmulik tells us that in the 2011 social protest demonstrations he joined one of the public discussions and said there that state funds go to settler-colonies instead of where they are most needed. He was kicked out of the discussion and accused of being a communist…
Ghadir says that Arabs have to struggle over every centimeter of living space, there are home demolitions by the state taking place every single day.
Miri comes from the religious Zionist sector. The community she was born in was founded on the ruins of Palestinian village Sawafir. She studied at Bar Ilan University (Israel’s religious institution of higher learning) and lived in the same room with a friend from Baq’a Al Gharbiya. She was often asked if she wasn’t afraid her Arab friend would kill her… She worked for years with Israeli army disabled veterans. At present, retired, she coordinates transporting Palestinian patients to hospitals in Israel, in the “Way to Recovery” association. The disengagement announced by the Palestinian Authority (caused by threats of annexation by Israel) has become a real problem, the state of ill patients in Gaza is catastrophic. Children who usually enter Israel every fortnight for treatment, and cannot return home but stay quarantined in a Gaza hotel until their next treatment… Paradoxically, the nurses at the hospital say that these children look healthier during their hotel stay than when they’re at home…
Jamal, now living in Tel Sheva, had his home demolished in 1996 right in front of his two little daughters who are now schoolteachers. He has been evicted and displaced from his home three times. In 1948 his family was divided between Gaza and Israel, was united in 1967 (he studied in Gaza), and torn apart again when Arafat came under the Oslo Accords and chased away from Gaza all Palestinians holding an Israeli ID. His father, grandfather and other family members are buried there. Jamal says that Gaza is “the world’s guinea pig”. Relating to what Jaber told us, he speaks of the initiative of inhabitants of unrecognized villages to create a regional council for 26 communities, of which only 11 are officially recognized, and even that without most of the usual rights. Bedouins constitute 36% of the Negev population, and inhabit 2.3% of its area…
Dina says the problems should be treated fundamentally. She identifies with Jaber. She uses words like “injustice”, “lost opportunities” and “indirect communication”, and thinks the right bodies need be approached…
Nahshi is here to remind himself that right here, close by in Gaza, there are people who need our help and it’s good for them to realize we’re here every week. Nahshi thinks that here in Israel we are able to do more to oppose organizations like Regavim and says he will be at the demonstration on Monday!
Shelly recalls the first time in her life when she felt a sense of injustice, in the kibbutz children’s house where she grew up… She is well-versed in the Negev Bedouins’ history and adds important details. She speaks of a friend in Hebron whose home was demolished, and in desperation pushed his baby boy into the arms of the officer who “secured” the demolition operation, and told him: “Raise him yourself…” He was tried for assaulting an officer by means of a baby, and was sentenced to a long time in jail but released after 10 months for his failing health. Shelly says that another friend of hers told her we must continue doing what we can even if it does not seem to be solving anything, for perhaps the solution is right around the corner…
I like the way Uzi introduces himself: “I was born a year before the Nakba of 1948 and came to Gvulot a year before the Occupation of 1967…” Uzi is a Middle-East scholar. He says he has a lot to say but we’re close to our finishing time and makes do with saying that “Gaza is deep sorrow and a terrible miss”.
Nurit is Uzi’s sister and is with us for the first time.
Malki choose to say that the Migdal-Or (that’s how she wishes to call it – in Hebrew, literally: Tower of light) is an anchor for her. Everyone wishes to fell “at home”.
Ghadir also says that the Migdalor is home, and Jaber concludes our meeting saying we mustn’t lose hope, he feels at home here.
So do I, because it’s sort of obvious, isn’t it?
After everyone gets up Ghadir says to me quietly – we didn’t mention our arrested friends…
Participants: Jaber, Shelly, Shmulik, Rami, Ghadir, Oded, Malki8, Jamal, Uzi, Dina, Nahshi, Nurit, Miri
Wrote: Oded

encounter no. 117 – June 12, 2020

In the shade of the pine tree on top of the hill, in the open air – we met: Roni, Rami, Shmulik Nomika and Hayuta.
After our opening words about who, what and when, Roni brought Rami’s question; to what extent do the recent encounters touch upon Gaza and focus on it.
Shmulik thought that everything is political, and the fact that these encounters dealt with subjects decided on ahead of time such as refugee-dom or land created interesting meetings that refreshed people’s perspectives.
We decided that on Sunday the ‘syndicate’ would meet and decide its take on the matter.
This week’s recommendation is to read David Grossman’s essay, “We are all a sticky human brocade” and listening to Ahinoam Nini’s song based on this essay, called “Signs of Innocence”. Let it be…
Wrote: Hayuta

Encounter 116 – June 5, 2020

In our ‘mingling’ time at the start, someone asked about our arrested friends… This time, unlike the past weeks, someone else answered that they have ben seen, but their release is not yet on the horizon.
The feeling of frustration in their answer made Rami suggest that today’s topic of conversation would be “frustration”. Someone else reminded us of our resolution at the end of our last session, to continue with the topic of “land”.
The two topics very soon bonded… Since we had guests from the north of the country today, we held a real acquaintance circle. Eli, from the north, told about his activity with the “Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society” founded by the Palestinian Authority. Eli handles the encounters of young Israelis with Palestinians from the West Bank, especially Israelis of the pre-military service seminars who are met and influenced especially by people of the right-wing and political center. According to him, reinforced by what Shoshi said, also from the north of the country, these encounters have given the Israelis a perspective they had never before met among Palestinians.
I began a circle and spoke about my impressions of Meron Benbenisti’s descriptions in his book The White Prickly Pear [“sabra” in Hebrew], regarding the systemic and politically-guided erasure of the Palestinian landscape that had been filled with fruit tree groves, prickly-pear hedges and rural stone masonry and erased by the State of Israel after the 1948 war.
Micha cited poet Shaul Tchernichowsky’s “see, land, how wasteful we have been”…
Jaber complained about the denied possibility of getting to know the people living across the fence, a denial that leads to mutual demonization.
Nahshi emphasized the tremendous mass that land has. It’s a mass that reduces any obstacle trying to bring about separation.
Malki said that the topic of land directly associated with Mercedes Sosa’s “Cuando Tenga la Tierra” and had us hear it.
Rami spoke about how the world “has forgotten Gaza”, and said that just like air and water, land-earth exists on its own. The use of ideas such as “holding on to the land” or “sanctifying the land” does not define his own regard of the land. He also told us that the woods we sit in every week were planted artificially by the State of Israel over a vast area that had been farmed by Palestinians with grain fields. He calls this grove of pines, eucalypti and other trees “political trees”. Landscape-erasure erases one’s awareness, he adds in conclusion.
Micha wishes to say that this might not be relevant right now, but just at this moment in time many men and women rabbis in Jerusalem are fasting right now to commemorate George Floyd murdered by a Minneapolis policeman and Iyad Al Halaq murdered in Jerusalem by an Israeli policeman.
Roni touches us with a poem she has written commemorating Razan Al Nazar, shot to death by an Israeli sniper while caring – as a professional nurse – for the wounded during the protest demonstrations along the Gazan fence two years ago.
Bella said that land is supposed to be tied to “permanence” and “rootedness” but this is an illusion and she thinks just like Rami about the issue.
Shmulik, however, finds them wrong, thinking that land is definitely validated by humans.
Uzi related to a poem by Mahmoud Darwish, “On this Earth”, which Nomika had brought to the circle last week. Uzi examined the translation Nomika brought against other translations and found that a part of the poem emphasized by Nomika gets a different meaning in another translation. He brought this part in the original Arabic. Ghadir and Jaber approved that the translation he brought was the right one… Ghadir practically choked while telling about her forced separation from family members who cannot meet her because of the siege on Gaza. She was angered by the sign she saw near the entrance gate of Kibbutz Sa’ad calling for returning the sons home, meaning the Jewish, ignoring the two Bedouins, citizens of this state, also held hostage by the Hamas.
Just as we were finishing up, Uri and Sarit from Arad arrived. Seeing our circle they were sure they had come upon a birthday celebration. When they came closer they realized – just like all Israelis – that they know one of us and she knows them. Although we had crossed our 4 p.m. limit, they were a good excuse for another coffee round (Nahshi, who else…?) and the tasty tidbits covered against the local flies.
Finally, for all those afraid of the heat, it’s hard to share with you this pleasant place by photo or video, but it is really truly pleasant there!
Participants: Jaber, Rami, Roni, Malki, Uzi, Ghadir, Shmulik, Bella, Oded, Micha, Shoshi, Eli, Uri, Sarit
Witing: Oded

Encounter no. 115 -May 29, 2020

Today – no Zoom. On the one hand it “releases” the circle for there is no need to speak in a way that would make the audio-visual technology feasible. On the other hand, through Zoom other participants are included in the circle to partners that would not likely participate normally. The question, then, is how to enlarge our circle even if for various reasons there are no random travelers passing by, and people are still confused about going out and getting together with others. To be considered… I think that half an hour of Zoom, in spite of the complications, is quite valuable.
Another question raised every time for weeks now, is “What do we know?” about our participants who have been suffering because of their courage and can no longer voice their brave messages. We miss them, as well as information about their fate.
Moshe, born in Argentina, tells us about a group he counseled there who were arrested by the generals’ junta in the country in the mid-1970s. He already lived in Israel at the time and, with several of his friends, made various attempts to free the group, in spite of messages “suggesting” non-interference. This is indeed a difficult situation in which one hardly knows whether interference and outside pressure would be effective, if action should be covert so as not to “provoke”.
The subject for our circle today was suggested by Rami – “land”. Since not enough time was left for such a broad issue, we proposed to continue next time, June 5.
From the little that was said it appears that “land” represents many contexts – farming, political, emotional, philosophical, historical etc. It might express a spectrum of feelings by various people depending on the context in which they encounter reality, and naturally, as we all know and experience, create bloody confrontations and conflict. So we shall continue discussing it in our next meeting. Prepare your arguments!
That’s it, the time is past 4 p.m., the Muslims have terminated their Ramadan fast followed by three days of the Id al Fitr holiday, and we have a Shavuot (Jewish holiday) ceremony two hours from now… Holiday greetings for all the inhabitants of this earth.
Participants today: Nahshi, Roni, Shmulik, Ghadir, Rami, Oded, Jaber, Hanan, Moshe, Shelly, Nomika, Eric, Mary, Sarale
Written by Oded