Encounter 122 – July 17, 2020

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