Encounter 123 – July 24, 2020

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