Encounter 125 – August 7, 2020

Ashraf El Ajami is a member of the “Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society” of the Palestinian Authority. He was supposed to come to our circle today, but about two hours before our meeting, he informed us that he fell ill… He’ll come when well again, soon… We wish him a fast recovery and good health.
Rami opened and said that he often wonders what the point of sitting here is, what does Gaza awareness mean… He received his answer from Fuad, a Gazan who has been with us twice this past month and said that when he heard about this circle, he came and Migdalor made him feel at home. For Rami, too, Gaza is an open space, home to us all. Gaza is an ever-widening circle of people who say this is home.
For Roni, Gaza means neighbors and friends. To receive a photo of a flower from someone in Gaza, a letter from a friend imprisoned in Gaza, a phone call from a Gazan friend. Gaza is a place where Roni has lived in the past, shopped in its market and learned how to drive. Gaza needs help and Roni helps, as much as she can within her meager means.
Ghadir comes to the circle to get energized. Gaza is large prison. The power of her friends is the wish for peace. She has a friend imprisoned in Gaza who asks her to continue her activities for normal life among humans who are neighbors.
Eli comes from the north of Israel. He sees South Lebanon from his home. Looks like Switzerland… But tense. He volunteers as a coordinator for organizing encounters of the Interaction committee with any body that wishes to meet Palestinians. He comes to our meetings personally, sees it as a mission.
Shoshi comes from the north as well. The situation in Israel is desperate, and it feels good to meet people and be encouraged.
Vivian says she has already met members of the Interaction Committee at a meeting she organized in her kibbutz. She was reminded of the time she ran programs with a Gazan partner who lives in Ramallah now. Everything is closed down at present.
Maharan, a teacher of citizenship and an attorney, remembers the qebab, the sea breeze, and Gazan markets. Childhood memories. His uncle served in the Israeli military government. He entered Gaza 4 years ago. An abyss lies between the 1990s and this last entry. The Saja’iya neighborhood lies in ruins. Gaza has changed, only the governor’s house stands as it always had. Neighborhoods are over-crowded. No Electricity. People don’t care to struggle any longer, they want to live. They recall the good old days until the PA came. He donates money during Ramadan. Maharan tries to stay optimistic, but the peace camp in Israel is weak. If it depended on people, peace would already be here.
Nahshi has worked and befriended the Gazans with whom he worked in the past. He comes to be reminded that Gaza exists and suffers, and hopes that on the other side they know he thinks about them. He feels good in the company of people who come to the circle, it enriches him with new insights.
For Limor the common Israeli attitude towards produces the endless stupidity and human cruelty. She feels optimistic when looking at the circle, even if it’s the only civil act she commits.
For Rinat Gaza means neighbors. She knows how much they suffer there. She feels sad and helpless.
Shmulik says the encounters are therapeutic and a “laundry” for the participants’ personal conscience vs. their neighbors.
David has arrived for the second time. As a child he used to hear “Go to Gaza!” as a curse. He came to Gaza during his military service. He stood at the checkpoints. He let a girl go through who said she was coming from the market with a bag of nuts for her family, and was scolded by his commanders for not having inspected her well. This made him begin to ask why? Why must we disrupt the lives of others. They too want to live and work and have a good time. From his home he hears the muezzin. He does not feel safe enough to enter the Old City of Jerusalem.
Karni, too, has come for the second time now. For her Gaza is a very far place with much suffering. She hears about it in the news. She looks forward to a space without borders, or at least open borders. She is not active personally.
Micha is a teacher and educator. He experiences with his pupils the bombings from Gaza at the school where he has taught. His pupils hated the Gazans. They had no idea nor did they care about what goes on in Gaza, nor did they want to know. The lack of understanding is unbearable.
Yossi has taught in the Middle East Department as well as the Politics and Government Department at Beer Sheva’s Ben Gurion University. When students complained that they do not learn enough about “our” conflict vis a vis other conflicts, he was asked to prepare a program that he named “Chosen Issues in the Arab-Israeli Conflict”, which became very popular among students. The students who come now lack much knowledge, and the program is very helpful in widening their horizons. Yossi says he wishes they would forget what they learned, and remember the word “narrative”. Each side has its own narrative and there is more than a single truth. Yossi chose to learn Arabic in high school (rather than French) because his mother told him that Arabs were his neighbors. He took part in encounters of Israeli leftists with Palestinian leaders as early as the 1970s, including Issam Sartawi. Yossi knows a lot and has many stories to tell from the time of his activism, and he offers a separate encounter for this subject.
Jaber sent a photo of our meeting to Marwan, and Marwan returned a greeting to the Migdalor participants, which Jaber read for us.
Nomika recalls a Mercedes Sosa song (which Nomi brought for our last session via Zoom) – “That is all I ask of God” – a song protesting oppression. Relating to Micha’s words, she wonders how he as a teacher passes on humanist values to the next generations. She suggests talking about this in of our meetings.
Dina lives in the area. Gaza is an unsolved problem that cannot be regarded indifferently. People there are suffering, and every one of us needs to do the little they can. Her kibbutz had Gazan workers and ties were close.
Smadar had ties with Gaza in her childhood because she grew up in nearby Ashkelon. When she returned to live in the south of Israel, Gaza came back into her awareness and she has daily Facebook contact with Gaza. She also has friends in the Negev who have family relations in Gaza. On Facebook she often gets the usual Israeli “Go to Gaza” (that equals “go to hell!”) and knows how to answer them. Smadar mentioned the we are not numbers website that she follows. Rami intervenes and suggests we all enter this website, and that of Yuval Avraham. Shelli came with a shirt that says “Justice to Iyad, Justice to Habtum” (Palestinian Iyad al Halaq was murdered by Israeli police in Jerusalem, Eritrean Habtum Zarhum was lynched by Israelis in Beer Sheva) in Arabic and Hebrew. She has never been to Gaza. She can hardly imagine life there. A security official got mad at her for her shirt’s inscription. He was in the 2014 assault against Gaza and came back traumatized. There is a wall of ignorance both between her and the Gazans and between her and other Israelis.
Mark says Gaza is madness. He has been living for over 20 years near Gaza. He feels shame and guilt. The situation with the Palestinians has brought us to immoral depths which he cannot begin to understand.
Arik says his significant ties with Gaza began 15 years ago at an encounter with young Gazans in Jerusalem. It continued with a shared blog, in attempts to help Gazans reach hospital in Israel, in the founding of “Another Voice”, encounters with groups and seminars. He is trying to cope with the two-sided madness of ruling from which so many humans are hurt. He emphasizes connection and humaneness with the other side. An attempt to separate the insoluble, desperate macro picture, and the micro meetings of people with each other. It is real and immediately felt. Our circle is an important voice against demonization and de-humanization of Gazans. He has a lot of feeling through connections (and sometimes disconnections…) with Gazans.
Jaber says that Al Zarnouk does not lack problems, but coming to Migdalor he realizes that suffering in Gaza is much greater. Gaza for him means family, neighbors and friends. He does not recognize the Separation fence that originated in sin. He feels good in the circle, has a common language with others. Israelis should see Gaza in a normal light. One day, the fence will disappear!
Ghadir gives us the regards she received from Ashraf, who received photos of the Migdalor. Ghadir tries to explain the Israeli response to the disaster that befell Beirut last Tuesday. She associates this with the disregard of Gazans versus the solidarity with the victims in Beirut. She wishes Israel would relate to Gaza this way as well…
Participants: Roni, Rami, Limor, Shmulik, Mark, Nahshi, Shelly, Oded, Jaber, Ghadir, Vivian, Smadar, Micha, Maharan, Nomika, Arik, Eli, Yossi, Dina, Shoshi, David, Karni, Rinat.
Wrote: Oded