Encounter 127, August 21, 2020

Occasionally at Migdalor encounters, someone speaks of information they absorbed in our “circle”, or that came by recommendation of one of the circle participants. Thus, Jaber speaks of what he learned during his participation – of refugee-dom, human suffering, Gaza as a the world’s largest open-air prison. He thinks it is the fault of us all, but the situation in Gaza just cannot persist. He tries to come every week, it’s calming…
Shmulik, affected by Meron Benbenisti’s book “Dream of the White Sabra” – that we were exposed to it in Migdalor meetings thanks to Nomika – wonders if we are proceeding in the wrong direction… Shmulik relates to the chapter in which Benbenisti writes of political conflicts, and as one who has been dealing with the subject, presents a local solution. His conclusion is one land with a model of shared life. This has economic, demographic and many other good reasons that would benefits both sides. Shmulik (and I) find this a must read! Shmulik believes that like every other conflict, ours too will find its solution. As proof of his belief, he comes to the Migdalor every single week…
Roni and Gaza, neighbors and friends, a flower sent to her cellular phone every Friday, daily correspondence, and … “rounds” of violence that come repeatedly, sowing more suffering, wane and wax. Roni, in her endless sensitivity, understands what the Gazans undergo, and experiences the fires (caused by incendiary balloons hurled from the Gaza Strip) first hand. Her son, helping to put out fires, arrives angry… Roni explains, trying to make him understand. She studies Arabic with Haneen and speaks with her about the pain. Haneen resents the comparison of a burning field and a killed child. And Roni doesn’t want to compare, she wants to contain…
Ghadeer, who had been in a Gaza summer camp as a schoolchild, aches what is happening. She feels for her friends from the area who experience the “rounds”. She aches the injury suffered by nature, the fires, the people, the harm to the world. She thinks of those anxious at the alarms, and of those who have no alarm systems. She thinks about the children on both sides who only see the enemy. She comes to the circle to feel that she herself is not changing. Corona shows us we’re “all in the same boat”.
Menachem is an activist with “Women Making Peace” (“we are three men and 45,000 women”). Unlike Ghadeer, for him Gaza is less of a “personal” issue. The confrontation between the two entities is not going anywhere. Because of the politicians. No mother brings a child into the world thinking it would be killed in war. There is no winner in a war. Only dead and wounded. He cannot stay inside himself and say I’m outside the circle… The circle of killing must stop. Especially of children, in any way possible.
Hagit is touched by Jaber’s words. For her Gaza is the market she reached after the 1967 war, where she bought soap the scent of which follows her to this day. Smadar, her friend, turned to her and said it’s impossible for them not to do anything and just sit far away. They want to collect stories and publish them. Like the ones heard at Migdalor. Hagit wishes to hear the personal experience of each participant and make them into stories.
Tze’ela lives in the area. She was born here but moved to the center of the country as a child. Now she’s back. Gaza is a feeling of pain, a language of pain. She senses the pain that invades her and tries to get out of it, unsuccessfully. Still, she feels she must live around here. Experience the pain. She sees Gaza opposite her, and cannot ignore it. The experience is painful but unavoidable in its different shades.
Dor grew up in Los Angeles. Her father is from Zikim, her mother from Netiv Ha-Asara. She has been studying at the Arava Institute since February. She wishes to stay much longer. She has many childhood friends here (from her Israeli vacations) of Netiv Ha-Asara. She met them. It was difficult. One of them said she didn’t want to develop feelings of empathy with Gaza. Ignoring it is intentional and demonstrative. Closing one’s eyes in face of reality. A friend who had been a sniper inside Gaza. He saw an 8-year old child go up to the rood, reported him, and was told to decide on his own what to do… These are friends her own age. She cannot stop coming…
Noa is at Arava Institute too, with Dor. She met Ghadeer at a circle of Women Making Peace. She grew up in Tel Aviv, with a leftist family and a mother from Haifa with Arab friends. The Left, she thinks, has become center, and the center – right-wing. Talking with friends about Gaza, she criticized people who are not exposed to reality. The usual claims were made that we are being murdered and that the occupied territories are our own. She publicized a letter from an Arab friend who spoke of the will to live in peace, and a friend told her that when she reached the word “occupation” – she stopped reading the letter…
Hanan arrived at the Migdalor because of the kites… He builds kites. Comes more or less regularly. This week a picture was posted on the net of a mother and her children with phosphorous burns. Hanan knows a website where relevancy and truth of information on the net are checked out. Hanan checked the picture and thinks it’s from Afghanistan, but he also knows from a “B’Tselem report that the Israeli army did use phosphorous ammunition in Gaza. While looking for information on the picture he found out that the Israeli army has perpetrated many horrors in Gaza, but doesn’t think the specific picture is from there. Yesterday he saw alarms on Twitter and thought about his friends here. When home in Beit Shemesh, he says, we’re his friends from Gaza…
For Malki this is her weekly moment of sanity. She doesn’t come to demonstrations, so this is the little she can do. She is pessimistic… A picture of the recent week shows colorful balloons with explosives, near a living, fresh bush. Dissonance. At the website called “Friends Across the Fence” she read of someone from Gaza studying in Cairo who got to Beirut and discovered a poem by Dylan Thomas there – “Do not go gently into that good night…”. Malki’s mom loved Dylan Thomas and Malki knows the poem well. The discovery that she shares its experience with an anonymous fellow from Gaza excited her.
Maharan visited Gaza often in his younger years. The falafel, the scents, the beach, the memories, everything feels familiar. He entered Gaza four years ago, and everything he recalled from his childhood was gone. Except the military government building… In the Saja’iya there was a eucalyptus tree still standing where he’d remembered it. People complain of the difficult situation and miss Israel… Everyone he met speaks of this. There must be solution! The State of Israel must understand that Gaza is an independent entity. Peace must be made with the Hamas. The contact between Gaza and the West Bank is broken, and each is a separate entity. Historically Gaza was “difficult” for anyone trying to conquer it. Gaza is important as a hub of commerce, important for the economy, for development.
When Ghadeer meets young pre-draft-age Israelis, she tells them to remember they have mothers waiting at home, but their rivals on the other side also have mothers waiting at home. This morning she met a neighbor of Ethiopian origin. They spoke of yesterday’s protest demonstration (the Negev region demands employment, health services, schooling!) and had an interesting conversation. He got excited and wants to come to activities with Ghadeer. She says one must be active all the time even if it feels pointless. At the end of the day it is effective, and one cannot know at which point things will happen. Someone from the “The Movement for Quality Government in Israel” told her that the older generation of Israelis let things deteriorate the way they did, and she had a hard time listening to this.
In the circle, Hagit responds and says she thinks it’s harsh but true.
Ghadeer resents this.
Ghadeer brought Hillsum cards – a project by Dina Awad (West Bank) and Emma Shamba (Tamera community in Portugal). Before the activity she reads aloud a poem by Samih Al Qassem. She facilitates the Hillsum cards activity. The cards quote things that Hillsum wrote, among other things, when held at the concentration camp, prior to her murder in 1943. Each of the participants pulls out a card and relates to the quote. It was interesting, fascinating!
Jaber, Shmulik, Hagit, Roni, Malki, Maharan, Ghadeer, Menachem, Hanan, Tze’ela, Dor, Noa, Oded
Wrote: Oded