Encounter 144, December 18, 2020

As Shmulik, Nahshi and I arrived, Rami was already on site, doing what he knows best: explaining to a traveling couple about his birth area, Gaza space.
We joined them and got acquainted with Yair and Amira. Yair is a tour guide who came to travel but also to prepare a tour for next Saturday. They are from the north of the country and insisted that they are on their way but Nahshi’s coffee won out and they sat down. Yair talked about two concepts connected with Gaza – gauze and ‘gazette’. Gauze – a Napoleonic term was called thus because of the cotton from which this bandage is made, growing in Gazan space or even just sent through the Gaza port, and anyway was named after Gaza; ‘gazette’ – newspaper or newsletter – was called after Gaza because the ships bearing goods came from Gaza (whose port was the largest and most important in the region) distributed them in the various Mediterranean ports. The captain used to deliver the list of goods his ship bore and because these came from Gaza, the list was named ‘gazette’.
In the meantime, Mari and Ilan arrived. A short discussion ensued on the difference (if any…) between memory and consciousness. Ilan says that the difference between them is that consciousness is present whereas memory is past but contains consciousness.
Many guests arrive, and Rami explains about the circle and his own Gaza consciousness.
This is the point to ask forgiveness of our regular participants: because of the great number of guests this time, today’s notes summarize mainly the words of our new guests and whether any of the veterans had any new insights.
Rami speaks of childhood, adulthood and the circle of life neighboring Gaza.
Nahshi speaks of the good people he got to know in Gaza.
Shmulik shares an experience which we had not yet heard about: an encounter in the past with the families of Gazan potters who sit and work inside the ground! He shares the essence of Migdalor. He thinks it is political (as opposed to Rami).
Uzi remembers better days. Now he senses deep sorrow and a feeling of missing out. To the circle he arrives as someone who believes something could be done.
Yunka and Haim are former settler-colonists at Yamit (a settler-colony in the Gaza Strip that was dismantled). When Haim lived there, his life ran in Rafah, peacefully. When he moved from there to a Moshav at the Shalom area, the workers from Rafah would come there… Ever since Israel’s disengagement from Gaza he no longer thinks about what took place in the past nor about Gaza. In the past he worked in security in the area. He recalls the workers who came to work in all of the settler-colonies. There was no hostility until we were separated. He doesn’t look back…
Maharan tells us that in Gaza sat an Egyptian governor (prior to 1967) who used to send out infiltrators to damage Israeli communities along the border. The Israelis decided to assassinate him by handing an agent a certain explosive envelope which he was supposed to pass on, without telling the agent what it contained. When he arrived in Gaza, he opened it in the presence of Egyptian officers. Two officers were killed and the agent was blinded. Eventually, his son returned in Arafat’s delegation. Maharan says that there are gypsies in Gaza and he liked to attend weddings there because of the festivities and the belly dancing…
Mahmoud is a truck driver who passes on goods to Gaza. He has phone contact with traders. He enters a demilitarized zone with his truck, takes down his goods and returns after two hours to pick up the platform that was unloaded onto Gazan trucks.
Itzik has a bakery in Jaffa. Through the bakery he got to know many Gazans. They attended family festivities mutually. Now he has no contact with them. He misses them. He recalls a worker who was hard of hearing, and was a dough master. He would make very special dough, a real professional. Children 9-10 years old would come to the flea market and to his bakery to work. He really appreciated their determination and survival instincts. They did every kind of work with full dedication. At present the situation, thinks Itzik, is a total miss of leaders on both sides. After 1967 he thought that was the moment to make peace, but Israeli euphoria killed it all. He talks about a meeting in Gaza attended by respected businessmen, and when an Israeli officer, even a junior one, entered the room, they got up. That is what they were used to from Egyptian days. The businessmen were told that here this was not necessary but there were also Israelis who thought that if the were not “held” short, it would lead to disaster, we must show them who’s in charge now…
Pnina, Itzik’s partner, grew up in Jaffa with Arabs. There was respect for humans and their customs. She met Gazans at the bakery. They were always nice to her.
Malki came out of despair (still…). Here, in our circle, it is more comfortable… She wants the circle to continue.
Nomika tells us of about the films observed a week ago (this was already written about last week). The discourse with the group, different from everything familiar, artists, Arab and Jewish students sang together with artists there over the screen! For Nomika this encounter with such youngsters in Sderot was extraordinary. Art with political and social commitment. But reality has its say and the Gazans had to say goodbye before the electricity cut…
Dina says that one cannot remain indifferent to the goings-on in Gaza. Sadly, she has never been to Gaza. Too bad peace is waged with lands and not enough with the immediate neighbors. Dina was born in Alexandria and went back there on a trip with her parents and their stories. Now it’s dirty and neglected and signs that used to be written in English, Italian and Arabic were not only in Arabic. Reality is sadder than stories… Her parents were born in Egypt. In the past she worked in a civilian firm with someone who used to be Gaza’s military governor. She heard many stories from him. From her childhood she recalls the unfriendly saying “Go to Gaza!” (the Israeli way of saying “go to hell!”).
Mari came because of the circle’s atmosphere of containment, and her attraction to complexity.
Dror lives in Sderot. She was on a service year this past year, which means less thoughts about what goes on in Gaza. This is national service with youth in a movement that calls itself “culture through art”. She has chosen not to serve in the army.
For Nur, Gazans are a part of her life. She does not believe in borders. The Covid-19 virus illustrates the absurdity of borders. She does not “count” them, borders. They have no meaning nowadays. Perhaps they used to… Separation between humans now should not be continued. Gaza’s deteriorating health situation is our responsibility too, and will affect us. Just as the Gaza sewage, the neglect of which is our responsibility, affects the desalinated sea water that we all drink.
Mark thinks that Gaza is a daily reminder for the State of Israel that it has chosen the wrong path and continues in the wrong direction. Mark sees Gaza from his home window every day. Since it is quiet now, he is free to ask himself questions, why this situation?
Vivian has a story: she was the construction manager in Kibbutz Beeri. When her son was 5-years old and one of the workers did not arrive, he asked why. Vivian said it was due to closure. Why? War. Over what? Land. The child went to the cupboard, got a bucket and wanted to fill it with soil and give to the worker… Vivian says that Hamas is just as responsible as we are. But here, none of our people care.
Rami went to the north. It was raining. He wandered among the ruins of Bir’am village. A Christian Arab village whose inhabitants were expelled in 1948 with the promise to return. They have not been allowed to return to this day. A villager, Abu Nasser, whom Rami met, says – with bitter cynicism – that they are still waiting for those two weeks to pass so they can return… There is an Israeli national park there now. He went in. Got a leaflet that says not a word about the village history. Only the local church is mentioned… He met a friend from Kibbutz Bar’am who told him that they were directed to found their kibbutz on the village’s grounds. There are two factions in her kibbutz who argue whether exploding the Bir’am houses was justified or not. Further on his way he met an old man from Iqrit. They had coffee together. The man belongs to a vigil that sits there all these years to preserve Iqrit consciousness. Until the 1970s everything was deserted. A few years ago they came back and restored a part of this second Christian Arab village. Rami finds a resemblance here to us, to the Migdalor. He brought the story of Iqrit and Bir’am in order to say that the topic, in his opinion, is the fear to face and speak about injustice. At present the villagers number about 1800 men and woman, mainly in the village of Rame and some in Haifa.
Dina responds: we as Jews underwent similar tragedies. There is a problem in perpetuating tragedy. We got up as a people and got over the tragedy. This is way of the world – one continues! Perpetuating injustices makes people get stuck in their past. It’s frustrating. We have not learned out lesson either, but one must continue. See how problems are solved rather than perpetuated. In Uzbekistan she saw refugee camps and suffering children. The suffering of refugees exists in many places in the world. One must aspire to get out of the situation, not get stuck in it.
Mark has a hard time with Dina’s words and tells her that Zionism is all about remembrance of the past, which Dina asks them to forget. The State has not been true to its word to let the villagers return to their homes. A state does not behave this way. We are no better nor worse than other people in the world and Mark, personally, does not think we have a right to tell others what to remember and what to forget.
Nomika speaks of Israel’s broad activity in making Palestinian memory disappear. She reads out Shalom Chanoch’s poem/song – “Just like you”. This is our concluding chord for today’s encounter. Come meet us next week!
We were Yair, Amira, Rami, Shmulik, Nahshi, Oded, Mari, Ilan, Maharan, Mahmoud, Uzi, Malki, Dina, Nomika, Dror, Nur, Haim, Yunka, Itzik, Pepe (Pnina), Vivian, Mark
Wrote- Oded