Encounter 145 – December 25, 2020

When I got to writing the present report, I realized I had begun to summarize the participants’ words only when Brian arrived, and that was already 2:30 p.m., half-way through…
So what went on earlier? Only from memory…
We invited Rina and Eyal and their three children who were just traveling in the sufur plant. Rina was born and raised on a kibbutz in this space and lives with Eyal and their children in Rishon le-Zion. The parents sat with us and the kids continued running around and playing hide-and-seek.
First we were Shmulik (making coffee), Roni and I. I began the “ceremony”.
From the ramp above us, five youngsters slid down into the structure. We invited them to share coffee. Two accepted – Anis and Kiram. The other three went out to explore the surrounding. I began again: “My name is Oded Nir, from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak, and we have been sitting here every week now for 2 years and 9 months”…
The other three then joined us – Talal, Mohammad and Seif. I began for the third time…
Rina and Eyal left…
The five youngsters introduced themselves. Anis, the talker, said they were all cousins, nearly all born in 1999, only Talal in 2000. They’re traveling.
After they heard us why we’re here and what’s the idea, Anis began a fluent monologue around the experience he and his friend had when they went to Hebron to fix something in their car, and what they had to undergo at the checkpoint on their way back. Problems arose because the friend had no ID on him (he doesn’t own one, even at home…) and innocently they had thought that if they just say they’re Israeli citizens everything will work out… Well, it worked out after about 9 hours. In between Anis talked about his insights of people in the area and his own will that everyone be fine.
Malki arrived.
The five used this pause and got up to continue their trip, not before they were invited of course to return on our next Friday sessions. There was something charmed in the loudness and aggressiveness with which they came down from the parking lot to the plant, the surprise on their faces when they were invited to sit down, and the calm and attentiveness that rested on them as they sat in our circle.
Nomika and Nur arrived, then Rami.
That morning I had suggested on Whatsapp that we read the interview Ravit Hecht held with Abrum Burg (in Haaretz). So we have something to discuss if we find ourselves alone. Well, we were alone for a while, but discussed things that had nothing to do with Burg nor with Gaza…
I believe Rami began to speak about “the state of the street and the town-square versus malls in urban space”…
A couple with a child passed by. Travelling. They sat for 2 minutes and left. We didn’t get to know them, except for the fact that they are Bedouins living in Beer Sheva, and their son goes to school in town.
Brian arrived and hurried to wonder about the fact that there are no Jewish teachers in Arab schools and vice-versa. He himself is working to change this (teaches a bit in the Bedouin town of Hura). Some hope is better than no hope… he says.
Wassim, Bashar and Firas arrive. They’re a bit shy, and Rami convinces them to stay. They sit and Rami tells them about us and about himself. How he grew up in Kibbutz Beeri, neighboring Gaza, and also raised his kids there… For years he has been feeling that the space is also home to others. He realized this through his Bedouin and Gazan friends. The area is shared by us all. 6 years ago, after a terrible war/attack everyone felt like coming to sit in this place, that was built by the British when they ruled here… The place is open to all four directions, and to everyone. He explains about the ‘Migdalor’ – the lighthouse. “One can navigate one’s hope towards the place that emits light”.
Nomika talks about a Zoom conversation she had with a Gazan friend who works with mental health issues in Gaza (the conversation was initiated by the Other Voice organization), talking about the harsh realities in his professional field.
Wassim is a young boy, Bashar has been a soldier in the army for about a year, and Firas is between his graduation from high school and enlistment, or continued studies. Bashar wishes to continue his army career. His grandmother is from Gaza and lives in Rahat (Bedouin town). There is no contact with the family, and she does not speak about hers. She has not been back to visit there for 40 years, since her wedding. “I am a soldier”, says Bashar. “Whoever comes to the fence wants to be a martyr. There are opening fire regulations.” His grandmother cried when he told her he was serving “in Gaza”. She said, “Don’t go there”.
Firas studied in Lahav, at the Joe Allon program, “Desert Stars”. Combining Jews and Arabs. Right now he works with his dad on the border, laying pipes and infrastructures. They work on kibbutzim and moshavim, in the area. There are good and bad people everywhere. It’s a bit scary to work on the border, but the army watches out for them.
Brian asks what they think about all citizens doing some kind of service. Bashar and Firas think it’s very good. Firas says that Arab girls do civilian service. The boys who do not enlist work or study. Sometimes those who study in Israel after high school must do some sort of civilian service. Rami says that Arabs with skills similar to those of Jews are discriminated against on the civilian job market.
Nomika relates to what Brian said earlier about Jews teaching in Arab schools and vice versa. She says that it’s not true, there are more and more Arab teachers teaching in Jewish schools and not only Arabic. Bashar says it’s true, he knows such cases in Ofakin. Bashar doesn’t want to study, he desires a military career.
Firas wants to study business administration, and Wassim doesn’t want school – he wants to be a truck driver.
Rami asks Bashar to bring his grandma to our circle… It’s closing time and we disperse.
Participants this time were Shmulik, Talal, Mohammad, Seif, Kiram, Anis, Eyal, Rina, Roni, Oded, Malki, Nur, Nomika, Rami, Brian, Firas, Wassim, Bashar.
Wrote – Oded.