Encounter 149 – January 22, 2021

Again, a nice sunny day after 2 days of rain.
Nahshi, Shmulik, Rami and I fix the circle outdoors, in the warm sun.
Rami came early in order to continue his project of exposing the sulfur plant and old British army barracks next to it. His discoveries are impressive! This time another lead was found about the soldiers’ recreation time. Guidance will be given in situ…
Jaber arrives with Hitham and their 3-year old son Walid.
Nomi arrives to.
Travelers peep from above. They are invited to join us, come, sit down, have coffee. Rami explains to them in short what and why…
A circle begins. Nomi says she would be glad to be able to walk straight from here to the Gaza beach.
Hitham says she joins us occasionally and speaks of the fruits that peace could give. She was in Gaza only once, at the age of 10. She doesn’t join us often as she works Fridays. She feels good here.
Nahshi is impressed with the beauty of the area. Gaza is so close, and so far. We have forgotten the good relations we used to have with the Gazans. Here we recall them. We have suppressed our awareness of the goings-on there. This is our opportunity to remember that the past was beautiful and the future will be impressive.’
Yossi remembers that as a child he used to ride the bus with his mom from Ashkelon to Gaza. During the First Intifada he came there as a reserves soldier and did not really understand the situation. His son lost an eye in a war. He knows that everything is temporary and that contacts will arise again.
Shir is a fresh mother. She has a business in the town of Sderot: a pasta place, together with Lir and Idan who came too. She doesn’t know Gaza, has never been there. She has only experienced trouble from there, although she does think about living in this dangerous area, intends to buy a house, even.
Lir, Yossi’s daughter, grew up in Mefalsim. Now she lives in Tel Aviv. She was not aware of the defense dangers around here. In the army she realized her fears and that since the age of 3-4 she has been living in fear.
Idan, from Mefalsim. Loves the area. Prefers to regard the good side of Gaza as he got it from his parents’ stories. He thinks something should be done to improve the situation.
Rami, present at the beginning and at the end of the circle, says that Gaza is wrapped up and closed in fear. Gaza is a historical junction.
Asaf, Smadar and Noa arrive. Nomi asks Rami to tell us all about the anemone flower and we get a botanical lecture… As a bonus, Shmulik adds some details about this wondrous flower. Rami says there is a photo from 1917 of an Australian officer holding a huge bouquet of anemones. There are also photos of soldiers from the First World War who camped here and were photographed inside a field of anemones. In the past, when the area (around 10,000 dunams) was tilled, there were hardly any anemones left. Since it has been declared a nature reserve, their quantities are impressive again.
Some more Haruvi family members arrive: Mirale (Rami’s mom), Dganit and Ilan (his sister and brother). Rami takes us all to see his discoveries. Through them he explains the British army’s deploying in this area to face the German threat.
That’s it.
Participants: Hitham, Jaber, Walid, Yossi, Shir, Lir, Idan, Nomi, Rami, Oded, Nahshi, Shmulik, Smadar, Asaf, Noa, Ilan, Mirale, Dganit.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 148 – January 15, 2021

Rami: Hello, Matan, how old are you?
Matan: ???
Talya (Matan’s mom): 6
Rami: 6-years old, great! Want a story, Matan?
Matan: ???
Rami: Good. What would you say, Matan, if right here near us were a train station where you could board a train straight to the pyramids? Do you know the Pyramids, Matan?
Matan: ???
Talya: Suuuure! From Felix (“Letters to Felix”, a series of travel books for children. O.B.)
Rami: And do you know, Matan, that the pyramids are huge! (Rami invites Matan to stand and compares their height…). You see, Matan, the pyramids are much much taller even than me… So you should know that right here near us was once a train station where real trains took passengers to the pyramids and to Damascus.
The space experience for children, Rami’s version. This is how he explains to Matan, his parents Talya and Yaniv and his infant brother Itai about what we do…
When we arrived – Shmulik, Nahshi and myself – we had no great expectations… after all, a “tight” lockdown has been decreed.
In this spirit I sent a photo of our “symbolic presence”. Until Nahshi readies our first pot of coffee, we go down – Shmulik and I – to see how the olive tree is doing that we planted about two and a half years ago on a bed of peace seeds.
The tree and the peace seeds were brought by a Tibetan nun whose Tibetan name I don’t recall, but before her Tibetan incarnation her name used to be Yael… The tree, like the mission it was assigned, has a hard time developing, but we must note that it is struggling and surviving, and even showing green leaves!
In the meantime, a bike rider arrives and when he takes off his helmet, we realize it’s Mark. Of our circle’s veterans, Mark has lately been very busy in climate matters and taken part in the “extinction rebellion” group, fighting for preserving life on this planet. Unfortunately, the main struggle is with governments and big-money, and therefore it is a hard and Sisyphian one. Most of our discourse at this point focuses on climate matters that Mark takes the trouble to explain to us.
Two people arrive – Lior and Ayal. Ayal is ‘armed’ with a huge camera. They live around here, are familiar and invited to coffee. They accepted the invitation, had coffee and left before sounding any kind of Gaza awareness.
Rami arrived – just got his second Covid-19 vaccine shot today. Shmulik and I have already done so, and Nahshi is on his way to the second shot.
Maharan arrives. We’ll have “stories”…
Yaniv and Talya and their kids arrive too. Traveling. They’re from Rami’s kibbutz and for their sake we held an acquaintance circle the opening of which I already quoted above.
After Rami’s explanation, Mark says something I noted especially for these notes: “I am looking for a place where I needn’t be ashamed to say that I’m ashamed of my country”. Me too. Mark has been less enthusiastic about coming to Migdalor lately, but feels that we’re like family that one doesn’t always have to come visit… As long as there is quiet in the area, he says, it’s hard to remember the frightful moments.
Yanic grew up in Kiryat Ata (in northern Israel). He has come following his wife, didn’t know our area. He began to hear from friends about the history. He experienced Gaza in the confrontations since he has been living around here. Now he realizes that they too deserve to live, and that if we could help… His father came from Iraq, speaks Arabic, and therefore sometimes used to speak it with Arabs. Yaniv hadn’t given Gaza a thought. After the army, for his job, he came to the Occupied Territories, and only then did he get to know it. He works for a firm that produces ‘means’ for the Israeli army.
A discussion of history ensues, led by Rami, as Maharan – a trained history teacher – tries to “branch off” occasionally to the information he holds, away from what Rami is saying. This is no longer a proper “circle” and the speakers keep interrupting each other, but since only us veterans are left (Talya, Yaniv and the children left to continue their hike), there is much value in any information.
So this is what I managed to write down. First, Rami: For 600 years the Ottomans were an “area empire”, namely “empire” because of the size of the area under their control, and of these – 400 years in our area. They developed Jaffa, Jerusalem, Ramla and other places. Gaza was not of interest to them, nor the entire Negev desert. Maharan says that they hanged his great-great-grandfather for not paying taxes. Rami said that Beer Sheva did not interest the Turks until the Suez Canal was dug. The canal, dug by the British and the French, threatened them and they began to develop Palestine’s southern cities as well. Now an “argument” ensued between Maharan and Rami. According to the latter, Beer Sheva was a godforsaken village. In 1900 the Ottomans brought Austrian and German engineers and wished them to build a rail lines (the Hejazi train existed as well as local lines) in the direction of Beer Sheva, Ramat Hovav, Bir Asluj. They never made it. The Ottomans developed Beer Sheva as a gift to the Bedouin tribes so they would not cause trouble but cooperate in view of the British threat from Egypt. They took rocks from Byzantine Halutza and built a real city – grain mill, hospital, water wells (17). Everything in military fashion. Beer Sheva turned into a military center. In 1917, and after the First World War, the British lay a water main and a railway track from Egypt to Palestine within 3 months. The Ottomans realize belatedly that they should have fortified Gaza. The British disconnect them from Beer Sheva and fight for Gaza.
Travelers peep at is from above. Rami goes to convince them to join us, and in the meantime Maharan tells us about the Jewish tribes who supported Mohammad, and those who didn’t. About Ethiopia that was a regional power and wanted to destroy Mecca. About the Persian empire stretching all the way to Yemen. Yemen was Christian. The Persians brutalized the Christians and they fled, except for the inhabitants of two towns that were Bedouin. According to Maharan, the Persians saved Islam, that was about to be wiped out, and the Ottomans were determined to preserve it.
Moussa and Amjad arrive in the middle of Maharan’s talk, and listen. Rami asks them what Gaza means to them. Amjad’s mother is Gazan-born. I note that someone has already been here with a similar story, and Mussa says that half of the Bedouin town of Segev Shalom are families one of whose parents came from Gaza. According to them, at present there is hardly any contact even while family relations live there. For the youngsters, Gaza is “somewhere out there” even if mom was born there…
Rami explains about our circle and invites them to continue coming.
Participated: Yaniv, Talya, Matan and Itai (their children), Rami, Shmulik, Maharan, Mark, Nahshi, Oded, Ayal, Lior, Moussa, Amjad
Wrote – Oded.

Encounter 147 – January 8, 2021

All we wanted was to keep the lighthouse lit, make sure that anyone who needs it would not lose hope, even when it’s dark and closed all around.
When we got there, Shmulik and I, at the usual time – Rami’s firetruck was already there in the car-park and we got a thorough explanation of this magnificent ‘ship of the desert’ along with Doron, Sharon and their children, while sipping coffee and being updated on the news in times of closure.
The Golani Infantry battalion commander in charge of the area arrived. His wife and children came to visit him here because he has not been able to leave here for 3 weeks already. Rami takes the commander and his family for a round and explanation about the site and about us.
We do the same thing with the command-team soldiers – of the different Israeli locations of Holon, Beit Shean and Karmiel – who manage to agree that “it used to be happy here before we got here” and could be that way again.
After the military unit proceeds with its mission, Rami and Shmulik reminisce about their common neighborhood in Giv’atayim, and apparently Shmulik’s brith (circumcision ceremony) was held at the Aldema house opposite the Haruuvis…
Some more stories about Tzippora’s collective grocery, and then it’s time to say goodbye… Until next week.
We were Rami, Shmulik and Nahshi
Wrote – Nahchsi

Encounter 146 – January 1, 2021

Israel declared ‘lockdown’. On Whatsapp correspondence this week there were ‘hinted’ doubts about a Zoom encounter on Friday… On the other hand, whoever listened to the media this week realized this ‘lockdown’ was totally full of holes and whoever referred to it dismissed it as unnecessary and un-enforceable.
We came to our ‘lighthouse’ site anyway… Shmulik, Nahshi, Hayuta and I. We met a traveling couple who said they were already on their way back to the car, but remained only to hear who we are, and in the meantime the coffee arrived, followed by other interesting people, and the couple stayed for another hour and a half…
The woman, Sarit, turned out to be no less than Rami’s neighbor! And when Rami would arrive after a while, we would learn about their special connection. In the meantime, she wished to hear about us, and we told her and began our circle. I opened by explaining about us and the structure we are sitting in.
Sarit’s turn: she says that as a resident of the area, she was very frightened during the ‘security’ events (aka offensives), to the point that she needed professional help. Now, when something happens, she goes out to photograph and be impressed close up… She does not believe that in this life she will get to ride her bike to the beach at Gaza… She is no longer scared but does not believe anything will change. As a child she heard her dad’s stories about Gaza. How strongly they hate us over there. Her children are a bit ‘messed up” because of the ‘security’ situation, but she sees the place she lives in as her home and has no intention of leaving the area.
Morris was born in Sderot (also in the vicinity). He is no longer there. He has a brother there. The brother’s kids, like Sarit’s, are traumatized by the ‘security’ situation. Morris remembers Gaza from his childhood and trips with his family. In the army he served in the entire Gaza Strip.
Shmulik extends the information about our circle’s link with Gaza, for Sarit and Morris.
Nahshi wishes to relate to whoever comes to our circle the sense of normality that we once had vis a vis the Gazans. He reminds himself of it through our circle’s encounters.
Hayuta comes mainly to hear everyone.
Jaber arrives, with Ghadir. She is still on the phone and remains outside while Jaber tells about his unrecognized village, Al Zarnouk. Sarit questions him about life conditions there. Jaber says that the sheep and poultry in the neighboring Jewish village of Nevatim have a better life… Still he comes here because there are people whose life is even harder than his and they live over there, in Gaza. Morris asks about Jaber’s origins. Jaber tells him his forefathers were from the Negev, have always been there, and now they are scattered all over the area.
Rami arrives. In Kibbutz Beeri he lives near the animals and when anything happens, the first to respond are the geese, and right afterwards, Sarit’s security-room window slams shut… After the 2014 offensive he had anxieties. He couldn’t find peace and went walking a lot. When he came to the sulfur plant he felt no fear. He sat. Friends arrived. He began to invite people.
Sarit tells us that from early on her daughter has been connected to Rami and his girlfriend calms her fears. Rami adds that at the Migdalor a space has come into being where it’s possible to speak of our pains as well as others’. For him Gaza is a “great gift”.
For Ghadir, the Migdalor is a social and political encounter. She emphasizes them both equally. Gaza is one big jail. Before Gaza was closed off and came under siege, she participated in encounters that took place there. It hurts her that on both sides of the border children grow up seeing only an enemy on the other side, and they – the children – pay the price of their parents’ choice. Every minute, every second is critical in this situation, and one must not let go for a moment from acting towards peace and reconciliation.
Sarit responds to Ghadir’s words and says that her children too, and she herself, think about the Gaza children whenever there’s ‘an event’.
The Arabs’ situation in Israel hurts Ghadir, certainly vis a vis the Jewish Israelis and among them as well. Arabs should be ‘pushed’ into all of the political parties in order to look out for their situation in the country. She thinks that reconciliation with the Palestinians is more important than any peace accords. In the Lebanon war, a missile fell in the yard of her family home in Acco. Her own anxieties are identical with everyone else’s. The state of things with the Covid-19 virus is worrisome. Most of Acco’s residents at present are Arabs who escaped their villages in the area in 1948. Only two families (hers is one of them) remained in Acco originally. Acco’s Arab inhabitants were expelled to Lebanon in 1948.
Hanan came to Migdalor because of the kites. He is a kite-person and as such, it hurt him that kites were used (by the Gazans) for destruction. He likes to come, but has gotten a bit tired of worrying about Gaza… Trouble never ceases. He has come to nurture hope but feels that it has been too much.
There are fermented miniature carrots on the table! It is grown in Nir Yitzhak. A conversation ensues about farming… Rami speaks of his activity on various ‘operations’ as a coordinator on behalf of the state. He coordinated between farmers and the army on standby areas in order to prevent damages in farmlands, and coordinated with the state about restitution for lands that were damaged. So he helped fix the army’s damages on the one hand, and now helps to fix damages on the other side… Injustice is injustice and must be fixed…
Guests arrive! We hold an acquaintance round. Our guests are Eliraz and Noam. Rami tells about us. He quotes a Beeri poem (of the kibbutz’ 30th-anniversary) to say that the kibbutzniks defined themselves back then as ‘settlers’… He speaks of Ali’s well of which and from whom they received water, about the battle of Gaza waged between the Ottomans and the British (we Israelis were not involved?…) and about the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians expelled to Gaza in 1948. In 1949 Israel and Egypt signed an agreement that imprisons the refugees in a strip of 12 by 50 kilometers and at once the population grew significantly. At times, in the circle, family members and descendants of the refugees of yesteryear sit together.
Eliraz and Noam hurried home before the Sabbath and therefore only listened, and we- curious – hope they will come again and be heard too.
Words: Shmulik, Jaber, Hayuta, Oded, Morris, Sarit, Ghadir, Nahshi, Rami, Hanan, Noam and Eliraz
Tune: the wind, the space and the sound of Nahshi’s gas flame on which coffee and tea were brewed. Every week a new song is arranged here.
Wrote: Oded