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