Encounter 153 – February 19, 2021

This has never happened before. We were our own guests… Yes, just like that. When we arrived at our usual Migdalor site, Shmulik, Nahshi, Hayuta and myself, a family was already sitting there, from Rahat (Bedouin town). Fatma, Seif, and their four children – Fadel, Malak, Baker and little Mohammad. They were sitting on the school chairs we had brought, the school table in the middle, covered by a plastic sheet. Seif was busy over a small barbecue, Fatma with an eggplant-garlic salad. The children were around them, ready to help with anything. We greeted them, lay down our boxes, and Nahshi began to prepare coffee… We held an acquaintance talk, joined with the food-stuffs we had brought – halla and Nahshi-bread, spreads, pastries and cookies. It’s cold, sometimes raining.
Rami arrives, Roni arrives. We are invited to share the barbecue and offer tea, coffee and bread. We all crowd around the table. The children are not fluent in Hebrew. Fine eaters. It’s the setting for an encounter.
In order not to write too much here, I’m not reporting the talks – at times quite interesting, about plenty of topics unrelated to “Gaza”. So as usual, first of all – Gaza.
Only after an hour-and-a-half of mingling, Rami in his special way gently “threads in” the topic of Gaza…
Mari arrives.
Fatma, a teacher in a Rahat school, tells us her grandparents lived in Absan village, in the Gaza Strip. This already feels like close-neighbors talk. The village lies across the fence, up to which spread the fields in which I sometimes work myself. She visited there as a child. Today it seems like something she had dreamt… The sea, the market, grandma’s food and other little things that children do while visiting their grandparents. Memory-dream. Her mother maintains phone contact with the family there, not Fatma. The grandmother remained in the village until she died. The grandfather died in Jordan in the arms of another woman.
Rami expands and talks about us and the reason for our being here week after week. The world has forgotten Gaza, he says. We are here in order to remember it. The connection created today among the circle participants is symbolic of our purpose here. An encounter of people with each other. He explains the symbolism of the idea of “Migdalor” – lighthouse.
Seif says that most people want to live without dealing with the past. If Jews and Arabs can live together, it could be so marvelous that people from the whole world would come to see it with their own eyes!
Rami asks Fatma to bring her mother to the Migdalor. (72 years old…)
Fatma says her mom would be moved to tears!
Shmulik speaks about the Abu Al Qian family from Gaza. When he visited them with his family, many years ago, when it was still possible, his daughter played with the children there and they were all touching her hair to see whether her blond was real…
Nahshi wishes to speak with the neighboring Absan villagers.
Hayuta says she sees the villages of the Gaza Strip when she takes walks at the outskirts of her kibbutz.
Roni is afraid, but is active on a daily basis so there won’t be reasons to be afraid… She’s very up to date on the goings on in Gaza because of her ties with many Gazans who have her helping them. She spoke with an activist in Gaza who is certain that they will be changing their regime in the elections to be held there in May. She speaks about a field hospital founded there where everyone works on a voluntary basis. The Hamas is not allowing patients to get there. It’s inside the Gaza area but beyond the Hamas guard post… The hospital needs patients in order to be fully active but at the moment it is still facing trouble with the Hamas. She speaks about a social activist who is now at a crossroads about his activity, and about a woman-activist who is staying in touch with an Israeli friend even though she is no longer in Gaza. Roni says she heard a talk with Martin Indik who said that as long as Netanyahu and Abas are in charge it will be very difficult. He considers federation as a possible solution. But first each nation has to recognize the nationhood of the other.
Seif thinks that world should not blame an entire people because of a specific gang… There are good and bad people everywhere. Everyone wants to live. To meet on the beach, in the market, with the good life. Whoever’s “inside” is good cannot do harm. When the leaders “calm down” we could build a life of humans in cooperation and peace. The children are not to blame, we must bring them up on human values.
That’s it, now we all put back the chairs, table and barbecue…
Before we disperse, Hayuta asks Fatma for a big hug and gets it.
Participants: Seif, Fatma, Baker, Malak, Fadel, Mohammad, Shmulik, Hayuta, Rami, Nahshi, Oded Roni Mari.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 151 – February 5, 2021

17 women and men composed the creation of Migdalor today, with their voices. As usual, the regular vocalists met first (Shmulik, Rami, Nahshi and myself) and with them Sheli who comes from time to time to sound her own unique voice. Then came Niva who had visited Migdalor several times in the past, with her 18-year-old son Ido who is now in a pre-military year framework.
Ido is interested in geology, and Rami, in homage of Ido, begins the circle with geology and combines the ‘Migdalor’ through his scholarly explanations about various types of rock. He likens us to a rock that is slowly and naturally consolidating.
Shmulik reads a poem he wrote after visiting Jabar in his unrecognized village of Al Zarnouk. Jabar took us to see the home of a doctor at Beer Sheva’s Soroka Hospital, demolished by the authorities because they claimed it was built illegally. Inspired by the sights of this destruction, Shmulik wrote his poem.
Jabar tells about Al Zarnouk and the unrecognized villages, with which most Israelis are not familiar and don’t want to be. But Gaza, he says, is nearby indeed, but forgotten.
Malki asks Jabar to speak about the course at Neve Shalom (an Arab-Jewish community, singular of its kind in the country). The course trains facilitators about the conflict to work with schools. Right now, because of the Covid-19 restrictions the course is “limping” a bit…
Dina who lives in this unquiet region thinks one should do, not just speak from the sofa. People near us are living in poverty and stress, near but far away.
Sheli thinks about Gaza helplessly because of her inability to respond to their helplessness. She has not yet found a way to help.
Malki comes for her spirit, so as not to be detached from the problems that hound the world in which she lives. She too is helpless in view of the situation. What one can do in all of this despair is to meet here. A kind of mission.
Uzi tells us that a poem by Israel Neta of Kibbutz Be’eri has been published this week – Between two Large Streams (the Bsor and the Grar). The poem touched him. Uzi was born a year before the 1948 Nakba, and came to Gvulot two years before the 1967 Naksa. For him Gaza means profound sadness and a feeling of having lost.
Niva has already visited us in the past. She works towards developing culture in the regional councils of the Western Negev desert. Rahat, too (the government-built Bedouin town). She thinks about Gaza ever since she became a mother (Ido’s). She thinks about the mothers in Gaza who cannot protect their children, neither health-wise nor security-wise, largely unlike herself. During a crisis, ‘idiots built dams, wise men build bridges’, she adds.
Ido hadn’t really given much thought to Gaza. A son of his dad’s friend was killed in one of the last massive Israeli attacks. In his pre-military year people tell tales of courage and he, having been influenced by his mom to adhere more to the political left, has been trying to cope.
Before they take leave of the circle, I tell Ido that it is important for me to listen and speak with guys his age because of the ‘junction’ they’re at now, between youth and adulthood, with all that this entails in this country. Ido sounds a monologue presenting his belief that if ‘dirty’ work (checkpoints, entering Palestinian homes in the middle of the night etc.) must be done, better it be done by people like ‘me’ (Ido) who are aware of the problematics of our relations with the Palestinians… So much needs to be said here…
Ghadir mentions Ruth Dayan (who just passed away at nearly 104) and reads out Leah Goldberg’s poem “To Whoever Does Not Believe”. Ghadir come here to continue and believe in spite of the reality around us. She turns to Ido and tells him to remember that just like he has a mom waiting for him at home, so do people ‘over there’. “I have no children of my own but all the children of the world are mine” she says, moved, and continues to say that it is now “the darkness before dawn”. She belongs to an interfaith group along with settler-colonists from the West Bank and right-wing people, and feels that the dialogue is hard, Sisyphean, but slowly certain points of agreement are being reached. She is certain that whoever comes here to our circle would be affected by the discourse. It is important for change. We sail different boats – she airs this metaphor. They are all on their way to sink… One needs to help the other.
Nahshi recalls his past. Neighbors in Gaza closer than distant Israelis… One day we shall be a single space. He hopes it will happen in his lifetime. Visits to the Migdalor are his minimum. He also hopes that the good future is closer than we might think.
Brian tells about himself, explains that ‘debate’ is a mechanism to solve contesting issues by convincing through argument. He explains debate technique: not to raise one’s voice, to convince logically and develop one’s ability to understand the logic of the opponent. There are contests in ‘debate’. He says it works pretty well with students, though not with all.
Avi arrives with his 3 children (Daniel, Amit and Hila). Rami explains to them who we are and what we do, and makes Gaza ‘accessible’ to them. At first through numbers and statistics, and then telling them about the youngsters (“your ages”…) closed inside Gaza. He tells about himself and his familiarity with Gaza after the 1967 war (we were described as monsters), about a Gazan friend his age who came to his kibbutz Beeri at the age of 14 to seek work and remained there to work for many years.
Avi says he traveled with his children in the Judean desert and they met Palestinian travelers from Jericho. They conversed… He finds it hard to understand that things here opposite Gaza are different, and that one cannot speak face to face.
Rami says that Gazans may be met in all kinds of other frameworks. Whoever wants to hear them can easily find a way. Everyone has forgotten about Gaza, he concludes.
Avi and his children continue their trip.
Brian talks about the change he underwent after coming to Israel and gives us the example of his familiarity with the Bedouin society. How from an encounter that was a part of a group trip in the country, many years ago when he was 17 and they had breakfast ‘with the Bedouins’, he had evolved, immigrated to Israel as an adult and became a debate teacher in the Bedouin community of Hura.
That’s it for today.
Participants: Rami, Shmulik, Sheli, Nahshi, Oded, Ido, Niva, Jabar, Ghadir, Uzi, Malki, Dina, Hila, Amit Daniel, Avi, Brian.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 150 – January 29, 2021

“Summaries come at the end…” says the cliché. But today at Migdalor we had no end… Right in the last half-hour as we listened to Dor who moved us with her description of the reality of her life these days through her work with Gisha Association and the conflict she finds herself in with her family and friends – we were suddenly “swamped” with visitors and travelers.
But let’s take it from the beginning.
It didn’t actually rain, but there was a freezing wind blowing. Bleak sunlight is filtered through black clouds. As Shmulik, Nahshi, Hayuta and I look for the most protected corner of the usual structure, Rami arrives with his ‘fire engine’ at the car-park and invites us over. It’s a ‘fire engine’ because outwardly that’s what it looks like, and actually used to be. Now the hind part of the truck was transformed into a well-gadgeted studio apartment! So, in fact Rami invites us into his digs-on-wheels. Our ‘circle’, then, takes place in the car-park by the wheels…
Soon enough Alon arrives with his three kids. He enjoys our coffee and the kids munch on the Tu Bishvat delicacies that Shmulik had brought (New Year of the trees and plants, celebrated with planting and eating dried fruits…) as well as Nahshi’s halla and spreads. Alon’s three small children were promised a tour before their father was tempted with coffee, and they drag him off to a walk through the old sulfur plant.
Then Dor arrives, and soon after her – Maharan. Later Brian will be here too.
Rami opens and says that lately, although we keep coming, we hardly ever talk about Gaza. Lots of things are happening in the world and in the country and Gaza has been pushed off the agenda. In the past Rami used to be invited to encounters with Palestinians (Beit Jalla, Aqaba) and has been invited again because ironically, he is the one bringing Gaza’s voice. But it’s a single voice, and in fact a silenced one. This is why he makes sure that at least the name Gaza be heard.
Shmulik reminds us that Roni is the main engine behind talks with Gaza and these days she is being careful at home for fear of the pandemic. Roni’s everyday phone contacts with Gaza are important and her experience enables to maintain this contact without endangering our Gazan friends.
Shmulik feels it’s important for him to show up every week even if onloy to see Al Buraij from where we sit… It’s also important for him to listen, speak and learn about the space through the information shared in our circle.
Maharan emphasizes Gaza’s troubles in Corona times, and says it’s the occupier’s duty to care for the occupied. Gaza is not present in the Israeli consensus and gets no attention. Every people whose economy works likes to live and live well. In Gaza, hardship brings on violence. He knew Gasa as a child and after years, entered again and discovered a very different place. The older generation is gone.
When it’s my turn to speak, I say that I have been undergoing a process in the past three years, as I’m absorbing more and more knowledge. Such knowledge creates a growing gap between me and my environment and it’s hard to bridge it. The inability to communicate with Gazans makes me deal with other components of the current situation.
Rami says that I sound ‘surrendering’ to conditions that are dictated to me against my will, and that I actually give in to those who make them and deny us dialogue with Gaza. I agree with him. I am definitely aware of the fact that my ability to focus on and communicate with Gaza is tracked by the Israeli rulers and that I am actually rather ‘surrendering’. But, as I reiterate, ‘revolt’ on my part might endanger my Gazan conversants.
Hayuta opens by mentioning the international Holocaust Memorial day. This year she opened Etti Hilsum’s cards and they inspired her to see faith and morality in proportion. Hilsum’s diaries were written in hiding during two years under the Nazi occupation of Holland. Hilsum gives decided significance to everything in her life and takes a conscious decision to go with the Jews to Auschwitz. Hayuta is moved by the fact that the initiative to create the cares was taken together by a Jewish and a Palestinian woman, fitting Hilsum’s message of their shared link.
Now came Dor’s turn: the first time she came she introduced herself and the university where she studied and experienced discussions and struggles of students the world over. She realizes that in order to be involved she must define for herself the idea of ‘home’. When she came and introduced herself in the circle she discovered that in fact she was defining that home When she came to Israel, it was for a learning journey. She still ‘rocked’ with her truth and was slowly, gradually forming a backbone. She tried to please many sides along this process and lost her way a bit. Her contact with her family and friends in Israel faced her with questions she was not yet ready to answer. Was she a part of this story? Is she Israeli? American? She felt she needed to justify her choice of work with “Gisha”. The results of her internal and external deliberations affect her. The family to whom she has exposed herself does not understand her ‘political’ choices. She wishes to explain to them about Gisha but is looking for the right way to do this without creating resistance. Hayuta asks and she explains that Gisha works especially towards freedom of movement for Palestinians, especially from Gaza. Gisha, like every organization aiding Palestinians, is under Israeli governmental scrutiny that looks for any unlawful detail in an attempt to delegitimize the organization. In her work she must work with her ‘heart’ and also ignore it…
Maharan, also a lawyer, tries to demonstrate to Dor how he thinks she should do so, and does so by explaining about the profession of attorneys that, he says, need to grow a very thick skin… He thinks the Separation Fence is damaging. Once in a meeting with Women Making Peace he said that the Fence would bring about apartheid. He tells Dor that she is going to be dealing with apartheid.
Rami asks Dor whether she feels that her work with Gisha is a calling? She goes back to who she actually is, and wonders whether she is able to be exposed to all the stories and cases that appeal to Gisha.
At this point, a car brings to us Nomi – Rami’s partner, Nir – his daughter, and Rotem – his son and his partner Rinat. The meeting interrupts Dor, and some minutes later several cars stop by us with about ten couples of visiting travelers. Soon enough Rami finds himself in the middle of women interested in what he has to say. Apparently, these are all teachers form the Bedouin town of Segev Shalom who organized their partners for some travel… This hubbub takes us way beyond our finishing time. The group leaves, not before openly being moved by our project…
This is it. As I wrote, there’s a summary, but Dor did not really get to finish, so this is not the end. To be continued next week.
Participants: Shmulik, Hayuta, Dor, Oded, Rami, Nahshi, Maharan, Brian, Nomi, Nir, Rotem, Rinat, Alon (+3 kids) and ten young couples from Segev Shalom…
Wrote: Oded