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