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