Encounter 158 – March 26, 2021

Today we spoke about consciousness. It was fascinating. We agreed about certain things, not about others. Personally, I went home with many thoughts about who shapes our consciousness, and the link between knowledge and awareness. Are parents considered consciousness shapers? Teachers? Religious and political leaders are also influential. How then, and if not, how is awareness shaped? Does it change with time? What is the effect of knowledge, awareness, the lack thereof, or personal experience on the shaping of consciousness?
I spoke with Rami, our Gazan friend. He asked where his chair was, and indeed he had a chair saved for him, next to mine. I showed it to him on screen. Rami told us how important it was for him that we all go out and vote, also because of himself and because of other Gazans.
He asked that we demand of the elected government to choose another path, not everything is war. He asked that we help acquire the possibility for patients to get to treatment in Israel. Rami had watched the direct broadcast I had from Rahat (Bedouin community inside Israel) in which I encouraged people to go out and vote two hours before the elections. Among other things, I also spoke for the Palestinian residents of Gaza and the West Bank.
Today people came to our circle who had not been there for quite a while, and I felt this was in order to get charged with energy and a bit of hope after finding out the election results. Perhaps it was subconscious. At least it was in my own case.
The weather was amazing, visibility clear, so Gaza could be photographed very lucidly from the closest site possible.
Rami from Beeri tried to arrange his own throne-like seat but didn’t manage. Truth is he gave up too quickly and put the chair to the side along with the tool kit.
At some point it rained and we moved to a more sheltered spot.
A young woman joined us who had been grazing her family herd along with her sister. We invited them to have tea with us and she was glad to do so. She came to get it which was nice of her, told us where she was from and a bit about herself, and we introduced ourselves.
As usual, amazing Nahshi made the most delicious tea and coffee in addition to his own home-baked bread and tasty dips prepared by various friends.
Have a great weekend, and happy holiday to everyone celebrating the Jewish Passover.
Participants: Moshe,Jaber, Shmulik, Rami, Nahshi, Oded, Mari, Mark, Roni, Brian, Ghadeer.
Wrote: Ghadeer

Encounter 157 – March 19, 2021

This was one of those days when we sit among ourselves and no one else shows up, and then, towards the end, comes the big “story” and the usual finishing time goes by without notice…
“No one” isn’t quite right, since as soon as we got there – Shmulik, Nahshi, Hayuta and myself – four bicycle riders came by to our circle. Since they rented their bikes for a set time and had to ride them back to Beeri to return them on time, they preferred to hear us while having coffee, and when their turn came to talk about their own “Gaza consciousness” they already did this standing up and putting on their bike helmets. Each of them voiced a single short sentence more or less saying “I know that people in Gaza are suffering, and obviously want peace, we all do, but we can do nothing until they get rid of Hamas”… This is what Asaf, Ariel, Lior and Gal from the central part of the country said, traveling in the Beeri nature reserve. Thus they spoke and rode off to the horizon.
Then came Mari and Ilan, Uzi and Malki and… Nomi, spouse of Rami, the founder and ‘publisher’ of Migdalor.
Our talk moved between our coming elections and those of the Palestinians, each with the personal knowledge they received at home… At some point a family crossed our circle, some of whose children carried colorful plastic rifles. They did not accept our invitation saying they were filming, but after a half hour, on their way back, they passed by again. This time the parents chose to accept our invitation to coffee and the children continued playing outside the plant.
Immediately following came another couple and we opened the usual circle. I spoke in praise of our action since around us were posted pictures representing the organization “Stars of Hope” as well as an advertisement of “The Road to Recovery” – volunteers driving Palestinians to hospitals in Israel. I explained about those too. Interest was aroused and I was asked whether there is any communication with the patients on the way, and whether they realize that their drivers are volunteers. I explained.
About communication, I spoke of the language difficulties, and this connected to Michaela’s work as a midwife in Soroka Hospital, needing to communicate with Bedouin women giving birth without a common language. She went on to say that in Gaza live people in a desperate situation but she herself doesn’t think she can do anything to change this.
Her partner Tzvi said that Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip was a “crime against humanity”. Since then they have been suffering more and everything is solved by military force. They also chose Hamas to rule which definitely contributed to their suffering. He thinks we are a mere “comma in time”, and should see who will survive all of this in a hundred years’ time.
Rinat says that as sad as it is to say it, Gaza is transparent. She pities its inhabitants but is not especially empathic to their situation. “You are the heroes”, she tells us, “you who live close suffer”. Rinat is skeptical about solutions. Now that she is aware of the Migdalor’s activity, she emphasizes that it is important.
Uzi, born and living in Jerusalem, divides his words into three periods: the first is childhood. As a child he remembers going to a Bar Mitzva celebration in Yamit (former Israeli settler-colony in the Gaza Strip). They cross Gaza. As a Jerusalemite child Gaza reminds Uzi of the Old City of Jerusalem. Second period is his time as an officer in the Israeli army. Uzi speaks Arabic, and is “loaned” to a force taking care of “riots” as they were called, during the First Intifada. The army would arrest children and youth in demonstrations and wait for their parents to come get them. When the parents come their ID is taken and they are summoned to a talk/trial. Some children’s parents don’t come and Uzi’s job was to bring those children home. Sometimes Uzi and his pals had to take the child back with them because the boy’s father would beat up his son when he was brought home. For Uzi this is a memory that return to this day in his dreams. Now – third period, Uzi belongs to a group trying to promote the idea of building an island opposite the Gaza shores. He says there are economic and tourism possibilities for the project, and developers who would like to invest in it. It is Israel’s interest no less than the Palestinians’. It should be implemented in the coming years. He doesn’t see Israel returning to rule there. Hamas has not dismissed the idea. The State of Israel is able to make it happen. The Americans can invest.
Tzvi remarks that we should go back and rule Gaza, and Uzi says “Only as tourists”…
Shmulik hopes the fence would disappear and cooperation return. At eye level, one-on-one on much simpler issues. The potential in Gaza is huge, if only we could know how to use it.
Uzi (not the Jerusalem guy) says Gaza is “a deep sorrow and a huge miss”. He is ready to wait the century that Tzvi suggested. He thinks like Tzvi that the main guilt for their situation is theirs, but thinks that because we are the stronger side most of the solution lies with us.
Nahshi comes to remember that the present state of affairs is bad for everyone, and to hope that we shall get out of this stuck-ness with ideas like that of Jerusalem-Uzi. He wants to remember that things could be different. There’s great potential.
For Hayuta, her presence here is a sort of “demonstration”. The island idea gives her great hope.
Malki comes to become more hopeful, not to be depressed. Even though Migdalor doesn’t physically change things, something happens and continues. We should initiate more. On the other side people are living in a terrible state, and it is awful to think that we sit here and cannot do anything to help. There are people over there knowing about us and this cheers them up. We need shared interests.
Jerusalem Uzi asks us what happens when “security events” take place. How do we react as human beings. The answers number as many as the participants, and 4:30 p.m. is already here. We’ll continue next week, after the elections…
Participants: Shmulik, Nahshi, Hayuta, Oded, Asaf, Ariel, Lior, Gal, Naomi Haruvi, Mari, Ilan Uzi, Malki, Michaela, Tzvi, Rinat, Uzi
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 156 – March 12, 2021

We begin this summary on Thursday… Roni directed to us a group from the “Nachshon” pre-military preparatory year at Kibbutz Shoval. Nahshi, Shmulik and myself were glad to cooperate, and along with Mark who was already waiting for us at the sulfur plant, picked up the glove. A group of 34 participants and guides arrived, and we sat in one large circle.
Nahshi took care of the coffee, Shmulik of Communism, and I spoke and spoke.
Although I had spoken way too much, we managed to experience a proper circle with this group. After explaining to them the circle’s 2 lead principles: “What is Gaza, for me?” and “Each participant speaks in turn without being interrupted”.
Everyone had their say and voiced their opinions: most of them spoke little about Gaza, saying they don’t know very much.
In addition to their meager knowledge of the subject, I felt that Gaza is not really “interesting”. There were even those who spoke about those “[Israelis] who live near the Gaza border”, in other words about us, entirely disregarding the Gazans themselves.
It was difficult to find a different reference among all those who spoke. 34 persons – one mind. Zionist education works wonders… (“Who said you’re to judge?”, a voice inside my head wondered).
And now for Friday:
We knew beforehand that several activists from “Extinction Rebellion” were already waiting for us out there. This is a worldwide organization trying to prevent the climate crisis and its extinction of life on the planet. One of their activists is Mark.
Shmulik, Mark and I organized the chairs, the “rebels” joined us, as well as Maharan who brought his 4 children along.
After my introduction (have I already mentioned I speak too much?) Maharan told us that he visited Gaza a few years ago, and that it has declined greatly compared with his previous visit. He thinks Corona should be fought in Gaza and in the West Bank as well as in Israel. There is no peace, and therefore no expectations (hope) and hostility only grows. This he said, and left us to look for his kids who were more interested in the green pastures around us, so we didn’t even get introduced…
Michal doesn’t know much about Gaza. She has seen a documentary film on Gazan surfers.
Elinor said that human rights in Gaza are nil, people are really suffering. The children have no direction in life, there is no way for things to get better, no thought about the future. Anything bad about the world is far worse over there. No air conditioning in the summer, no heating in the winter. For us Gaza lies behind a curtain.
For Ofeq, Gaza is reminder of terrorism. He grew up in the area. He finds it important to hear other voices and “break” up the fears that he holds.
For Rinat, her first association with Gaza is a garbage bin. That’s where we throw our fear and loathing. This conversation has come at an interesting point in time for her – she is busy organizing an “alternative Independence Day” eve centered around talk of the Nakba (Palestinian catastrophe of 1948).
For Yuval, thought about Gaza leads directly to memories of military service. That’s the experience. He began as a combat soldier, but preferred working as a medic in order to serve on the sane, healing side. In one of their maneuvers he was required to answer whether he would save the life of a wounded terrorist, or confirm his death… His answer made his mates angry, and the mental process he underwent took him on to an early discharge from the army after 2 years of being inside.
Shmulik says that the water in Gaza’s wells is salty, and fresh water is brought in bottles. Sewage flows in the streets and into the se. In the circle he has met people he would not otherwise have run into. Gaza is a prison for 2.1 million people. He speaks about Roni and her activity to help the imprisoned Gazans as much as she can. Shmulik says it’s important for Gazans to know that people are working for them and remember that they exist. He is sorry that he can no longer meet Gazan friends with whom he had worked in the past.
Omer says there are several reasons for his decision not to live in Israel – Gaza and the conflict are a part. Even leftie liberals he meets regard Gaza with a condescending, disempowering gaze. Their lives are less important.
Mariel who grew up in France with Arab friends in leftie organizations, came to Israel in order to understand reality here, with her leftie ideas. She thought she would encounter demonstrations and protests, and is amazed that everything is so quiet… She loves Israel.
Hamutal says that Gaza is a place that concentrates all of our conflicts. The State was very important for her grandparents. Grandma had a map of the occupation’s “progress” from one confrontation to the other. When Hamutal was exposed to the map of the country’s partition (as drawn for the Partition Plan in 1947) she did not understand how one could live in such a small area. With the years she understood more about the conflict and the injustice of pushing out the Palestinians.
Ido has clear political opinions but has no room to contain all the suffering and sorrow around. It closes him emotionally to the situation in Gaza. Here he listens to others and this helps him feel a bit.,
Anatoli has not been in Gaza and never met Gazans. He knows things only through others. It’s nearby but with a different life. Suffering that is unknown to him. He would like the opportunity to meet and get to know them. If there is no communication, no ties can be formed. He would like to hear Gazans and experience them.
Mark tells us that his family distanced itself from Judaism and took a trip of returning to Judaism even when he was still in England. He was active in “Young Mapam” (leftist party) and when he decided to emigrate to Israel, he wished to get to Kerem Shalom (the kibbutz in its former version – leftist, revolutionary…). Mark came to Gvulot. With time he was swept in Israel to its mainstream. In recent years he has begun to seek answers to questions that bothered him all the time and were pushed aside by routine worries. Now, he says, Zionism has problems, especially the way we’re going. Mark is shocked that Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories has been ongoing for 53 years, and people know nothing about what happened and is not over. For them it is simply reality. What, he asks – are we not a part of it? Did we not cause it? Don’t we understand the reasons for explosive balloons and mortar shell attacks? Mark sees no awakening in Israel. He speaks of his skype talk with Haneen. In the past Haneen lived in the Gaza Strip with her husband and two daughters, obeying ancient traditions of woman’s “role” and her “place”. As soon as she had the chance, she left for the “Tamera” community in Portugal (a community that tries to create models for conflict resolution), leaving behind her daughters and husband. Her grandparents were expelled from a village near the Israeli moshav of Kochav Michael. Mark feels he shares the responsibility for the refugee-dom of her grandparents and her own. At present she is his Arabic teacher…
Ariel sees Gaza as one big disaster. He has difficulty relating for he has no influence on the matter.
Mark answers that we need to fix the situation because we caused it. If we admit our guilt, as was done in South Africa, dialogue will become possible.
Rami, who arrived in the meantime, says that as a nature and environment guide, a story teller and more, he has spoken so much about the area. In the 1990s he wrote an article about a track named “the perfume route” that begins in Saudi Arabia, ends in Gaza and passes by Beeri (his kibbutz)… He suggested creating our own reference to the part that passes through our own area. As a peace and reconciliation activist, Rami has toured the world but finally realized that the problem lies here at home, between Gaza and Beeri. He has no doubt that soon, still in his 85-year-old mom’s lifetime, the situation will change.
For Becky, Gaza is a news item, not present in her own life. On the news it is always present in the context of war. Nothing good is being told about Gaza…
The time is already 15:40 and a group of travelers, among them Nahshi and Limor, arrives. They had a social meeting and concluded it at the Migdalor. In the little time left until we leave, we listen to Rami recount Migdalor’s history to those who have just arrived and those sitting in the circle from the beginning. Rami emphasizes its importance for him, and the fact that these days we are marking 3 years of activity! “A place that sheds light [lighthouse] can be a destination…” he says.
That’s it – 4 o’clock. The Extinction Rebellion folks are getting organized to stay overnight. We’re not.
Participants: Maharan (and his 4 kids), Shmulik, Mark, Oded, Michal, Elinor, Ofeq, Rinat, Yuval, Omer, Mariel, Hamutal, Ido, Anatoli, Ariel, Rami, Becky, Nahshi, Limor, Peri, Dorit, Sal’it, Dror, Ilana, Hadas and Yuval.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 154 – February 26, 2021

Today, there were several kinds of guests: a group of motorcyclists had parked at the entrance to the sulfur plant before we arrived, taken out the chairs and sat down. When we came in they were leaving. They said the idea of leaving chairs for public use was great, and one even managed to hear from me about the history of the building. No circle, no coffee, no talk, no listening. Motorcyclists…
Then came Michal, Benjamin and their son Eli on Michal’s back. No circle, some coffee, no talk, some listening.
As they were leaving, a cousin of Jaber arrived with 8 children. No circle, some coffee (just he), hello and welcome, I am Jaber’s cousin, active in ‘Standing Together’” and they proceed with their travel…
At this point it’s just Shmulik, Nahshi and myself.
Then Mark comes, we have coffee, I talk about ourselves.
Marks ways that when he was still in England, his father – born and raised in South Africa – told him that Israel was developing its own apartheid. Mark didn’t believe it until he came here and saw it with his own eyes.
Shmulik says we’re all “stuck to the fence”, on both sides of the Gaza fence, all prisoners. Gazans obviously, have no freedom of movement, and therefore ‘prisoners’ in the full sense of the word, and we’re prisoners in a situation we cannot change. But, he is optimistic, for if enmity between Jews and Germans has been quenched, our local brand will also come to an end.
Nahshi says he is glad to come to our meetings, but the situation is unhappy – there’s a fence and people suffering. Still our encounters are interesting and instructive.
Jonathan joins us.
Rami arrives.
Jonathan, originally from Kisufim, remembers the days we spent in Gaza. Those days are over and will not be back for at least the next decade. The Hamas runs deep in Gaza’s Palestinian society. One day it will change. The population there is a time bomb.
Uri, not from here, says Gaza is a “headache”. It’s ongoing with no peaceful end in sight. One learns to live with it.
Michal says it’s nice to hear that people living here manage to see the other side. She’s from Beer Sheva originally, and remembers visits in Gaza in her youth years, the market, shopping… Her daughter was a soldier at Nahal Oz and thinks the situation has worsened, but Michal is optimistic.
Tal says Gazans were always visiting them at home. Trading and running business deals. He says the Gazans wish to get back to the period of Civil Administration when trade relations were possible. Families knew each other. As a kid, he used to sit with them by the campfire and eat fish.
Alisa connects to our humanitarian side but is against using the term apartheid the way Mark does. Alisa worked with South African clients and knows what apartheid is. It may be similar, but it’s not policy. She does not believe things will get back to the way they were. She has hopes…
Ofira, Jonathan’s partner who came with Dvora and Ethan says they’re tired of the present situation but there’s no turning back. We have gone some ways and hatred has also grown, “helped along” by politicians.
Dvora does not feel very connected to what we say, but is all for peace and quiet. Reality, politics, and people’s tendencies do not lead to peace.
Ethan worked with Rabin as an economic consultant. He was there when the buzz was created around the idea of peace. Now it’s all trampled and gone and that’s sad. He thinks we were on the right track. Apparently, our people do not want it.
Nomika arrives, and Shmulik.
Rami tells about himself and about us. He talks about his grandfather who went to Palestine on a train built by the British, then on to geological stories of a million or two years ago, when the Bsor river fell 1.5 kilometers into the Mediterranean Sea and a 1,000- meters-deep canyon was formed. Everything was covered in sulfur that remained as a sediment in several lakes, one of them near the present location of Beeri. As for the present… This area is chosen by the most people in the world. Abraham is placed as an icon above the rest. Half of the world’s populace sees him as a father (Christian, Muslims and Jews). He crossed lands but chose to settle down here in Grar country. Rami was in Urga, Turkey, a Muslim city. According to Islam, that’s where Abraham was born. Rami presented himself there as a Beer-Shevan, like Abraham… That’s how he met the town’s Imam. He and a friend were led into the holy cave where, according to Muslim tradition, Abraham was born and lived. Rami tells the circle about Abraham and Avimelech, King of Grar. He remembers his childhood close to the fence, and recalls times when he guided tours to Gaza, where even in quiet times one is tense. 3 years ago he felt something was lacking and founded the Migdalor. “I cannot hate”, Rami says.
Michal asks how many people come. Rami says there are about 10 regulars, and a second circle of several hundreds who already came a few times, and in the 3 years of the Migdalor’s activity, thousands have passed through.
Dina, Bella, Malki and Uzi show up.
Shmulik was a member of Kfar Aza prior to 1967. There were 3 kinds of infiltrators, he says. Those who came to see the houses from which they were expelled, some because the hunger in Gaza, and some to murder. Shmulik recalls one night when, while milking cows in the cowshed, he suddenly discovered a boy next to him who said he came to pass on information, in return for food… SHmulik took him to the military commander of the area and returned to his work. The next day the military commander told him the boy had been killed in an Israeli soldiers’ ambush on his way back.
Alisa tells about a citrus grove owner from Nes Ziona who was murdered by a veteran worker of his, from Gaza.
A family from Bir Hadaj arrives. Rami has known Farhan for years. From him he learned about Bedouin culture and the desert. Farhan founded the “Desert Ship” inn at Bir Aslouj.
With Farhan are his son Munir, a dentist, his son Siraj, wife Anhar and sisters Nihel and Asra. The Farhans have coffee and proceed on their way, not before Farham appreciates what we do.
Rami and Anat from Rehovot arrive. Before they came they were standing on the ANZAK memorial, looking toward Gaza. Rami said to Anat, “How can 2 million people be held hostage like this?” And so here they are, with us…
Uzi says that Gvulot was founded without violence nor dispossession! He feels sorry about Gaza, from both sides, but the responsibility for a solution lies mostly on our shoulders!
Malki recalls a 15-year-old girl from Jerusalem who visited the circle 2 weeks ago. The girl had said she cannot comprehend how girls her age live in Gaza.
Dina, as a local, feels the need to do something to try and solve the conflict. Everyone must do his own little thing.
Bella likes to come because we are like a family. Gaza is something between hope and despair. She is afraid of the coming elections and the “storm” that might follow.
Nomika says one must fight against denial and national callousness. Listen to the narrative of the other. She is a co-founder of “Another Voice”, a group trying to dialogue with Gazans. It is important for her to know she is doing everything she can. Shmulik recalls that in Kfar Aza he used to be a shepherd too, and the border was marked by a ditch (perhaps just a furrow deep). He was afraid that some sheep might cross the ditch… Gaza’s lights seemed very near. After the 1967 war he visited Gaza and was impressed with the hatred that people’s eyes there reflected. He participated in the founding of “Another Voice”.
Anat is not a local and admits they live in a bubble, in a comfort zone. Gaza is sad but that’s reality. The discourse among us is problematic.
Rami: The situation hurts, not only Gaza is captive in a terrible situation. We are all hostages of a leadership that wishes to preserve this situation. It’s a dictatorship on both sides. He says that perhaps we’re doing something small, but it might generate change outside the “reserve” in which we speak and live. He hopes that elections will change something.
Vera and Roni, Noa and Amir arrived, traveling close by with Doron, their guide. But they came close to 4 p.m. and made do with coffee.
Participants: Benjamin, Michal and little Eli, Shmulik, Oded, Nahshi, Jabar’s cousin with 7 kids, a group of motorcyclists, Mark, Uri, Michal, Tal, Alisa, Rami, Ophira, Jonathan, Dvora, Ethan, Nomika, Shmulik, Malki, Uzi, Bella, Dina, Anhar, Farhan, Munir, Siraj, Nihal and Asra, Anat, Rami, Vera, Roni, Noa and Amir, Doron.
Wrote: Oded