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