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