Encounter 162 – April 23, 2021

The “Circle” awaiting its guests work to life as four soldiers, equipped and armed, accepted the invitation and came for coffee and listening.
We were already seated – Roni, Maharan, Hagar, Jaber, Oded and Shmulike who was making a pot of coffee.
I opened and explained about Migdalor, about us and myself…
After me, Hagar spoke, saying that when she came to our area it was good. Now, with things as they are vis-à-vis Gaza, it’s worse. Regarding Gaza feelings are mixed – ambivalence, anger, fear, pity.
Maharan speaks to the soldiers about the power divisions inside Gaza: the population suffers and no one can disconnect that from Israel’s responsibility. Economic troubles affect one’s thinking. In the Circle – says Maharan – we also relate to the complex economic contexts between them and us. Then Maharan says that in one of the military “operations”, a Qassam rocket laded next to his home and realized that targets have no ethno-nationality… We must arrive at some agreement, first with Gaza, even before the West Bank, because it will all blow up in our faces. We need to gather various elements in order for something good to happen.
Roni says that one is connected to the other. As long as their situation is not good, ours will not get better. She helps Gazans in every humane aspect, and this is how acquaintances are made that direct to her more and more people for help in things that for us seem simple and trivial but for them involve plenty of red tape on both sides of the fence. We try to encourage and give them hope, as well as to ourselves, she concludes.
Talk reaches the soldiers who have so far sat and listened, sipping coffee. They mince words…
For Ido, Gaza was always another country, distant and not in his awareness.
For Gil, too, Gaza is distant in every way.
As for Nehorai: He is from Atzmona originally, a settler-colony that used to be located inside the Gaza Strip and was dismantled in the “expulsion” (the term he used). He remembers lots of Qassam rockets in his childhood. His father was the colony’s security official. He recalls the expulsion. He does not deal with feelings about Gaza. Jaber asks him to try and remember one positive thing. Nehorai connects with his memory of the sea, to which they hitch-hiked as kids. Then he recalls that one day, before they left, their relations with the Arabs who worked for them turned around and they were no longer allowed to communicate with them.
Yaniv says that many mistakes were made in Gaza. He does not specify.
Shmulik believes that the two populations in this area could live together. If the Jews and the Germans could normalize their lives, we and the Palestinians can too.
I didn’t really hear Jaber because a phone call drew me away.
Just as I returned, the soldiers decided to leave.
After another round of coffee, Jaber wishes to share something with us. “I don’t know whether what I am about to tell you is relevant to what we normally speak about” he says, and adds: “I think it is, but let each decide for themselves. In 1979 my cousin Sliman fell in love with Nehama (Jewish woman’s name). Some months later, with money collected by his family, Sliman went to Germany to study medicine. After half a year, he notified his family that if Nehama does not come to be with him in Germany, he will stop studying there and return to Israel. Nehama did not come to Germany and Sliman returned and did not study medicine. He lived with Nehama in Beer Sheva. The families did not favor this union, but while Sliman’s family turned Nehama a “cold shoulder”, Nehama’s family responded with real violence, and more than once that couple, beaten and bleeding, came to the village for shelter, after Nehama’s brothers beat them up. Twice they tried to have a child and this ended up with miscarriages. The families kept wondering which nation the child would belong to… Jaber says he tried to convince Sliman to try and have a child in a different way (didn’t specify) and Sliman rejected the idea and said that ‘Nehama was even more important to him than children…’ About 15 years ago Nehama’s family finally agreed to “accept” Sliman as her husband. Now, says Jaber, I must got to the Migdalor from a funeral. We buried Nehama who passed away after a serious illness. “My world is shattered” Sliman said to him before they took leave at the end of the funeral.
Participants: Shmulik, Roni, Jaber, Oded, Hagar, Maharan, Ido, Gil Nehorai, Yaniv
Wrote:” Oded

Encounter 161 – April 16, 2021

It’s hot. The landscape in the nature reserve here is drying up which means – less travelers. They must have done their thing yesterday, on the official holiday… in fact, our ‘lighthouse’ circle today hosts only us ‘regulars’.
Rami must leave early and leaves us to think about his holiday experiences. He defines himself as suffering from PTSD and there, says he, used to simply not be in the country from before Passover until after the Memorial/Independence Days (Zionism’s ‘national’ month). This period is difficult for him. In the past two years, because of the pandemic, there is escape… To our Migdalor today he came because of missing it. He said “missing it’, and left to take care of his aching body and soul.
He leaves and others arrive: Malki, Bella, Dina, Maharan and Brian join Hayuta, Roni, Shmulik, Nahshi and Oded.
Most of our talk right now is about the Holocaust Memorial and the Israeli Memorial and Independence Days, and the insights they bear. We decide to do this in our usual circle mode.
For Malki, Independence Day has changed. She has issues with it now. She does not celebrate it wholeheartedly. On Memorial Day it’s different. Her identification with bereavement is clearer. On Independence Day she asks various questions: What does it mean, that the state belongs to us? Since when? And other such upsetting issues. True, what’s in the past remains in the past and were here, but there is this contradiction, even vis-à-vis Zionism. On Memorial Day eve she watched the ceremony held by the Forum of Palestinian and Israeli Bereaved Families. On the holiday itself she was glad to meet family, but nothing else.
Roni says there are things we used to feel more comfortable with in the past. She used to be proud to be a Jewish Israeli. Today this feeling is nearly gone. Memorial Day is different, but on Independence Day she feels uneasy with her friends’ views. She thinks that if we’re here, it’s our right to think of ourselves. She has a problem with those who absolutely and exclusively blame our side. ‘They’ don’t want to leave, and if so, it means that even from their point of view we are also right. We must cut things and begin to live here together. We’re all here. Let’s make life out of this.
For Dina, in the past Independence Day means only joy. Lately there are many question marks and things that make us doubt. She read an essay by Avishai Grossman, who says that the strong win, but in other wars – after the fighting is over, the winners help the vanquished recover. She was called upon to light a torch on her kibbutz. She felt honored but that the texts read there are debasing. She says that the term “exhausted” (which appeared on her speech and she omitted) is not suitable. Must we not be weak? She asks. What’s going on lately? Everything beginning anew? Everything called into question? What is happening to us? Frustration.
Bella has trouble with the fact that Memorial Day and Independence Day are sequel dates. Every year more and more of her acquaintances disappear. She has a hard time being gay. Suddenly “a Jew’s soul is aroused” (translated words from Israel’s national anthem) does not feel right. Lucy Aharish (TV celebrity of Palestinian Arab nationality married to a Jewish Israeli) said her son has an aroused Jewish soul but she cannot sing it. Bella is a Holocaust survivor. She had no home until she was 16. She asks, how can those who have no home feel at home anywhere? How come no reparations are being agreed on to those whose homes were taken away?
Hayuta worked in the school system most of her life. She educated Israelis with Zionist values. For her Independence Day is the most meaningful of holidays. She worked in Ofakim and invested much in ceremonies. She says that on the Holocaust Memorial she had a hard time making the children listen, but on the Israeli Memorial Day they were very attentive. Ceremonies are important to her. She was also responsible for ceremonies in Nir Oz.
Shmulik, responsible for the Memorial Day ceremonies in his kibbutz, reads out a poem he worte.
Nahshi also feels that the nationalist use of the memorials and holiday is exaggerated. He is glad and proud of the state he has. He feels that there are those who wish to exclude entire part of the public from the festive occasions. It should be everyone’s holiday. It is a date that for some is a kind of disaster, and for others – joy, and things should be found that are shared, in common. He works on himself to remain optimistic. Memorial Day is closer to him because of his personal ties with bereaved families or people he knew who died. There should be a way found to share this with the neighbors. It will come.
Marahan: this sequel of dates – between the Memorial and Independence – is bad. For Palestinians this is Nakba, catastrophe. They have a hard time accepting it, as well as the national anthem Hatikvah (Hebrew for hope). It’s like putting salt on their wounds. In a discussion he held with friends they concluded that first of all the anthem should be replaced. One needs an anthem that connects, not excludes. From there, from the connecting anthem, all inhabitants of this country could be united. He talks about his great-grandfather who in 1948 helped members of Kibbutz Shoval who were surrounded by the Egyptians. According to the moves of that war, the man wished to connect to the Jews. After the war Israel’s governments wished to expel the Bedouins, who were forced to collaborate and demonstrate their joy with Independence Day. It’s time for a constitution to be drawn, and have equality. Not populism that raises nationalists to positions of power.
Brian is thrilled with Israeli Memorial Day. He compares it to Memorial Day in the US which he finds measly… He is thrilled to hear the siren and see people stand and bow their heads. He think Independence Day is when all discrepancies should be put aside and people unite for that one day.
Raising this subject in the circle, I thought speakers would link Migdalor’s influence on their positions. Gaza consciousness in the context of independence or bereavement… I wish to believe that contestation and thought of most speakers, especially about the ostentatious celebrations of Independence Day were also the consequence of our talking circles in Migdalor.
Participants: Rami, Shmulik, Nahshi, Roni, Oded, Brian, Malki, Hayuta, Dina, Bella, Maharan.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 160, April 9, 2021

There were once 40 chairs: every time the chairs were replaced at the local elementary school, we’d get the old ones. First, we fastened them to the wall with a chain and lock. Once in a while anonymous people would cut the chain and take it. Then the lock. At some point we changed our approach – we stopped locking and wrote a sign in 3 languages: “You’re welcome to enjoy the chairs, remember to return them when done”. It worked well, but occasionally their number would dwindle and the school would supplement them. Lately a strange thing has begun to happen: what is taken away and not returned are the signs… We shall keep you updated.
So today we arrived and found a group of 7 nice young folks who were hiking from Nahbir (old Beeri). As they had coffee and we got organized, we sat in a circle and after introducing ourselves and our activity, they told us they were all from Ramat HaSharon, all employed in hi-tec (each of them also has a name, but as we got going they all escaped documentation…).
In the meantime, Mari and Roni joined us. The group heard our stories, asked questions, complimented us, supported us, and continued on their way.
Gali Mesha arrived, who used to join us and took stars, now returning them colored. She was glad to discover we persist, and listened carefully.
Idit from Sde Nitzan came to visit. Sometime in the past she was responsible for the encounters that bore the contact between Rami and Oded (and the rest is history). She too was glad to support our persistence and came to check on more possibilities for action.
Hanan arrived eventually (with the kite that returned from repair) and the three fighters from Gvulot: Bella, Malki and Dina.
Our friend from Gaza called, reminding us that exactly today was a year since our large zoom talk, following which our Gazan friends were arrested by the Hamas. We congratulate him within our communication restraints, and wish for improvements, and he continues his talk with Roni.
Rami arrives, as well as Maharan and Brian.
Niva from Beeri was also a veteran of our circle. She volunteers on “The Way to Recovery”, reminds and remembers our friends from Gaza.
Atar comes from En Shemer (northern kibbutz) – he wishes to shoot a film here about a trip beyond time in a ghost ship… For him Gaza is the land of unlimited opportunity…
Noa from Pardes Hana arrives with him – she is a camerawoman working with Atar and remembers the bags of sweets her bus-driver dad used to receive from his friends in the Gaza Strip.
What did we talk about?
• The importance of everyone’s little deed, the drops that we all contribute to the large stream that is sure to come…
• Beautiful initiatives that began here and are still running.
• Ideas and plans for more activity.
Participants: the 7 from Ramat HaSharon, Mari, Roni, Rami, Gali, Idit, Hanan, Bella, Malki, Dina, Rami, Maharan, Brian, Niva, Atar, Noa, Shmulik and Nahshai – 24 in all.
Wrote: Nahshi

Encounter 159 April 2, 2021

I skip the “we came, chairs, coffee, Rami and Shmulik” part…
Sitting with us are Eti, Adir, Gal Liat, Judy and Asaf (“with us” – meaning Rami, Roni, Oded, Shmulik, Jaber and Hana, the “usuals”…).
Rami tells us a story about a girl who in 1917 was evacuated from Gaza by the Turks and became a refugee. She was returned to Gaza by the British who conquered Gaza from the Turks. In 1948, she was already a mother and had to absorb hundreds of thousands of refugees who need to raise their tents in the British army bases that were now deserted. The Egyptians (unintentionally…) are the sovereign, and they promise the refugees that they would be returned to their Palestine homes and therefore, do not invest in civil development. In 1967 our girl is already a grandmother – and becomes a subject of Israeli occupation rule, after in 1956 she undergoes another round of violence courtesy of Israel, encouraged by Britain and France. If she were alive today, she would be imprisoned in the large open-air jail called “the Gaza Strip”.
Eti raises the usual mainstream Israeli arguments, that “they voted for Hamas”, “true, they are to be pitied but we are not the guilty party”, “we gave them everything back and they chose the path of violence” etc. etc.
Roni gently tries a different kind of knowledge – she tells her own personal story about spending time along with her family in Egypt on an agricultural mission, and meeting a Palestinian family whose daughter made friends with Roni’s daughter in school, consequently realizing how little she knows about the narrative of Palestinians who became refugees in 1948. She tells about collaborations that take place today and get no voice in the media, and about the thirst for normal ties and cooperation. She also talks about her own everyday involvement in helping and supporting people living in Gaza.
Asaf says that the question is to what extent we are involved in the goings-on in Gaza in order to change the regime there.
Rami says that looking for the guilty party right now does not help anyone. There are 2 million human beings living under extremely crowded conditions, with no hope on the horizon.

Eti tries once more with the mantra about “religious-fundamentalist Gaza”, Rami gently responds, saying it’s somewhat of a “myth”.
Roni says that in our circle we listen to other voices. Once someone came to the circle who opened by saying that Gaza should be destroyed. After he continued to sit and listen to others, he told Roni as he was leaving that she had left him with “food for thought”.
Adir who was born in the area says that at home talk had always been against Arabs, even though the latter worked for the family. But since he met his wife and they moved to her community, overlooking the Gaza Strip, his views have changed a bit.
Judy lives in the north. We live in a bubble, working and living, she says, and she knows about Gaza only what the media publicizes. It’s significant for her to be here today, and that’s what she will remember from this trip.
Asaf says that the question is one’s awareness of the other. In this sense, what people experience there is still a riddle. We know more about other places in the world than we do about Gaza which is really close but still a mystery for him.
Roni receives a phone call from Gaza. Skype. She shows the caller the empty seats in the circle saved especially for them. She makes the “rounds” with her cell phone and we all wave in greeting, even our guests! We have no loudspeaker and the call is short. We take leave of those who sat with us until now, and other guests arrive.
Adir (another one), Esti, Yael and Hanan. “Our” Maharan joins us too.
Adir is a local. He is curious meeting such a circle… The conflict has intensified in recent years, he says, but we here all need to find ways to live with Gaza in peace. From his parent he has heard stories about the past and hopes that the situation will change.
Esti says that we must find ways to share this place, there is no other choice. It could save us from the present situation. At the end of the day, everyone wants their own quiet corner.
Maharan says that the West Bank Palestinians call the Palestinian citizens of Israel “Cream Arabs”… There is a difference between those living in the West Bank and those in Israel. The ones thinking more “progressively” will assimilate with Israel, and Gaza will be more “Palestine”. When the economy blooms, war stays far. People are interested in their immediate existence, their “food on the table”. Everyone knows that Gaza is an explosive keg, if no regime change takes place there. He doesn’t see where a regime change comes first – in Israel or in Gaza. Only this can change the situation.
Jaber says that the Gazans are the area’s future partners. They will be good neighbors if the media sow less conflict. The moment this happens, it will be strong! One must look each other in the eye. It will benefit both sides economically when Gaza is a partner.
Hanan prefers to share his experiences from election day. As in every election, he helped transport Al Zarnouk (unrecognized Bedouin village) to the voting urns. He drove Jaber’s mother… There were interesting talks and they said they were voting for Ra’am (the Islamic party) because the Joint List does not take care of them. Some blamed Hanan for helping Ra’am, helping Bibi… He said that his preference is to help without minding anyone else’s business. Including about Gaza…
Yael and Hanan only listened and told a bit about themselves, but finishing time and the cold wind dispersed the circle without our hearing about their “Gaza consciousness”…
Participants this time: Judy Asaf, Eti, Adir, Gal, Liat, Rami, Roni, Shmulik, Oded, Hanan, Jaber, Haan, Yael, Maharan, Adir, Esti.
Wrote: Oded