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

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