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