Encounter 165 – May 14, 2021

In ‘regular’ times between denial and forgetting, we sit in Migdalor’s circle, meet ourselves and travelers happening to pass by, speak about ‘Gaza consciousness’, try to extricate from our circle mates’ consciousness memory, emotion and discovery of this space. We listen to people who, all of a sudden, without previous planning, while being served with coffee, have to relate to Gaza and say what it means for them – sometimes this is surprising, at times obvious and expected, and always making up a human puzzle that constitutes the larger picture of our living space.
Today, for the time in a long time, we could not physically reach the sulfur plant. The Israeli army spread barriers on access toads and prevented our entering the Migdalor site (we tried).
But consciousness cannot be blocked. For a short while, the awareness of Gaza’s space blows up for the whole world to see and hear, a big bang. For a short while only. Then Gaza will be forgotten again in a dark corner of one’s mind.
In this short interim, denial and forgetting blow up in our face in blood and fire, destruction and bereavement, rage and revenge. Humans who received a definite and timed lifetime, lose their lives. The criminals pad themselves in rights that were supposedly given to them by god and history.
On ‘regular’ days I add the list of participants in the circle. Today I wish to name the victims of this round of the Gaza wars. A very partial list, out of the Israeli press:
Ido, Omar, Amira, Abed, Bara, Nabil, Osmat, Raed, Zakariya, Moussa, Bashir, Mustafa, Saber, Mohammad, Moammad, Ibrahim, Yousef/Yosef, Rahaf, Yazin, Hussein, Ahamad, Salim, Sahumiya, Leah, Khaleel, Nadine, Nella.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 164 – May 7, 2021

It’s already 3 p.m. I try to think how to summarize a circle where only the regulars were sitting. Perhaps I’ll write that about 100 meters from us there was still a piece of wood lightly smoking (Shmulike put it out with a single liter of water…), perhaps about my collecting chairs as I looked for those taken and not returned (it already turned 3:20 p.m.). Perhaps…
A group of travelers disembarks and enters the sulfur plant (we are already seated in our summer residence, outside). Nahshi yells at them to “come have some coffee” and gesticulates his invitation. They stare at us and glide inside. As they exit, they approach hesitantly, but our determined invitation won out. They sit with us. Rami arrives too. Nice! We have a circle!
I open it by telling them about us, the “migdalor” (lighthouse in Heb.), about ‘Gaza consciousness’ and the reasons for which I have been here every Friday for over 3 years.
Nahshi who kept his word and served them coffee, tells about his pals in Gaza, how for a long time he suppressed it, and then came sobering. How things came together and ‘woke him up’ to action, and how he tries to ‘fix’ things through the Migdalor meetings and though them also meets and hears interesting people.
Maharan says that until he was 14 years old he was in Gaza every week. His uncle worked in with the governate there. He was there again 5 years ago, saw a lot of destruction because of the Israeli bombings. The governor’s building still stands… Here’s no steady supply of electricity. He saw how generators and other means were used instead. Yesterday he was in Hebron with the family. In the evening when everyone goes out after the iftar (the dinner that breaks the fast) Hebron looks vibrant and sated. The Gaza matter must be solved before it blows up in our face. He says that the coming government in Israel will be even worse than the present one!
Malki says that as soon as she came to the circle for the first time, she was captivated in this island of sanity. People come out different from how they entered. There are phone talks with Gazans, and it gives them strength.
Uzi is short in words, there are still many speakers and it’s already 4 o’clock. “Gaza is deep sorrow and a horrific miss”. Both sides are responsible but we are the stronger side and must be the first fixers.
Rami speaks about his family and its history which is the story of this space. Gaza is home for him. He was born and grew up in this area and the space is the story of his life. In recent years he has been discovering the narrative that is different from what he was told and told himself. So he listens to other voices. Gaza is love. Loving the voices, the winds, its glorious history. It’s a space of junctions. When he meets people and tells the story again and again it reinforces his feeling that we are stuck in a failure that can and should be fixed. Change consciousness. His Gaza and The Gazans’ Gaza is a shared space. It’ll be over, he says, sprout anew as after the fires.
Shoshi is from the north. For her Gaza is what she hears in the media. She feels empathy for the Israelis living near the fence. As a mother she does not want her son to serve in the army opposite Gaza. She wishes to empower us. For her in the north it’s like living opposite Suria and Lebanon. Perhaps a new government holds hope.
For Yifat this is a trip to get to know the area, the people who experience the bomb alerts. Gaza scares her. A place that produces evil. She wishes to believe that there are such circles on the other side, but does not believe it. She has demonstrated a lot this year, against Netanyahu and his government. The great question mark arises, whether anything could happen here…
Dina has been affected by all the confrontations ever since she immigrated to Israel. She cannot understand the hostility. She tries to understand why people wish to hurt each other and do wrong. She thinks of us, not of them. She saw what happened to her daughter in the 2nd Lebanon War. After this visit with us, she will try to help benevolence proliferate.
Tzlila remembers Gaza from her 10th grade, when she came to pick tomatoes at Kibbutz Holit (then one of the settler-colonies in the Gaza Strip). During the First Intifada her life partner was in Gaza and she was worried. She went to visit there with her kids because he was serving as an officer at HQ. Lately her son served in the southern Israeli division. She has love-hate relations with Gaza but ‘their’ extremism has the upper hand.
Ofer says we surprised them in a big way… “we didn’t plan to have coffee in the middle of our trip, and suddenly out of nowhere comes the invitation to sit and sip coffee with us…” It’s been their second traveling day around here. It would be nice if the other side could show openness like ours… This could be an economic and touristic paradise. There is no hope. The real obstacles live in the minds. He feels we have an extraordinary circle here…
Nitzan served years in the Israeli defense system. Hope is important. Gaza tells a complex story. There is a very challenging religious and national friction. Sinwar of the Hamas was discussed. He thinks deals could be closed with him. Gaza is a security and propaganda challenge. A mechanism could be created that would lift Gaza our of the deep hole it is in now. We cannot help much, this depends mainly on their conduct. Good will and passing goods through is simply not enough. Leadership is needed on both sides. Someone should take it upon themselves. It’s a longevity project, for it will take much time…
For Akiva Gaza is a source of sorrow. He remembers it from his army-reserves duty although he tries to escape his memories. He hopes that circles such as ours would help improve people’s consciousness of Gaza.
Raviv says he is pragmatic in his worldview. Our side does a lot, no other country would. He waits for the day when their side would grow a leadership that would industrialize them, initiate economy projects, where the infrastructure should be democracy and industry. That’s how it works in this world. If they don’t undergo this industrialization process, their situation will not chance. He is ready to send them consulting help. If they don’t become such factors, nothing will change and everything will continue till the end of time. He speaks of the Angola model in which he was involved, and learned that industrialization and international entrepreneurship raised the country.
Shmulik is optimistic, because history shows that conflicts find resolutions and things that seemed irresolvable did resolve. There is indirect communication with other side. The fence lies between two suffering sides. He knows Gazans who worked with him and remained friends.
Jaber tells of himself and about the unrecognized community in which he lives. His life is ‘garbage’ but he comes to our circle because he has connected to the people and to compassion. He feels that the Gazans are living in a worse situation than his. The State of Israel has targeted their most important infrastructures and the Israeli authorities don’t want us to know this. The rulers of both sides do not care about the citizens. The people on each side don’t know about the others. He feels that in the ‘Migdalor’ everyone is considered. We need to be with him, with the same interests.
Nitzan claims from personal knowledge, of talks in which he took part, that the Gazans did not want to build power stations, did not want to bear responsibility. They do not want it, and that is the reason for the chaos that reigns.
Rami tells him that his absolute talk is difficult to hear. He speaks of a single chapter out of a continuum. We try to be less knowledgeable and less ‘right’. Complexity arrives to places that we don’t know and need to check and learn the whole time. A border drawn in 1949 is a new line in history. We need to re-examine the perspective on which we grew up. Things should be looked at differently, and less righteously.
We could have spoken on for hours, but evening was near and 4 p.m. was long gone. Naturally we invite all our myriad readers and ‘rememberers’ to come early, between
1 and 4 p.m. every Friday.
Participants: Shmulik, Nahshi, Oded, Maharan, Rami, Jaber, Malki, Uzi, Shoshi, Yifat, Dina, Tzlila, Ofer, Nitzan, Akiva and Raviv.
Wrote: Oded. Translation from Hebrew: Tal Haran.

Encounter 163 – April 30, 2021

Last weekend and early this week we had another ‘round’ of fire. And the Meron Mt. disaster occurred that last night. These two events were discussed during our first hour at the Migdalor circle by its present veterans (Shmulik, Nahshi, Rami, Hayuta, Bella, Malki and Oded). We spoke about ‘responsibility’, ‘authority’, ‘procedures’, ‘the acquitted and the guilty’ etc., as is wont by people who are right…
A bit past 14:00 we had a turnover. First came Hanan, then Noga and Shaul, and then Ayelet, Haran and Uzi. We ‘hunted’ 5 travelers who stopped at our Migdalor on their way to a wedding.
Here Rami put on his facilitator expression and we began a real ‘circle’.
This week, for Rami Gaza means ‘questions’. His mother says he must be part of the planning for rounds of rockets, because every time these are launched, he happens not to be present at Beeri. Rami asks who loves him that much in Gaza and takes care to launch those rockets when he is gone… The quiet is slippery, he says, and surprising.
Shaul says that these past few years he feels he can himself an Israeli Arab. He is part of the classical Israeli track, but something lately feels as if he embodies this combination and it is unique for him. Shaul suggests we begin with hudna, a kind of temporary armistice, at least for some time. Gaza is an opportunity that has been passed over. “Peace” is a bit much, let’s begin with hudna.
Noga tells us about a project she shares with Liora and their friends in Gaza. Noga likes to be here, at the Migdalor, it inspires her. Even if it doesn’t suggest immediate solutions.
Rami says that the place attracts artists who wish to express themselves. There is something optimistic about a film. He sat with the young group at Sderot and watched a first projection of a film. Much excitement in the air.
Noga adds information about the project Liora and Adir are engaged in with Gazan artists. There are lost of stories around this work, some of which are still confidential.
Bella is confused this week. She was in Elat when the area was on fire. She says opportunities are passed over when there is quiet. Yesterday she watched the broadcast of Women Making Peace at Nahal Oz and was thrilled. They were speaking about the inhabitants’ suffering. We have developed a siren complex. On TV’s trivia show, someone asked since when has the Gaza Strip existed… No one wanted to “take” it (really, not on TV…) Bella wonders whether the Women Making Peace organization could affect anything? Is there a parallel group in Gaza? How shall we make peace?
Ayelet spoke. Her encounter with Gaza was in 1978-9 when she was an instructor at the Yamit (settler-colony) field school. She and a friend would drive to the Ali Montar hill and wait for a group to come. They were very calm with this. She remembers the potters’ quarter underground, a mosaic floor, other sites. She says that in her opinion it is possible to renew such relations between us and the Gazans. She recalls trips by Kibbutz Beeri to Gaza that Viviane organized. There were wonderful relations, and in Beeri people even considered helping to support a refugee camp. When she was in the army she never knew that one day she would live in Beeri… Suddenly she noticed that she has become accustomed to life here in the shadow of ongoing tension. But this process is not right. Memories of her time in the field school, her confidence in relations with Gazans, these are the things that should be leading us.
Malki come to ‘an island of sanity’ – that’s how she sees the Migdalor circle. She connects to things said before her turn came. A while ago she listened to the speech new Knesset Member Ibtisam Mra’ana gave at the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) and was very moved. Mra’ana told a children’s story, about girls laughing at the beauty of the world, and the king who thinks they are laughing at him and prohibits laughter in the entire kingdom. Everyone obeys except the girls…
Gaza for Hana is us… He was worried about us during the latest “round”. Following the Meron disaster, someone wrote about the Arabs in the area who mobilized to help, how Tel Aviv residents were donating blood, and how a grocer was giving out food free of charge to the families of the victims. Hana says it’s odd that someone posted this as news, as though this humane reaction was extraordinary…
Shmulik considers himself responsible for us being able to gather here every Friday! Knowing the Gazans has made him feel uneasy about everything going on there, and he comes to our circle to ‘launder’ his conscience. Our encounter helps him understand the people with whom he lives. It’s significant because people believe a settlement can be reached. Our greatest friend in Europe is Germany. If that is possible, then it’s possible with Palestinians as well.
Hayuta is not too curious to find out where the conflict is rooted. She comes for the human experience. Even in the latest “round” she did not regard Gazans as enemies. She knows their struggle is true and just.
Nahshi agrees with most of the things already said. He has friends and they and he wish to meet and have a good time as in the old days.
Maharan has met racism everywhere. In Europe as well as in Israel. He cannot understand the tagging of someone as Arab or Jew. When there is distress, it’s not race that is discussed but the distress, survival. A week ago in the circle, he spoke about another ‘round’ soon, and this happened that very night. Maharan says his uncle was a senior officer of the military government and as children they spent much time in Gaza.
People arrive, Rami speaks about us, about the kite that decorates the circle and Hanan who built it inspired by the kites that came from the Gaza Strip, and the illustration of a Gazan girl that showed on “Star of Hope”. We hold a quick acquaintance circle.
Uzi defines himself as a “farmer, son of a farmer”. However, at some point in his life, he was involved in Middle East studies and toured Egypt and Jordan, and in different circumstances spent time in Lebanon as well… At an encounter with Egyptian intellectuals, they asked him what the Palestinians are like. He answered that they resemble mainly ourselves, Israelis. He himself, as he says, is a “proud and sad Zionist”. Maharan gives another historical talk about the Saudis, the British and Palestine, before we listen to the group that arrived (after they listened to us).
Fanny says they came to the area because of a wedding. They came from afar, took a zimmer and decided to travel a bit. We are so close to Gaza, she says, if they could only be released of the vice that holds them, we could make a paradise out of this place. Only their leaders and ours must understand this. Fanny was in Egypt right after the signing of the peace treaty, “we were as in a dream”, she says. Finally, it was possible, and she hopes this would happen with Gaza too.
Ofira, her daughter, is the one getting married. She organized her wedding here and that’s why they came. Minutes before they met us, Ofira said she feels like having coffee, and a few minutes later the miracle took place and they arrived. Leaders want wars, she says, because they serve their interests. People wish to live a normal life. Her brother served in the army in Gaza and told horror stories about what Arik Sharon did. She too served in Gaza and has good memories. She is moved by our circle. There are people who actually do “peace”. Ofira knows Fanny and her opinions, and knows how difficult it is for her to speak the way she did, but at the end of the day she loves people.
Leah also came for the wedding. It’s sad, this ongoing tension with Gaza. There was even a part of the group that deliberated whether to come to the area.
Yaron is retired from the Ministry of Defense. He worked for years in the Israeli arms industry and contributed to the security of Israelis in this area. He recalls his youth, working picking fruit at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, when there was peace and quiet. Then he recalls, the ‘hotspot’ was near Syria, and it’s all reversed. He and Ofira belong to a group of hikers who do not reach our area because of the security situation. They live in the north and hear about it in the media. Their hike today, here opposite Gaza, shows a possible normalcy even when the media says otherwise. A part of their pleasure in hiking is running into ‘surprises’. But such a ‘surprise’ as ours they haven’t met yet. “Go on”, he concludes.
When the son of Zohar and Fanny studied at the Sapeer College (in the south), they as northern residents found this frightening. But their son, who lives in Sderot, was not moved. He thinks that hatred is created as a process over time and brings people money… The question is whether there is a way to cut it off before it seeps down to people. Otherwise, it will last forever. There were good times. What was wrong with that?
Rami concludes the encounter today with a story about his family, his parents and grandparents on both sides, whose way of life in this area symbolizes the relations between humans who lived here.
Participants this time: Nahshi, Maharan, Hayuta, Shmulik, Hana, Malki, Bella, Oded, Noga, Shaul, Rami, Ayelet, Uzi, Fanny, Ofira, Leah, Yaron, Zohar.
Wrote: Oded