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