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.