Encounter 263 – 24.3.2023

A little after two o’clock, a bus arrived with about 35 young people in a year of service before enlistment, volunteers in the “Hechalutz” (Pioneer) movement in the surrounding settlements.
Until their arrival, Moshe, Nahshi (+ coffee), Roni, Rami and I sat, sipped coffee and snacked.
Rami tried to extract from us prophecies about the fate of Gaza. “What will be the future of Gaza” he asks.
The surprise entrance of Hanan, who entered from the back side of the building, changed the momentum because immediately after him came the young men from the ” Hechalutz” movement, and together with them, Eric and Rinat also walked in.
In a few minutes, Maharan, who started the Ramadan fast yesterday, will also arrive. “Ramadan Karim” Advocate.
The young people are sitting. Some of them walk around and survey the corners of the building. Rami tells his opinion on the issue of the communities in the area. After a few minutes they ask to stop for lunch that they brought with them for a long day of trips and meetings that started earlier.
Just before the meal, Hanan wants to illustrate to the young people the difference between them and their peers in Gaza and asks “Which of you, who has never been abroad in his life, will vote.” Not a hand is raised. “If I were to ask this question to young people your age in Gaza,” Hanan says, “All hands were raised! Bon appetite”.
After the meal break, Rami focuses on the “Lighthouse” story and explains to the young people the reasons and circumstances that pushed him to the idea of creating a discourse space on the Gaza issue.
Roni, who was a partner with Rami from the beginning of the project, tells about herself through the The history of her settlement, Netiv Ha’asara. Talks about the family’s stay in Cairo following her husband’s appointment as an agricultural guide in Egypt after the outbreak of peace with Egypt, in the early eighties of the last century. There, in Egypt, she “discovered” through a meeting with exiled Palestinian families, that even if she, Roni, feels very well with herself and with her right to live in this land, there is another story that she does not know and another people who rightly claim, at least as much as her right, that they have the right to live Here. It needs to be solved, she says, it is possible. People on both sides do not know each other and Roni feels that she needs to make the parties accessible to each other. Today there are technologies that help create virtual meetings, Roni helps the meetings happen and they happen! For example, a drama class in a school in the region that holds a meeting with a group in Gaza and also meetings of singing and dancing. Roni tells about the piano she bought and moved to Gaza at the request of a young musician (a story that has been told many times in the past and is always moving anew) and the excitement of everyone who was involved in moving it from side to side. The piano currently stands at the YMCA in Gaza. The connections continue and the dialogue is even in times of violence. In times like these she thinks and cares for the people who are exposed to shelling. Roni will continue to do as much as she can.
May from the “Hechalutz” movement is in a settlement close to the border fence. Gaza is a place of power, she says, it’s not a fun place to meet. There is always a fear of tunnels that will penetrate the settlement.
Yuval, a “pioneer” himself, says that Gaza is complex. He is sure that when he becomes a soldier, Gaza will be a part of his being and he already looks at it with the eyes of a soldier. Yuval does not know “how it will be resolved”.
Gev says that his relationship to Gaza is divided into two. On the one hand, the experience of someone who grew up in a settlement near Ashdod and experienced the launches and the alarms. On the other hand, now, in the community where he volunteers through the “Hechalutz” movement, he works in an orchard next to a Gazan laborer. A good relationship was formed between them, the guy speaks fluent Hebrew, “really Israeli” defines him Gev. Contractor workers from Gaza also come, they are very hospitable and invite to talk, but the connection with the permanent worker is much stronger. The contact with him changed something in Gev and now he has a desire to know more about Gaza.
Rami was contacted. Other Rami walks in a circle with the cell phone from which Rami looked and everyone greets him (hello, “Ramadan Karim”, “Hi”, and even “Ola”). Then Rami tells about the project he founded in Gaza, the “Youth Committee”. The telephone connection is not so good And the audio quality goes up and down. Rotem (Hechalutz) asks Rami if they have problems in Gaza due to contact with Israelis? Rami expands and tells about his connections with Israelis. The conversation ends mainly because of the quality of the audio.
Eric, who knows Rami and his work well, completes the picture for the “pioneers”. Eric also talks about life in Sderot, his home. Eric has been active with Gaza since 2005, before that he was already in contact with Palestinians in the West Bank. He founded the organization “Other voice” (Kol Acher) which is related to “Lighthouse” and in fact there are many companies that are in both organizations. It is important for all of us to be in touch with Gaza. The relationship with Rami started 5 years ago. Eric expands on the organization that Rami founded, the “Gaza Youth Committee”. Rami says, we are neither Hamas nor Fatah, we exist for the people around us and work in many community areas. Rami is the one who initiated his organization’s connection with Israelis. Someone asks how the connection between the “Lighthouse” and Rami came about. Roni talks about a joint iftar meal (in Zoom) that she held with a group from Gaza that she organized and Rami was the only one there who spoke English. From there the relationship tightened and developed. Eric continues and tells about the difficult time Rami went through following the Zoom meetings he initiated between young people in Gaza, Israel and the world, meetings after which he was imprisoned and tortured by Hamas. After he was released, He continued to operate with the group he founded and a year later moved to Egypt, where he currently resides.
Maharan says that he visited Gaza 6 years ago. What you see on the inside is not what you see on the outside, he says. Gaza is a prison, 70 percent are unemployed. Maharan did not so much encounter hatred for Israel, he encountered more curiosity to get to know, especially young people who want to meet their peers. Gaza, he says, always rises again. Throughout history, Gaza has gone through many disasters and recovered. Maharan points out that he always said that the improvement of the economic situation in Gaza predicts the coming of peace. He has a story/ parable about a British soldier in India who teased a poor Indian. The Indian slapped the soldier and the soldier wanted to shoot him, but his commander stopped him and gave the Indian a bill. After a while, thanks to the money he received, the Indian became rich and again met the soldier, who again provoked him, but the Indian ignored the provocation. You see, said the commander to the soldier, now that he is rich and has something to lose, he does not regard your taunts. Maharan taps into Gaza from this: those who make the wars are the hungry poor who have nothing to lose.
Before finishing, Rami tells the young people the history of the sulfur factory building and expands on Gaza through the lens of history. And finally, he tells about “my grandfather’s passport”. How his grandfather, who came in the second ascent, was an Ottoman subject and then a British one, married the grandmother who was in Tel Hai with Trumpeldor and for his living sold agricultural produce from the lands of the valley to the neighboring countries. The grandfather’s passport lists the countries that this passport allowed him to enter, and this actually includes all the countries in the region, from Sudan and Egypt in the west to Iraq and Turkey in the east. Rami wants the signatures of all these countries to be printed on his passport as well and he believes that he will have this in his lifetime!
We were: 35 Hechalutz youths, Maharan, Roni, Rami, Rami, Oded, Nahshi, Moshe, Arik, Rinat, Hanan (and I think Hanan’s partner also came later).
Written by: Oded

Encounter 262 – 17.3.2023

The tourist season is over, silence has returned to the area, there are no travelers and the “lighthouse” is gathering itself.
Haim, who came for the first time two weeks ago, also came today.
Along with him, Shmulik, Roni, Mark and I also sat.
The first thing that stood out was the disappearance of about half of the chairs that were there a week ago (two weeks ago we brought another 15 chairs).
I made a wide foot walk around the sulfur factory in search of scattered chairs. There were no. They were just taken away. I vented my anger by picking up trash left by nature’s users. I don’t have a solution for this matter. Maybe it’s better for those who come to the lighthouse on purpose to bring one or two or three folding chairs, as many as possible.
As mentioned, there were five of us and the conversation naturally revolved around what was happening in Israel. What did he say and what did she answer, what does X mean and how does Y understand it, what does B mean when he says C.
We ended up in a heated debate on the issue of waving the Palestinian flag in demonstrations yes or no. Spoiler, 80% against versus 20% for. Even the 20% who are in favor do not really intend to wave a flag because they are afraid they will be beaten.
There were five of us.
Next week it will be summer time and we are planning to move to our summer residance.
And we have to talk about Gaza, don’t we?
Well Roni updated on some matters that “crossed her desk”. It is possible that soon we will be able to make contact again with tour friends over the fence…
This time we were: Roni, Mark, Haim, Shmulik, Oded.
Written by: Oded.

Encounter 261 – 10.3.2023

Arye was an army officer. A large part of his service period was in Sinai and he knew the area like the back of his hand. On the way to reserve service in Sinai, he would pass through Gaza, at least 4 times a year. During one reserve period, he was the commander of the Nahal Oz checkpoint and was responsible for the section between Nahal Oz and Sajaya. Arye established the Microsoft branch in Israel. He had an employee from Gaza and he owed him NIS 500, but the employee simply disappeared and never came. To this day it is not clear to him what happened.
Yishai was born in Tel Aviv. He was born and educated in Israel. He had a familiar experience of growing up here. He once joined an organized trip to Gaza, when it was still possible. They were secured by Palestinian Authority policemen. He got the impression that something was happening there because there was a renewal and a building boom. But the wheel turns and today Gaza has gone back. Recently in Abu Dhabi he visited a new, modern, magnificent mosque. He had the feeling that the mosque seems to embrace those who come to its gates and welcomes them. It radiates tolerance. There can also be another Islam.
Alon is a physician proffesor who served most of his military service in the north, but was also a brigade doctor in our area for a certain period of time. Participate in simulations of rescues from Gaza in case it happens. I see the Gazans as poor people who have no way out. In the hospital where he works today, he also treated Palestinian patients and knows the difficulties – sometimes the patients do not manage to come.
Shmulik has been a resident of the area since 1966. In 1993 (Oslo) there was a feeling that something was going to change for the better. Shmulik tells about the deportation of a family he knows to Gaza. Lists the British bases that were abandoned in 1948 and turned into refugee camps. Going to work is good for both parties. Hamas is a difficult story. “Under the table,” he said, there are connections. Tells about “Physicians for Human Rights” that he has been donating to them for many years.
Nahshi says that when he was managing the plantation in his kibbutz, he worked with a family from Gaza and an excellent relationship developed. Even before Oslo, they would talk to each other about ideas for a solution, ideas that were indeed realized in Oslo. At the signing in the White House, when some attacks and closures had already started, the mangoes ripened and there was pressure on our part to pick and on their part to accept, despite the closure. In the end, we picked it up, met at the checkpoint and passed it to them while we listened together on the radio to the broadcast of the signing ceremony of the Oslo agreement. Then there was a disconnection, for many years. Now a new connection is made. Gaza is people and humans. Nahshi wants to emphasize to the people who are hosted in the circle that on both sides are suffering human beings.
Arye adds a little story (he has a lot, he says): in 1998, Shimon Peres told him that they wanted to establish an industrial park in Erez. Arye met with a Gazan engineer named Jihad, son of Abu Jihad, business… In 2000, the intifada started and all the plans “went up in smoke”.
Rami says that Gaza surprises him every time. This morning he was looking for a certain picture, entered the archive and a picture of a group of Gazans, Jordanians and Israelis popped up. A group engaged in a project of marking sites that it believes has heritage ties to them. Rami says that Petra was a famous station in the world and part of the road that led from Yemen and Oman to Gaza, which was the most important city in the region. He saw a mosaic in Petra that is very reminiscent of the mosaics in Ma’on and Gaza. In Gaza, the image of King David playing the harp appears. Rami points out that the same artists made all of those mosaics. A Jordanian member of the group told him that the artists lived in Gaza. In the Petra mosaic, Gaza appears prominently. Rami shares with us more information about mosaics in the area where Gaza appears, which indicates its great importance. Gaza stands out, Gaza with gates! Now, he says, we are in a glitch in time. But in his opinion, Gaza will return to its greatness. In the First World War, the Ottomans evacuate Gaza in 1917. Gaza, at that time, is magnificent, as you can see in the pictures. The British return and rebuild Gaza and bring back residents to it. In 1948, Gaza is filled with refugees and today we hear many testimonies of families who were scattered in the area. Gaza for Rami It is a wonderful journey, it is also a home. He came today very optimistic!
Bella hopes to do something to get closer to Gaza again. This situation keeps her awake. She remember other times.
Roni tells about the tours she conducts in her moshav that literally hugs the fence of the Strip. Before the disengagement, they would communicate with the Gazan neighbors by yelling. You have to find a way around walls. She learned to drive in Rafah. When the family was on mission in Egypt, Roni had the opportunity to be exposed to other people, Palestinians. In her activity, it helps to create joint projects mainly in the fields of culture. On both sides, she says, people have no horns. She once saw on television childrens in summer camps where hatred was preached. She contacted a friend in Gaza and asked him to organize other summer camp days. With the help of donations she obtained, the friend organized reconciliation camps. Every night he would send her a video of children laughing and playing and not hating. The children come home and involve the family. They know and tell their families that there are other Israelis. Roni tries to do everything to show that fences and walls will not interfere.
It seems to Judy that the situation in Gaza is a mistake, or as Rami said, a glitch in time. How do you approach a mistake? Looking to blame or trying to fix? There is a right way and a wrong way to fix it and right now we as a country are dealing with the wrong way. But here, at the lighthouse, the way is right.
Malki has lived in the area for several years, but when she lived in the center, Gaza was far away and not on her agenda. When she moved here, to the area, she became more involved. Suddenly she realized how her freedom to live a normal life collides with the lives of the people imprisoned in Gaza. Gaza is a great despair. Malki does not believe that she will get to see a change in her life. But that’s no reason to ignore it. The thinking and reference here in the circle, is part of it and therefore comes.
Hodiya remembers the disengagement from Gaza. Gaza brings her back to her teenage years during the disengagement period, handing out orange ribbons and demonstrating against it. She has good memories of the settlements in the Gaza Strip and a lot of pain for those whose lives were shattered by the disengagement. Hodiya and Shai (her partner) lived in the north near the border and now here near the border. She studied with Rabbi Fromman. Want to make peace the way of Fromman. A sincere request for peace. The old women in the moshav where she lives today say that they went to Gaza on foot. It intrigues her to know more.
Shai Feels that he has the love for nature and peace that his grandfather instilled in him. He had cousins in Gush Katif. The youth who left there have deteriorated greatly since then. Sees the Gazans as “prisoners of war abandoned in Gaza”. Praying that they will be redeemed and be able to cultivate their fields. On the other hand, the expulsion from Gush Katif is a painful thing. The secession was a strong blow to his brothers. Those who now feel hurt by the regime changes in Isreal are also his brothers and he sympathizes with their pain as well. There are LGBT people in his family and he definitely supports their right to a normal life. The national trauma from Gush Katif is simmering under the surface. There is a feeling that what is happening now is a kind of desire to take revenge for the deportation. He has no solution, only pain for hurting his brothers every time from another side. Gaza Aimed at Jerusalem, it is the playground of religious feelings.
Today we were: Hodiya and Shai with their young children Pele (son) and Tzuri (daughter), Arye, Yishai, Alon, Mary, Roni, Judy, Mark, Nahshi, Shmulik, Rami, Oded, Malki, Bella, Tom, Yorit, Shira.
Written by: Oded

Encounter 260 – 3.3.2023

one by one they gathered at the “lighthouse” this week and talked about Gaza and “the situation”.
Chaim, for example, “lived Gaza” for a long time, troubled, looking for something to do. That’s why he’s here. The pogrom in Hawara made him shed a tear. He compares it to Kristallnacht. His soul is turbulent. Gaza is part of an occupation. In his opinion, in 2023 there should be no place on earth where people will live without hope. We have a responsibility. Gaza is part of the conflict, not “we gave it back and thankfully we got rid of it” but it is part of us.
Hayuta lives close to the Gaza Strip. She sees the neighbors, hears the muezzin and it is part of the landscape regardless of her will or unwillingness. She met a Gaza worker who told about his family. He has 9 children, all grown up. 3 of his daughters are unemployed teachers. Do your best, study, but there is nowhere to move forward.
Shmulik says Yusuf is a friend. Yusuf dreamed for 16 years to return and meet Shmulik and work in Israel. They have no options in Gaza and live on donations. The family was deported in 1948 from Israel. Today they live in Nusirat – Gaza. Shmulik is here out of identification with them. We, here at the Lighthouse, are occasionally rescued by a fund-raising operation, he says.
Ilan says that as of today, the state of the country does not allow to be interested in them, in Gaza, too much. According to him, unlike the West Bank, Gaza should not be at the top of our minds. He no longer has contact with people there. May the Muslims of the world take care of them. Sadat was smarter than Begin and pushed Gaza to us.
Riki remembers Gaza in the 70’s, her family had an engine repair factory and there were workers from Gaza, real friends. She misses this relationship.
Eli tells about friends from Gaza who call to congratulate on the holidays. If the “big ones” don’t have a solution, what will he say? Loved traveling in Gaza and remembers many good things. He has nothing bad to say about them. External influences caused radicalization. In the past he took care of the children of the Gazan family he knew and was in contact with.
Efrat grew up in the Jordan Valley and served in Sinai. A family of “swamp drainers”. She also knows the less good stories, dating back to 1910-20. Arabs were deported to the other side of Jordan even though they had good relations. There is no connection between them today. On a human level, whether it is joy or sadness, she will lend a hand, but the just solution is to help them go and settle in Sinai with the help of Israeli knowledge. Israel left, closed the border and she, Efrat, no longer feels that we have any responsibility. The Egyptians should have given them the Sinai Peninsula, that’s the solution.
Nahshi guess there is no solution and he didn’t come here because of the solution. But such encounters, with different people, is the creation of a reality of consciousness and dialogue. He supports any initiative that will make people understand each other. Prefer to be considered naive and believe that something good can be created. You can find a starting point in conversations here from which you can move forward.
Yaron is a young man. He was there in 2014 “it wasn’t fun”. Heard that the beach in Gaza is wonderful.
Alon, Yaron’s friend. They hurry to continue their trip. He asks us not to think that they are avoiding comment because they think bad things about Gaza. They actually think that what we do here is very impressive.
Eliezer says that most of his years worked in the medical system. He was a department manager in a hospital. Defines himself as “right-wing” and points out that in 1967 a miracle happened and the IDF decided the campaign. Then he and his friends toured Gaza and Arish and he was not particularly impressed. Then he encountered clashes with the Palestinians through the operating rooms. It will take time for conditions to be created for negotiations. It will take time Until both sides understand. Now he is more concerned about what is happening in Israel, even though he is right-wing.
Miki remembers that after 1967 she went with a friend to El Arish and they had a flat tire. It seemed very natural to her that the locals helped them. Begin wanted to transfer Gaza to Egypt and they refused. They knew why. In Tel Aviv she met a charming foreman from Gaza. Suddenly everything stopped. Miki also remembers the redemption period. She too, like Eliezer, is worried about what is happening in Israel. The situation is very difficult. There has to be a political solution. We have our pyromaniacs and they have theirs. She has friends in a kibbutz close to Gaza and she knows the hardships.
Jeff has arrived! The “lighthouse” is his temple. He came quite a bit at the beginning (“in the eighth week”) and has continued to come ever since. His life is conducted between New York, Michigan and Be’ery. In 1967 he was in diapers and in 1973 he was 8 years old. Last Tuesday he participated in a demonstration in Tel Aviv, came to raise his voice: democracy is impossible without equality. Tells about “Stars of Hope” a project he founded with his friends from New York after they were impressed by the support they received after the twin attacks. Their project demonstrates how disaster (the Twin Towers) can be turned into hope (painted stars to raise support for disaster victims). Tells about the joint paintings of Arabs and Jews. They also operated in Gaza when it was still possible. He came to give a hug to his friends who are on the Titanic. Came to check where to look for hope. Previously worked in the USA in the Reagan administration. Knows people who knew Bibi. Two days ago he participated in a demonstration in Tel Aviv and spoke on Orli Bar Lev’s broadcast. Jeff is conservative and a Republican, but thinks that what is happening here, in Israel, is terrible.
Helen, Ornit, Ella, Noa (there were two more that I didn’t catch their names) – a group that has been traveling together for decades and are very excited about what is happening here, but sit for too little time to participate in Gaza consciousness.
Zvi is traveling with 3 small children and accepted our invitation. Gaza is the Land of Israel, he said. We need to return to Gaza because that’s the only way salvation will come. He is 100% certain that we are on the way to return to all the territories of the Land of Israel in order to control them. It is not a negative thing to encourage voluntary migration from Gaza, he adds.
Nitzan grew up and lives in the area. still in the army Gaza was for her, in her childhood, the greatest enemy. When she grew up she started to understand what was going on there and now she doesn’t know what the solution is. We insist on things that prevent a future solution. It intrigues her to try to understand. Right now she is quite embarrassed.
Nitzan’s friend Shai says she doesn’t have that much of an opinion.
Nitzan says that Gaza is not something that is thought about that much. But she got interested and entered the social networks. She saw how people live there. But it confuses her more.
Zvi says that he is looking at the redemption of the people of Israel as it is written in the Torah and it is getting closer. When there will be a temple and a Sanhedrin here, the people of Israel will be able to fulfill their mission, to be a light to the Gentiles. Zvi speaks quietly with eloquence and absolute faith. His words create reactions.
Haim, for example, tells Tzvi that if he wants to annex Gaza he will create a federation.
Zvi says again that he doesn’t understand why they don’t talk openly and clearly about encouraging voluntary immigration. This is a correct and appropriate solution for him. Zvi thinks that the idea of faith and its fulfillment needs effort and perseverance.

This time we were: Haim, Nahshi, Hayuta, Shmulik, Oded, Mark, Ilan, Efrat, Eli, Ricky, Yaron, Alon, Jeff, Vivian, Helen, Ornit, Noa, Ella, two anonymous, Nitzan, Shai Zvi and his three children.
Written by: Oded

Encounter 259 – 24.2.2023

Apparently there are days like that too: all our attempts to manage a circle as usual were shattered in the face of an extraordinary verbal storm from one of the guests, a theater actor by training. To his credit, he was alternately funny and dramatic, with an impressive ability to imitate which he wove into his stories. When he stopped to breathe and I managed to get a word in, he had to say what is his Gaza consciousness.
Ofer begins by quoting from the sources, “Strong like the death the love.” Then he says that if it is about Gaza, “Gaza is like the death of hate” and adds that if he is Gazan, he hates Israel. But feels that he knows nothing, everything is being hidden from us, he states.
Meanwhile between coffee and talking, his partner Tali also manages to say something.
Tali: The solution is educational, on both sides. For her, with the level of knowledge she possesses, there is no one to talk to there. Defines herself as “less humane than Ofer”. The little person controlled by forces stronger than him is quite poor, she says and asks the circle, what is the solution?
Nahshi agrees that the solution is education. Our partners in Gaza, are trying to do it through the “Youth Committees”, an understanding that an alternative to violence can be created. We want to tell them that they have partners in non-violence here, says Nahshi. In his opinion, the main positive change that Gantz created is the permits for entering workers.
Tali says that her right-wing friends say that hatred is inherent in the Palestinians personality. Ending with a question/idea, perhaps it is possible to organize there, in Gaza, adults who remember Israel well, to explain Israel to young people.
After that, Ofer played alone on the entire field and mainly described anecdotes from the joint show of him and his brother Dekel, who has Down syndrome, from decades of performances throughout the world.
When it got a little colder, Ofer and Tali got on their bikes and rode to another horizon.
We remained only the “regulars”.
In the remaining time I raised the question of whether it was right to come to the demonstrations with the Palestinian flag.
The answers were divided and ranged from a complete negative, mainly for the reason that it could divide the consensus that prevails in the demonstrations and disintegrate the impressive mass. Those in favor of raising the Palestinian flag argued mainly that the regime change would harm many groups in the population and perhaps most of all the Palestinian community under Israeli control would be harmed. That is why it is the right and even the duty of every community to represent itself in a demonstration as part of a whole opposing the regime change.
There was also one who said that flags don’t speak to him and he doesn’t care who waves what.
This week we were: Shmulik, Nahshi, Mary, Bella, Malki, Dina, Oded, Tali, Ofer, Nur, Farhan, Mark and a few others who passed by, listened to Ofer and continued on.
Written by: Oded