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