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