Encounter 137 – October 30, 2020

We met, no questions asked about who is still expected and how many we’d be.
We began – Roni, Shmulik, Nahshi and myself.
Nahshi made coffee. Obviously…
Roni tells us in detail about our Gazan friend who just got out of jail.
Hanan arrives, Roni repeats… How he was released, what he look like now, what he said. She goes on to tell about the musician who needs to complete his studies but has no money, and how she transferred some. Also about the woman who got out of the Gaza Strip and met her father. Human stories about the hardships met by a person whose fate has hurled him into a cruel reality.
Jaber arrives, Roni repeats a third time. Well, in outline…
We proceed with a “free” discussion.
Hanan leaves, Mari arrives. Weather permits her to do so at long last. Roni has a fourth go. We Mari – we hadn’t met for a long time (Zoom is just make believe) so she has to provide answers. Questions about Corona in her community, and family ties, so common an item in Israeli get-togethers.
Mari is a member of her community’s emergency team. As a Ministry of Health retiree, she has access to information. The pandemic plays with us, she says – it attacks again some of those who have recovered, has various expressions, no one has a clear answer. Scientists are at a loss.
Then she says that as she drove to our site she wondered – how do we mediate our activity to our children? Are they at all interested?
Some question… The “circle” re-organizes for a discussion of this interesting question. It breaks up in different directions, and we must focus among the speakers.
First travelers of the season have already been spotted around here, none joined us. Perhaps they will, after the first rains.
We’re already close to finishing time and it gets dark early now that we’re on winter schedule. Mari’s question will keep us busy next week too, I guess, when we shall also light our lighthouse to enable hopeful navigation…
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 136, October 23, 2020

After some weeks when we held our Migdalor meetings only on Zoom, we got together again near the deserted sulfur plant. Shmulik and I picked up Hayuta, came to the site and found Rami there, who had already made himself comfortable on his chair, in the pleasant breeze.
Roni came, as well as Jaber, and Hana with his cap. The circle was completed by Malki, Bella and Uzi. 10 in all.
Everyone knows everyone else, but still we “go around the circle” with introductions… Each in their turn share their feelings these days.
The pandemic and the political chaos affect all of us, not necessarily in a bad way… Some see them as opportunities for a new reality, others find it difficult to adjust, and some simply go with the flow… Life leads and feelings are put aside.
We opened a broad discussion of Gaza, that began by Roni reporting on the state of our friends there. The discussion slipped into political-historical dimensions in the context of the Gazan space, trying to decipher the “true” intentions of the Israeli side. Everything in the context of humans and land, of course. Indeed, in our inner circle we try to focus on humans living in this space and less on political rulings and regime actions. Needless to say, these things are interconnected and one canot help but relate to the political system as affecting people and land, and still we navigate “Gaza awareness” in our meetings, especially with relations that come into being, “eye to eye and heart to heart”.
This time, without the direct contact, we slid into politics pure and simple… Naturally our discussion was justified, in light of our usual interest (at least I find it so), and lasted much longer than the official plan.
In our departure mingling, Hanan came up to me and said that relating to the opinions I aired, I actually spoke about “Zionism”. I was surprised, since I had not mentioned it at all. But on second thought, he was right… I realized that if we place “Zionism” on a spectrum of our being in this space, we would find various doses of it in every single one of us. Consciously or unconsciously. From its total negation to its undisputed justification. Even without using the actual term itself…
That’s it for todeay. I introduced the participants in the beginning.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 134 – October 9, 2020

Along the 140-year timeline of “the Jews’ return to their land”, “national revival” and its connection with Eretz Yisrael (the appellation embraced by Zionism), there is the assumption (not entirely articulated) that there have been “junctions” wherein events took place, breaking the potential equality in Arab-Jewish relations.
The question I raised for the sake of this encounter was as follows:
“… What was the moment to which you would return on the timeline, when the balance of fairness and seeing the other changed, and from whence the polarized reality we see today developed in fact.
Or simply put: to which point in time would you return?”
This was the question discussed at today’s Zoom meeting we held, articulated by Rami.
First to relate to this was Tal, telling about her grandmother, born in Palestine in the turn of the 20th century to first Aliya (Jewish immigration wave) Zionist parents, who wrote as a young girl about her deep-seated fear and contempt of their Arab neighbors.
Mari said that in her opinion, the fact that the Faisal-Weitzman Agreement signed on January 3, 1919 was not materialized, brought about that “separateness” which Rami defined in his question as causing the present situation in our space. This agreement defined cooperation between the Arab space then named “Greater Syria” (more or less the area today shared by Syria, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon), headed by Faisal Ibn Hussein, and the idea of a Jewish “National Home” in the spirit of the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, an idea that Haim Weitzman represented in the agreement. Faisal signed upon the condition that the Arab State would receive its independence of Britain. However, the agreement was undermined by England and France and was attacked by its opponents of both parties. Mari claims that the fact that this agreement could not materialize was a critical point in the relations between Arabs and Jews in this area.
Nahshi began his words by agreeing with Tal who implied that animosity was inherent from the beginning of Jewish “national revival” and adds that on both sides, giving up claims is “translated” into weakness and resulting violence. From there he leaps to “stations” closer to our day, when attempts were made to give back “things we took by force”… The purpose of such attempts may have been only “a guise” as he put it, but even “a guise” is important. Nahshi says that at points such as the peace accord with Egypt, the Oslo Accords or the accord signed with Jordan held willingness and good will towards agreement, and this did not work. Clearly for him the solution must lie in the study and recognition of the different narratives of both sides.
I said that we must remember that one half of these 140 years were lived here under either the Turkish Ottoman or the British rule. I believe that no colonialist regime during that period had taken land in order to give it back… Therefore, both Arabs and Jews had to plan their lives as subjects, not as sovereign citizens. The Jews, who throughout their history had adopted a narrative of persecution, developed a strong tribal cohesiveness and had a difficult time assimilating in this space other than as a separate ethnic group. If this protected them in the course of history (even at times when it was forced upon them, and paradoxically preserved their strong ethnic cohesiveness), why wouldn’t it protect them now in this new space they came to inhabit? This separateness led to mutual animosity that has lasted to the present day.
Roni received from friends a video that shows how ever since Bible days and throughout history, this space has always been the bone of contention over land. In other words, “that which has been will continue to be”. Her reaction was that this does not have to continue. She realized the ties of a community or a people to this place while she was on a farming mission in Egypt. There she realized that another narrative exists, different from the one she had absorbed here, and that each side is absolutely right from its own perspective. In the high school she worked at in Egypt, during her mission, a student – son of an Emirates ambassador – asked her whether she agrees with what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians. She answered that she did not agree, and that she is anxious about what this makes of us as human beings. When her daughter asked her before this Zoom encounter which point in time she would choose as generating animosity, Roni said that her choice perhaps would be the 1967 War. Her daughter indicated that right after this war relations were excellent, and Roni claimed that perhaps on the surface this was right, but the “subterranean currents” already gave off the feeling that something bad was going on here. From the book written by journalist Ohad Hamo, “The Surface”, she quotes a conversation Hamo had with a senior Hamas official who told him they would not give in, but also said that he understands the Israelis who are so convinced that they’re right. Hamo thinks that this is a positive point from which one could advance.
Malki refers to Wikipedia: under the heading “Jewish-Palestinian conflict” it says that the conflict began in 1860, when the Jewish neighborhood of Mishkenot Sha’ananim was built outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, an act that symbolized action and a declaration of presence on the part of Jews in this space. But for Malki personally, the 1967 occupation marks the breaking point. She does not underestimate 1948 or other points raised in the discussion, but for her that is where the line was drawn. Indeed, there were several chances after that, but as soon as we did not take the right measures immediately following the 1967 War, things just moved downhill. Ever since, she has been trying to acquaint herself as much as possible with the Palestinian side, and mentions the blessed work that the Zochrot organization has been doing (Zochrot is an organization devoted to familiarizing the Israeli public – in Hebrew – with the Nakba, the Palestinian disaster of 1948).
Shmulik says that indeed tension has been in existence ever since the beginning of “practical Zionism”. Even Rabin admitted in one of his speeches that we did not come to an empty land. But, says Shmulik, many points along the way escalated animosity between the two communities. During the first and second waves of Jewish immigration, the Arabs lost many work places because of the principle of “Hebrew (Jewish) labor”, and many parts of the land were purchased by Jews from some Arab landowners and the Palestinian farmers were chased away. The “riots” and wars that took place during the 20th century served to “fuel” the conflict. Things keep going on and now, for example, we mark 20 years since the events of October 2000. But, says Shmulik, the history of our world has seen harsh conflicts being solved, and ours will be too. Shmulik thinks the only possible solution is a single shared political entity between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
Hagit names 1923, when her grandfather immigrated to the country, as the meaningful year. Especially representative of the kind of Jewish immigration that was more ideological and less survivalist. Hagit’s grandfather joined the Brit Shalom movement that believed in co-existence with the Palestinian Arabs. Hagit asks what it means to come to an inhabited country, ignore its inhabitants, adopt the idea that it is all “ours” and get busy with erasing “their” history. Perhaps the narrative does play a certain role, but the realization lies on a ground of great injustice.
Rami says that thinking about the issue makes him even more optimistic. He believes this is a “conflict between neighbors”. It does not begin at a certain point in history but rather in our basic thinking that “we are better than others” so I am within my rights to move over the Amalekite or the Adomite or the Yevusite… I am better…! It’s in our DNA since much earlier than the great Jewish culture was created of which we are so proud. Rami often quotes Professor Leibowitz who, in one of his speeches, said that we have stopped renewing anything. We take short cults, from the Bible to 1948 (mihatanach lapalmach…). “New” Hebrew used Biblical terms (settlement, redemption of the land, conquering labor). Thanks to our European origins, understanding European languages, proximity to power (the British), taking advantage of a window of opportunity, and lots of “stops” on the way, we created the present situation. If the question is which point along the way we get back to?… Rami says he’d go back to a place where he is no different than anyone else. A conflict between neighbors is soluble if… if we give up our self-glorification.
Tal suggests that Jewish Israelis begin to learn Arabic en-masse and stop using such expressions as “we, they” etc… She calls this the “Zionist splits”: “We are the best in the world” and at the same time, “finally we are like everyone else”…
Julia says that this discussion is “fiction”. There is no such thing as going back and imagine what I would do differently. She explains this with an episode of the series “The Twilight Zone” she saw in her youth. A 60-year old millionaire thinks that if he were 20-years old again today, he could be even richer… And in the series he does get back to the age of 20. But times are different and people are different and everyone thinks he has gone nuts, and when he gets back to being 60, he is actually homeless… Julia thinks that the “exercise” we are trying to do of going back in time is absolute fiction. She does connect with the idea that we should act from here on, without disregarding history… This place does not belong to anyone, and still is everyone’s. As a psychologist she recognizes the value of “definitions”, and whoever uses them should take responsibility for them.
Rami answers Julia, that navigation in the desert taught him that if he loses his way, he should try to return to where he was earlier and knew where he was, and from there he can plan his way anew.
Mir said that unfortunately not many Israelis know how the Arabs are in Israel and this awareness should be raised.
Jaber emphasizes his familiarity with the two cultures. As a child at home he absorbed Bedouin culture, and was also a frequent visitor at the homes of the Jewish neighboring village. Jaber says that yes, there were influential points prior to the founding of the State that caused tension and animosity, and since then he wishes to count 4 main ones: He thinks the first was the 1948 War in which the Palestinians were exiled and became refugees. The second was the 1967 War during which Israel came to those refugees who were exiled in 1948 and continued to persecute them. The third was the 1973 War during which the Israeli ego underwent a crisis after the relief of 1948 and the euphoria of 1967. The result of this crisis of the Jewish-Israeli ego in 1973 was the peace accords with Egypt and hope for the Palestinians that their issue too would be solved. The fourth was in 2000, when Arik Sharon went to the Al Aqsa Mosque. Jaber also mentions the accord with Jordan but does not count it as one of the main points. Sharon’s visit to Al Aqsa caused riots and many dead, including 13 Arab citizens of Israel, as well as many wounded. These events shook any kind of hope that was still around. Jewish-Israeli society moved over to the right side of the political spectrum, Gaza was closed (under siege) and the Separation Barrier was erected in the West Bank. Jaber, who as a child felt at home in the neighboring Jewish village, says that now he cannot get in even with a thousand permits…
Ravit is an art therapist and now joins us from Washington, where she lives with her family. She wishes to relate to the matter from a therapeutic aspect: hatred, she thinks, is the hard place now, which demands care. The more contacts with “the other side” in which she includes not only Arabs and Palestinians but also Haredis (ultra-orthodox Jews) and right-wingers and others. This will lower tensions. If communication begins from the bottom up, it will trickle into the leadership. She was very impressed with the way profound hatred was treated in South Africa, for example, by the perpetrators asking the forgiveness of their victims and receiving it.
Before we finished, Roni informed us of the state of our friends in Gaza, and Rami reminds us that we are here to remember Gaza, and during the Sukkot holiday – Sukkah, arbor, is a temporary structure – it is important to remember the temporariness of the Gazans’ lives.
Zoom participants were: Tal, Mari, Malki, Oded, Shmulik, Jaber, Rami, Roni, Ravit, Nahshi, Mir, Hagit and for short moments, Bella showed up…
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 133 – 2.10.2020

These Covid-19 lockdown times have made us turn to Zoom rather than meeting live. We meant mostly to see and hear one another and get slightly updated about each other and the state of our Gazan neighbors. After about 15 minutes of waiting for joiners, we began talking.
Roni is connected best with the goings on in Gaza. In the civilian sense of course… She updated us on the situation there in general, and about our friends in particular. Not much news. The subject has been brought to the attention of international bodies, and even comes up once and again in international media. There is some kind of hope here, but it has not yet had its effect on the ground. Corona virus stats: according to the information Roni has, the pandemic has not struck there as mightily as it has in our parts, but it’s hard to assess is extent. Judging by aid requests she gets from Gaza, people have a hard time affording even the minimal basics. Roni is hesitant about our ability to help with donations. Not “if to do so” but “how to…” How to make sure the money gets to those who really need it. She turns to us for ideas. As for her personal situation, she says that in her community there are many people ill and isolated, and it’s rather depressing. But Roni – as Roni – immediately connects this state of affairs to her Gaza consciousness and speaks about the decline in the willingness of Israeli hospitals to take in Gazan patients because of Corona suspicions. According to her, “there are good people who help” and small successes are noted…
I spoke after Roni, saying that the Israeli public’s awakening against our evil regime is definitely impressive, but after the demonstration dust settles, energy sufficient to create a new reality vis a vis the Palestinians will not be harnessed – on the contrary: the Jewish public will pull in the ranks, ignoring its situation at best, and greedy for Palestinian real estate in the worst case.
Tal adds to what Roni recounted, saying that a propos harassing human beings, Hamas has had great teachers in Israel’s methods, especially towards non-Jews… She talks about her experiences in Tel Aviv’s large protests in summer 2011, when she sat with some Arabs, and a delegation of Jewish Israelis asked them to leave because speaking about the sources of Arab citizens’ situation in the Jewish state is a political matter, and only talking about “social justice” is important and “unites the people” (and that’s not “political”… ?) That case helped her understand that hatred/fear of Arabs is right there under the skin of Jewish Israelis across the political map, and even a common “enemy” (such as our present government and the person heading it) would not uproot it. Talking with her mates in Machsomwatch (women monitoring Israeli military occupation in the Territories), they mentioned that Israelis are now learning “new” terms such as “closure”, “fragmentation”, “breathing closure”, “curfew” that until now were reserved for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Now we are getting to know these ideas, but hey – how did this come about!…
Ghadir is very worried about decisions that the Israeli government has taken in the past 2 days. She spends her protest time more in the economic-social-health areas, in an attempt to provide all citizens with more reasonable living conditions. Ghadir is also very worried about the pandemic spreading in Gaza. As for the donations, she suggests getting help from organizations that are allowed contacts with Gaza (Physicians for Human Rights, for example…) She misses our encounters and tries not to lose hope…
Personally, Malki too feels well and works from home, but – she says – the physical and political pandemic pollutes all air around us at the moment and does not leave air room for other matters, like the suffering of Gaza for example… But this will not disappear, it will float anew. She thinks it’s better to get organized together for aid, not each on their own.
Mari is in on the emergency teams of her community and of the regional council. She has access to widespread health information, including the graph of the pandemic spread in the Gaza Strip. Surprisingly, the graph (of September 29) shows a decline in the spread in Gaza… This began several days earlier, and Roni assumes that it is a result of strict lockdown (literal curfew begins at 7 p.m.!), wearing face masks in public spaces, and severe personal discipline! Mari summarizes, saying that she is busy with this right now, in general, and follows up the goings on in Gaza as well.
After hearing Mari, we turned to Rosie who has been living in Sweden in recent years. Anyone who reads the paper (Haaretz – the rest are tabloids…) or is otherwise connected to the media, knows that Sweden is a model for dealing with the pandemic. Rosie says this without any hesitation. She follows up on the goings on in Israel. She wishes to know whether the protest demonstrations are because of Bibi, or the economic situation, whether people are really out for solutions…
Tal answers her that compared with summer 2011, then as now the demonstrations cross lines of background, cultural differences, socio-economic status etc, but at the end of the day the protest belongs to Jews only. Emphasizing the segregationist policy vis a vis the Palestinians she tells us about a facility that was being constructed at the entrance to Hebron, financed by private Palestinians and international bodies, to medically isolate Palestinian workers returning to Hebron and the area from work in Israel. The Israeli authorities watched this project being built, let it be completed, and 2 days before it was first operated, the army came and totally destroyed it.
Ghadir remembers this and wonders about the rationale in such demolition. Tal says that irrationality has become the modus operandi of the Israeli army regarding Palestinians (this is not new) and mentions other examples.
Rami began this Migdalor talk by coming to the site itself, but was not connected an we could not hear him. When he returned home so he could be heard, he told us (against the background of an aerial photo of the geographical space taken 85 years ago…) that he sat there physically, listening to that space, feeling its breezes and smelling its scents as he drank his coffee. He experienced all of this in a conscious sharing with us and our friends who live in this shared space. He then talked with us about his idea, which came to him bringing the voices and scents of Gaza into the space, spiced by the hum of drones and the sound of explosions. The idea is to create “crowd funding” for Gaza consciousness! Instead of raising funds in return for “the writer’s personal autograph” he offers an “in kind” that we could offer anyone who is willing to join us and “donate” their consciousness. This “in kind” could be for example a tour of the area, a historical review plus coffee and pastry, or a visit to sties etc… Rami says of himself that he feels fine and looks forward to board the train at Rashidiya train station near Gaza City, a station appearing in the aerial photo behind him, from there to the whole world.
Before our Zoom session, Jaber sent me a message that he is coming to meet us at the Migdalor site. I answered that we’re in isolation and will not be three. He, already on his way, turned back and went home. Last week he wrote us a Whatsapp message saying we’re “eating our own brew”, adding in brackets that the brew was meant for Gaza alone… Now he explains that we are experiencing a tiny example of what they have been going through over there. What is a two week lockdown versus a 14-years long closure? We miss friends we haven’t seen for two weeks, but in Gaza there are ill people who have not received treatment for months and years… He does not want to sound desperate, but he is a little… He gains strength from us, his friends, and prefers a physical encounter (with the required distancing…) rather than a virtual one.
From here on, for another 25 minutes, the conversation is held around Rami’s idea of “crowd funding” of Gaza consciousness. Some of us wondered about the ways nad means. Tal said that this is in fact the idea behind all the organizations she knows, and they all crash against the concrete wall of the “Zionist ethos”.
Rami answers, saying that – on the contrary – he, who has taken part in so many demonstrations, has become more and more optimistic the harder things became. He thinks one should constantly be looking for new ideas how to generate change.
Malki thinks for herself and with us all whether we have any room these days to discuss this complex idea.
Roni says we mustn’t let go of Gaza consciousness as a place that needs attention even in days when our attention is directed mostly to things that are practically “existential”.
Rami explains that Migdalor – a lighthouse – as a structure has no consciousness. It is there to be present in the consciousness of anyone who needs it right now, or will need it sometime. It exists in the consciousness of its operator as well. Jaber speaks again and confirms to himself and to us the power of a common consciousness (today I have broken a record in the number of times using this word…) around the same idea.
So that’s it – each of us at home, but in a circle: Jaber, Rami, Mari, Roni, Ghadir, Nahschi, Moshe, Tal, Rosie, Malki, Oded

I discovered these lines in a Leonard Cohen song called “Anthem”. I’m not an expert on English, but it seemed appropriate:

ring the bells that still can ring
forget your perfect offering
there is a crack in everything
that’s how the light gets in

Wrote: Oded

Encounter 132 – September 25, 2020

Reconciliation for everyone,
Last week our circle was held in its shorter version. The approaching lockdown did its job and before things actually locked down, good people came and sat together at our lighthouse, came early, for a shorter while, and Nahshi summarized.
The week that has passed since has not been easy. The pandemic, Bibi, threats of draconian new laws, uncertainty and past life that has been locked in a bubble from which it is seen only vaguely. And if you ask, naturally Palestinians’ everyday life is clearer and their stress more understandable.
In the media, the patronizing sector spoke about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the others about Mirit Harari – two women who recently passed away. Hardly anyone spoke of Meron Benbenisti… The heading of this summary – “reconciliation for everyone” is a dedication to Benbenisti who believed that “peace” is suited for a solution of two communities struggling over the same space, and “reconciliation” is what we should aspire and in which we must invest resources.
When Friday grew close I realized I’d be at the Migdalor circle. A kind of need. Not as defiance of the lockdown instructions, nor dealing the challenge – I simply have to be there. So does Shmulik…
Bu the way, Shmulik and I know practically everything about each other, even though he always knows better, always! My only advantage is “last week”… since he is without a smartphone, I always tell him what Ghadir wrote, what Roni told us, how Rami got poetic and which interesting article Nomika shared… Thus too this time – we both sat in the shade of the pine trees with a cup of coffee and argued as we always do.
In the silence around us I heard a vehicle driving away and recognized Rami’s. I called and he assured me that it was he indeed. He asked whether we are violating lockdown, and said he would be sharing a video he had just taken, right away. He won’t be coming today, he said.
Gladly, he was not true to his word and a little after 2 o’clock he called to check… 10 minutes later he arrived with Nomi. We sat 2 meters apart as required, and Nomi tried to find out why I was depressed. As usual, an interesting discussion ensued among us four about the meaning of “losing” and the hardship of “losers”, where should one draw the line between addiction to current events info and total escapism, what it means to “care” and other things… When they arrived Rami “diagnosed” me right and asked whether I was depressed.
When they had gone, I realized again how powerful encounter is.
On Friday morning I received a message from Ghadir, protesting our not having initiatied a Zoom meeting. “Too bad”, she wrote. “These are hard times. I’d like to talk and share so many things.” So right.
I’ll be at the Migdalor this coming Friday as well.


Encounter 131 – September 18, 2020

Shortly before the lockdown, we got together – Roni, Rami, Hanan, Malki, Uzi and Nahshi – to wish each other a better new year and keep the candle of hope alight, the hope of ending conflicts and oppression.
There were the traditional apple and honey, as well as wine, honey cake, bread and coffee.
After exchanging opinions about Corona in our parts as well as in Gaza, Hanan told us how the New Year is celebrated in his own kibbutz – Tamuz in the town of Beit Shemesh, and about life in general in a kibbutz that is “one-generational and one-time”.
Roni updated us about our friends across the fence, and told us about the two encouraging Zoom talks on the part of the Gisha organization, with Gazans taking part who showed initiative and are pushing projects for society and economy.
Rami told us he managed to donate to the “We are not numbers” group and even received a confirmation and thanks from the Gazans themselves.
We parted with Uzi’s New Year greeting: let it be a medium year – better than the one ending now, and less of the better one that will follow.
Happy New Year…

Encounter 130 September 11, 2020

The topic we discussed this week was the “neighborly Sukkah” (arbor, tabernacle) like (or different) the one we held last year. At the end of this report I’ll summarize briefly.
The circle today was different (at least for me) – it was “tired”. Perhaps some would blame the heat. Indeed, not as hot as last week (today temperatures reached 35 degrees compared to last week’s 43), but it was still hot. It didn’t bother me. Nahshi’s usual coffee was acceptable as always.
Even the conversation that Nahshi and Shmulik had with Gazan Ibrahim (one of the brothers who used to work in their kibbutz, Nir Yitzhak, in the past…) did not energize the circle and remained among those three.
The feeling was that the circle is “heavy”, that it needs some power to move it and even that works only for a short while, after which fatigue reigns again.
We began the circle with Hayuta, Rami, Shmulik, Nahshi and myself. We knew that Ghadir and Jaber were on their way. I hoped they would arrive and “arouse” the circle. Ghadir tried, and Jaber also yielded to the general tired feeling.
On the way home I thought that in fact, in the past half-year, we were disconnected from the two “life lines” that energized our meetings: one was the talks with our Gazan friends, that ceased after they were arrested, and second was the anticipation of meeting, inviting and talking with random travelers, which had challenged our discourse. We continue to come and meet every week, and it still instills in us the sense that we do something, but the lack of encountering different voices has a cumulative effect. The lack of those “life lines” over time has flattened the encounters and slowly created a condition where we might “fall” into listlessness once in a while. It happened today, and I believe we should think of ways to refresh these meetings.
As for the “neighborly sukkah”…

  1. If we are going into lockdown (which is really happening) clearly nothing can be done.
  2. If there is no lockdown, several suggestions were made. If I understood correctly, the suggestion that sounded right for now was to concentrate on two Fridays (the eve of Sukkot holiday, and the last day – Simhat Torah) and direct our efforts to those times. Extend the encounter and publicize it. Organize a Zoom meeting with many participants at the end of Yom Kippur, including especially people with special ties to Gaza. Since during the Sukkot week (if there is no lockdown, of course) members of “Women Making Peace” are planning to travel around here, and wish to have some guidance about the area, we would take it upon ourselves, including a circle and coffee at the end of the tour, at the Migdalor.

Other ideas, such as repeating what we did last year, were heard very indifferently, especially because even if no lockdown is announced, people are not traveling much and the logistics are not simple.
If anyone has a different new idea, naturally we’d be glad to hear.
That’s it. That was our talk…

Participants: Shmulik, Rami, Nahshi, Hayuta, Ghadir, Jaber, and myself

Encounter 129 – September 4, 2020

Today’s meeting took place under the present extreme heat wave.
Rami felt responsible for the participants’ health and notified them that “it’s better to stay home today”… but, (I allow myself to quote singer Sanderson…) – “We still made it”.
The place we usually sit in our circle is a few degrees cooler thanks to the wind, the shade of the trees and the spot’s altitude compared to its surroundings. But come on, 43 degrees centigrade in the shade…
Rami and I took off our shirts… Not a very attractive sight, but when it’s so hot and no women guests arrive, we take them off…
After going over the “angry” whatapp messges about our coming anyway, we began talking about old books, especially Rami and Shmulik.
Nahshi and I were more interested in the bread and olive paste that Nahshi brought long. And the coffee.
Shmulik spoke about old book stores in Tel Aviv and Rami about the book collection of the late Meir Buchsweiler who had been a member of Kibbutz Be’eri.
Suddenly, as some desert mirage, a car passed by with a man and a woman. Like survivors on some desert island we waved our arms, all four of us, but they didn’t even open a window to ask what… The heat had beat even curiosity.
Rami brought a subject that was put more or less as follows: since the 1880s, namely about 140 years, Zionism exists. It can be either totally justified, or totally negated. But if each of us had the chance to mark the point during that time when s/he began to doubt the justification of Zionism, where does this point lie on the timeline amidst the historic events… Fascinating! We all spoke and brought up emotion versus knowledge, books and facts, world history events versus local ones, and more.
Coming to our spot, we had thought the hot weather would shorten our meeting and we’d leave after maximum 2 hours. However, the talk became interesting and a breeze coming from Gaza’s beach improved things.
At 15:15 Uri came after Nahshi assured him we’re still there. He joined Shmulik, Rami, Nahshi and Oded.
As I wrote, we filled the weekly time quota of our circle, and finally got into our cars and turned on the air conditioning…
That’s it.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 128 – August 28, 2020

Following last week’s meeting during which we spent the last hour ‘working’ with Etty Hillesum’s cards, a conversation develops about ‘literature about civil matters under Nazi rule’.
Hayuta tells us about the book The Sky in Me that combines about 8 notebooks of the writer’s diaries.
Sholti tells us about The White Rose (the name of the underground which students at Munich University founded, and whose ‘warfare’ was the distribution of leaflets resisting the Nazi regime). Sholti also tells us about Yanina Altman who wrote the book, about his meetings with Yanina herself and their joint attempt to consolidate a way in which to ‘train’ people to be the just of this world… Naturally, we also spoke about Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada.
All this leads us to ‘open’ the circle.
Rami says there are ‘sounds and scents of war’. A complex situation.
Roni brings us up to date about our friends in Gaza. Things that were supposed to take place are being delayed. Especially because of the spreading pandemic and lockdown. There are those who want us to raise our voices, but others who wish us to continue in a less visible manner. She speaks about the boy for whom a piano was transferred, and his father forbade him to play, the boy made a film in favor of contact with Israelis, and participated with us in one of the Zoom meetings. Roni complains about the ‘reaction’ cycle on both sides.
Ghadir lists her identities and summarizes them saying ‘I’m from wherever you want me to be, from the whole world’… She too has spoken with a friend in Gaza who is very concerned about Covid-19. She was moved by a video (which she has sent abroad) in which a physician in Gaza sings to a Covid-19 patient while treating him. She asks how the Israelis can be humane towards Lebanon and still ignore Gaza… People should be told very loudly that “something terrible is happening here!” Ghadir also stands with Ethiopian mothers who demonstrate opposite police stations, protesting the treatment of Ethiopians.
Jaber says that in spite of Corona being everyone’s enemy, wars between people continue, we have forgotten humanity in the name of hatred. It is important to be human in all senses of the word, this will melt animosity. He is somewhat frustrated but is not losing hope. Times are hard since the death of his sister.
Shuloti has been trying to affect reality for years now, and if it is hard at least he finds consolation saying that ‘reality has not managed to change me’… Sometimes he thinks he should go elsewhere, but understands that this would perhaps alleviate his problems but not others’. There is a voice inside him that calls him to persist, and he knows he is paying a price. Three months ago they held an event for Gaza on Zoom – at the port of Akko, the port of Jaffa and various artists. Fishermen took part, riding their boats with banners supporting Gaza, speeches were held and artists read out and played their works. Sholti does not delude himself about the effect of such an event, but people who took part did do something there for themselves. He calls upon people to continue to act in the spirit of such protest. He spoke about a fellow named Rotem Levine and a group that makes films about shared civil existence, in Hebrew and Arabic, and distributes them. He also tells us about a group of educators that is active. A group of lawyers was supposed to hold a workshop in Akabah (Jordan) but didn’t do it because of the Corona lockdown there. Sholti invited Rami to workshops that he and his partner hold in Akabah, following his acquaintance with Rami in the circle.
Shmulik emphasizes the persistence of the circle that has reached the other side, and is appreciated there. Our ongoing presence here affects us and the situation in general.
Hayuta was moved to know we held an activity with Etty Hillesum’s cards. She was moved by Ghadir bringing the idea and the cards, and by Hillesum whose book she had read. She reads us several lines from the book. She thinks the book is a must read for all humans.
Ghadir takes out a Hillesum card every day and takes its message into her daily life. She reads out today’s card… Rami asks her to do it in Arabic as well and she does.
Zohar has just come from Bethlehem. For the past eight years she has been very active in the Free Gaza flotillas, and quotes a phrase she heard wherein hope and despair are not opposites. “The opposite of hope and despair is activity”. She has come to the circle for the first time, fresh off the boat to Gaza from which she has been taken off. She has been living in Spain for the past 15 years and trying to reach Gaza. One must do something meaningful as Israelis, and for that force needs to be exercised from the outside. The experience from the circle is that ‘it is good but not enough’… One just cannot continue life as usual. The flotillas are stuck now because of the Corona pandemic.
Mark feels that he has been a stranger here at this time. The activity of Rebellion Extinction has been attracting him more and more and it is depressing too… The organizer of that movement (in jail right now) says that one must reach total desperation in order for some action to begin. The rebellion has been running forward and forgetting specific goals. 23 tycoons hold on to half of the world’s capital, and 10% of the world’s richest people hold on to 95% of that capital. It is depressing and Mark does not see any candle flickering in the wind.
Salah connected to the circle and enjoys listening to the others.
Zohar’s friend from Bethlehem has sent word, and Ghadir reads the Arabic and translates for us. I asked her to translate and distribute… Towards the end I remind people that Sukkoth is around the corner, and we should repeat some concentrated hospitality as we had last year. Opinions, ideas, some emotions, and our time is up.
Energy flowed in the circle thanks to Hayuta, Zohar, Mark, Rami, Roni, Ghadir, Jaber, Sholti, Shmulik, Oded, Salah.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 127, August 21, 2020

Occasionally at Migdalor encounters, someone speaks of information they absorbed in our “circle”, or that came by recommendation of one of the circle participants. Thus, Jaber speaks of what he learned during his participation – of refugee-dom, human suffering, Gaza as a the world’s largest open-air prison. He thinks it is the fault of us all, but the situation in Gaza just cannot persist. He tries to come every week, it’s calming…
Shmulik, affected by Meron Benbenisti’s book “Dream of the White Sabra” – that we were exposed to it in Migdalor meetings thanks to Nomika – wonders if we are proceeding in the wrong direction… Shmulik relates to the chapter in which Benbenisti writes of political conflicts, and as one who has been dealing with the subject, presents a local solution. His conclusion is one land with a model of shared life. This has economic, demographic and many other good reasons that would benefits both sides. Shmulik (and I) find this a must read! Shmulik believes that like every other conflict, ours too will find its solution. As proof of his belief, he comes to the Migdalor every single week…
Roni and Gaza, neighbors and friends, a flower sent to her cellular phone every Friday, daily correspondence, and … “rounds” of violence that come repeatedly, sowing more suffering, wane and wax. Roni, in her endless sensitivity, understands what the Gazans undergo, and experiences the fires (caused by incendiary balloons hurled from the Gaza Strip) first hand. Her son, helping to put out fires, arrives angry… Roni explains, trying to make him understand. She studies Arabic with Haneen and speaks with her about the pain. Haneen resents the comparison of a burning field and a killed child. And Roni doesn’t want to compare, she wants to contain…
Ghadeer, who had been in a Gaza summer camp as a schoolchild, aches what is happening. She feels for her friends from the area who experience the “rounds”. She aches the injury suffered by nature, the fires, the people, the harm to the world. She thinks of those anxious at the alarms, and of those who have no alarm systems. She thinks about the children on both sides who only see the enemy. She comes to the circle to feel that she herself is not changing. Corona shows us we’re “all in the same boat”.
Menachem is an activist with “Women Making Peace” (“we are three men and 45,000 women”). Unlike Ghadeer, for him Gaza is less of a “personal” issue. The confrontation between the two entities is not going anywhere. Because of the politicians. No mother brings a child into the world thinking it would be killed in war. There is no winner in a war. Only dead and wounded. He cannot stay inside himself and say I’m outside the circle… The circle of killing must stop. Especially of children, in any way possible.
Hagit is touched by Jaber’s words. For her Gaza is the market she reached after the 1967 war, where she bought soap the scent of which follows her to this day. Smadar, her friend, turned to her and said it’s impossible for them not to do anything and just sit far away. They want to collect stories and publish them. Like the ones heard at Migdalor. Hagit wishes to hear the personal experience of each participant and make them into stories.
Tze’ela lives in the area. She was born here but moved to the center of the country as a child. Now she’s back. Gaza is a feeling of pain, a language of pain. She senses the pain that invades her and tries to get out of it, unsuccessfully. Still, she feels she must live around here. Experience the pain. She sees Gaza opposite her, and cannot ignore it. The experience is painful but unavoidable in its different shades.
Dor grew up in Los Angeles. Her father is from Zikim, her mother from Netiv Ha-Asara. She has been studying at the Arava Institute since February. She wishes to stay much longer. She has many childhood friends here (from her Israeli vacations) of Netiv Ha-Asara. She met them. It was difficult. One of them said she didn’t want to develop feelings of empathy with Gaza. Ignoring it is intentional and demonstrative. Closing one’s eyes in face of reality. A friend who had been a sniper inside Gaza. He saw an 8-year old child go up to the rood, reported him, and was told to decide on his own what to do… These are friends her own age. She cannot stop coming…
Noa is at Arava Institute too, with Dor. She met Ghadeer at a circle of Women Making Peace. She grew up in Tel Aviv, with a leftist family and a mother from Haifa with Arab friends. The Left, she thinks, has become center, and the center – right-wing. Talking with friends about Gaza, she criticized people who are not exposed to reality. The usual claims were made that we are being murdered and that the occupied territories are our own. She publicized a letter from an Arab friend who spoke of the will to live in peace, and a friend told her that when she reached the word “occupation” – she stopped reading the letter…
Hanan arrived at the Migdalor because of the kites… He builds kites. Comes more or less regularly. This week a picture was posted on the net of a mother and her children with phosphorous burns. Hanan knows a website where relevancy and truth of information on the net are checked out. Hanan checked the picture and thinks it’s from Afghanistan, but he also knows from a “B’Tselem report that the Israeli army did use phosphorous ammunition in Gaza. While looking for information on the picture he found out that the Israeli army has perpetrated many horrors in Gaza, but doesn’t think the specific picture is from there. Yesterday he saw alarms on Twitter and thought about his friends here. When home in Beit Shemesh, he says, we’re his friends from Gaza…
For Malki this is her weekly moment of sanity. She doesn’t come to demonstrations, so this is the little she can do. She is pessimistic… A picture of the recent week shows colorful balloons with explosives, near a living, fresh bush. Dissonance. At the website called “Friends Across the Fence” she read of someone from Gaza studying in Cairo who got to Beirut and discovered a poem by Dylan Thomas there – “Do not go gently into that good night…”. Malki’s mom loved Dylan Thomas and Malki knows the poem well. The discovery that she shares its experience with an anonymous fellow from Gaza excited her.
Maharan visited Gaza often in his younger years. The falafel, the scents, the beach, the memories, everything feels familiar. He entered Gaza four years ago, and everything he recalled from his childhood was gone. Except the military government building… In the Saja’iya there was a eucalyptus tree still standing where he’d remembered it. People complain of the difficult situation and miss Israel… Everyone he met speaks of this. There must be solution! The State of Israel must understand that Gaza is an independent entity. Peace must be made with the Hamas. The contact between Gaza and the West Bank is broken, and each is a separate entity. Historically Gaza was “difficult” for anyone trying to conquer it. Gaza is important as a hub of commerce, important for the economy, for development.
When Ghadeer meets young pre-draft-age Israelis, she tells them to remember they have mothers waiting at home, but their rivals on the other side also have mothers waiting at home. This morning she met a neighbor of Ethiopian origin. They spoke of yesterday’s protest demonstration (the Negev region demands employment, health services, schooling!) and had an interesting conversation. He got excited and wants to come to activities with Ghadeer. She says one must be active all the time even if it feels pointless. At the end of the day it is effective, and one cannot know at which point things will happen. Someone from the “The Movement for Quality Government in Israel” told her that the older generation of Israelis let things deteriorate the way they did, and she had a hard time listening to this.
In the circle, Hagit responds and says she thinks it’s harsh but true.
Ghadeer resents this.
Ghadeer brought Hillsum cards – a project by Dina Awad (West Bank) and Emma Shamba (Tamera community in Portugal). Before the activity she reads aloud a poem by Samih Al Qassem. She facilitates the Hillsum cards activity. The cards quote things that Hillsum wrote, among other things, when held at the concentration camp, prior to her murder in 1943. Each of the participants pulls out a card and relates to the quote. It was interesting, fascinating!
Jaber, Shmulik, Hagit, Roni, Malki, Maharan, Ghadeer, Menachem, Hanan, Tze’ela, Dor, Noa, Oded
Wrote: Oded