Encounter 165 – May 14, 2021

In ‘regular’ times between denial and forgetting, we sit in Migdalor’s circle, meet ourselves and travelers happening to pass by, speak about ‘Gaza consciousness’, try to extricate from our circle mates’ consciousness memory, emotion and discovery of this space. We listen to people who, all of a sudden, without previous planning, while being served with coffee, have to relate to Gaza and say what it means for them – sometimes this is surprising, at times obvious and expected, and always making up a human puzzle that constitutes the larger picture of our living space.
Today, for the time in a long time, we could not physically reach the sulfur plant. The Israeli army spread barriers on access toads and prevented our entering the Migdalor site (we tried).
But consciousness cannot be blocked. For a short while, the awareness of Gaza’s space blows up for the whole world to see and hear, a big bang. For a short while only. Then Gaza will be forgotten again in a dark corner of one’s mind.
In this short interim, denial and forgetting blow up in our face in blood and fire, destruction and bereavement, rage and revenge. Humans who received a definite and timed lifetime, lose their lives. The criminals pad themselves in rights that were supposedly given to them by god and history.
On ‘regular’ days I add the list of participants in the circle. Today I wish to name the victims of this round of the Gaza wars. A very partial list, out of the Israeli press:
Ido, Omar, Amira, Abed, Bara, Nabil, Osmat, Raed, Zakariya, Moussa, Bashir, Mustafa, Saber, Mohammad, Moammad, Ibrahim, Yousef/Yosef, Rahaf, Yazin, Hussein, Ahamad, Salim, Sahumiya, Leah, Khaleel, Nadine, Nella.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 164 – May 7, 2021

It’s already 3 p.m. I try to think how to summarize a circle where only the regulars were sitting. Perhaps I’ll write that about 100 meters from us there was still a piece of wood lightly smoking (Shmulike put it out with a single liter of water…), perhaps about my collecting chairs as I looked for those taken and not returned (it already turned 3:20 p.m.). Perhaps…
A group of travelers disembarks and enters the sulfur plant (we are already seated in our summer residence, outside). Nahshi yells at them to “come have some coffee” and gesticulates his invitation. They stare at us and glide inside. As they exit, they approach hesitantly, but our determined invitation won out. They sit with us. Rami arrives too. Nice! We have a circle!
I open it by telling them about us, the “migdalor” (lighthouse in Heb.), about ‘Gaza consciousness’ and the reasons for which I have been here every Friday for over 3 years.
Nahshi who kept his word and served them coffee, tells about his pals in Gaza, how for a long time he suppressed it, and then came sobering. How things came together and ‘woke him up’ to action, and how he tries to ‘fix’ things through the Migdalor meetings and though them also meets and hears interesting people.
Maharan says that until he was 14 years old he was in Gaza every week. His uncle worked in with the governate there. He was there again 5 years ago, saw a lot of destruction because of the Israeli bombings. The governor’s building still stands… Here’s no steady supply of electricity. He saw how generators and other means were used instead. Yesterday he was in Hebron with the family. In the evening when everyone goes out after the iftar (the dinner that breaks the fast) Hebron looks vibrant and sated. The Gaza matter must be solved before it blows up in our face. He says that the coming government in Israel will be even worse than the present one!
Malki says that as soon as she came to the circle for the first time, she was captivated in this island of sanity. People come out different from how they entered. There are phone talks with Gazans, and it gives them strength.
Uzi is short in words, there are still many speakers and it’s already 4 o’clock. “Gaza is deep sorrow and a horrific miss”. Both sides are responsible but we are the stronger side and must be the first fixers.
Rami speaks about his family and its history which is the story of this space. Gaza is home for him. He was born and grew up in this area and the space is the story of his life. In recent years he has been discovering the narrative that is different from what he was told and told himself. So he listens to other voices. Gaza is love. Loving the voices, the winds, its glorious history. It’s a space of junctions. When he meets people and tells the story again and again it reinforces his feeling that we are stuck in a failure that can and should be fixed. Change consciousness. His Gaza and The Gazans’ Gaza is a shared space. It’ll be over, he says, sprout anew as after the fires.
Shoshi is from the north. For her Gaza is what she hears in the media. She feels empathy for the Israelis living near the fence. As a mother she does not want her son to serve in the army opposite Gaza. She wishes to empower us. For her in the north it’s like living opposite Suria and Lebanon. Perhaps a new government holds hope.
For Yifat this is a trip to get to know the area, the people who experience the bomb alerts. Gaza scares her. A place that produces evil. She wishes to believe that there are such circles on the other side, but does not believe it. She has demonstrated a lot this year, against Netanyahu and his government. The great question mark arises, whether anything could happen here…
Dina has been affected by all the confrontations ever since she immigrated to Israel. She cannot understand the hostility. She tries to understand why people wish to hurt each other and do wrong. She thinks of us, not of them. She saw what happened to her daughter in the 2nd Lebanon War. After this visit with us, she will try to help benevolence proliferate.
Tzlila remembers Gaza from her 10th grade, when she came to pick tomatoes at Kibbutz Holit (then one of the settler-colonies in the Gaza Strip). During the First Intifada her life partner was in Gaza and she was worried. She went to visit there with her kids because he was serving as an officer at HQ. Lately her son served in the southern Israeli division. She has love-hate relations with Gaza but ‘their’ extremism has the upper hand.
Ofer says we surprised them in a big way… “we didn’t plan to have coffee in the middle of our trip, and suddenly out of nowhere comes the invitation to sit and sip coffee with us…” It’s been their second traveling day around here. It would be nice if the other side could show openness like ours… This could be an economic and touristic paradise. There is no hope. The real obstacles live in the minds. He feels we have an extraordinary circle here…
Nitzan served years in the Israeli defense system. Hope is important. Gaza tells a complex story. There is a very challenging religious and national friction. Sinwar of the Hamas was discussed. He thinks deals could be closed with him. Gaza is a security and propaganda challenge. A mechanism could be created that would lift Gaza our of the deep hole it is in now. We cannot help much, this depends mainly on their conduct. Good will and passing goods through is simply not enough. Leadership is needed on both sides. Someone should take it upon themselves. It’s a longevity project, for it will take much time…
For Akiva Gaza is a source of sorrow. He remembers it from his army-reserves duty although he tries to escape his memories. He hopes that circles such as ours would help improve people’s consciousness of Gaza.
Raviv says he is pragmatic in his worldview. Our side does a lot, no other country would. He waits for the day when their side would grow a leadership that would industrialize them, initiate economy projects, where the infrastructure should be democracy and industry. That’s how it works in this world. If they don’t undergo this industrialization process, their situation will not chance. He is ready to send them consulting help. If they don’t become such factors, nothing will change and everything will continue till the end of time. He speaks of the Angola model in which he was involved, and learned that industrialization and international entrepreneurship raised the country.
Shmulik is optimistic, because history shows that conflicts find resolutions and things that seemed irresolvable did resolve. There is indirect communication with other side. The fence lies between two suffering sides. He knows Gazans who worked with him and remained friends.
Jaber tells of himself and about the unrecognized community in which he lives. His life is ‘garbage’ but he comes to our circle because he has connected to the people and to compassion. He feels that the Gazans are living in a worse situation than his. The State of Israel has targeted their most important infrastructures and the Israeli authorities don’t want us to know this. The rulers of both sides do not care about the citizens. The people on each side don’t know about the others. He feels that in the ‘Migdalor’ everyone is considered. We need to be with him, with the same interests.
Nitzan claims from personal knowledge, of talks in which he took part, that the Gazans did not want to build power stations, did not want to bear responsibility. They do not want it, and that is the reason for the chaos that reigns.
Rami tells him that his absolute talk is difficult to hear. He speaks of a single chapter out of a continuum. We try to be less knowledgeable and less ‘right’. Complexity arrives to places that we don’t know and need to check and learn the whole time. A border drawn in 1949 is a new line in history. We need to re-examine the perspective on which we grew up. Things should be looked at differently, and less righteously.
We could have spoken on for hours, but evening was near and 4 p.m. was long gone. Naturally we invite all our myriad readers and ‘rememberers’ to come early, between
1 and 4 p.m. every Friday.
Participants: Shmulik, Nahshi, Oded, Maharan, Rami, Jaber, Malki, Uzi, Shoshi, Yifat, Dina, Tzlila, Ofer, Nitzan, Akiva and Raviv.
Wrote: Oded. Translation from Hebrew: Tal Haran.

Encounter 163 – April 30, 2021

Last weekend and early this week we had another ‘round’ of fire. And the Meron Mt. disaster occurred that last night. These two events were discussed during our first hour at the Migdalor circle by its present veterans (Shmulik, Nahshi, Rami, Hayuta, Bella, Malki and Oded). We spoke about ‘responsibility’, ‘authority’, ‘procedures’, ‘the acquitted and the guilty’ etc., as is wont by people who are right…
A bit past 14:00 we had a turnover. First came Hanan, then Noga and Shaul, and then Ayelet, Haran and Uzi. We ‘hunted’ 5 travelers who stopped at our Migdalor on their way to a wedding.
Here Rami put on his facilitator expression and we began a real ‘circle’.
This week, for Rami Gaza means ‘questions’. His mother says he must be part of the planning for rounds of rockets, because every time these are launched, he happens not to be present at Beeri. Rami asks who loves him that much in Gaza and takes care to launch those rockets when he is gone… The quiet is slippery, he says, and surprising.
Shaul says that these past few years he feels he can himself an Israeli Arab. He is part of the classical Israeli track, but something lately feels as if he embodies this combination and it is unique for him. Shaul suggests we begin with hudna, a kind of temporary armistice, at least for some time. Gaza is an opportunity that has been passed over. “Peace” is a bit much, let’s begin with hudna.
Noga tells us about a project she shares with Liora and their friends in Gaza. Noga likes to be here, at the Migdalor, it inspires her. Even if it doesn’t suggest immediate solutions.
Rami says that the place attracts artists who wish to express themselves. There is something optimistic about a film. He sat with the young group at Sderot and watched a first projection of a film. Much excitement in the air.
Noga adds information about the project Liora and Adir are engaged in with Gazan artists. There are lost of stories around this work, some of which are still confidential.
Bella is confused this week. She was in Elat when the area was on fire. She says opportunities are passed over when there is quiet. Yesterday she watched the broadcast of Women Making Peace at Nahal Oz and was thrilled. They were speaking about the inhabitants’ suffering. We have developed a siren complex. On TV’s trivia show, someone asked since when has the Gaza Strip existed… No one wanted to “take” it (really, not on TV…) Bella wonders whether the Women Making Peace organization could affect anything? Is there a parallel group in Gaza? How shall we make peace?
Ayelet spoke. Her encounter with Gaza was in 1978-9 when she was an instructor at the Yamit (settler-colony) field school. She and a friend would drive to the Ali Montar hill and wait for a group to come. They were very calm with this. She remembers the potters’ quarter underground, a mosaic floor, other sites. She says that in her opinion it is possible to renew such relations between us and the Gazans. She recalls trips by Kibbutz Beeri to Gaza that Viviane organized. There were wonderful relations, and in Beeri people even considered helping to support a refugee camp. When she was in the army she never knew that one day she would live in Beeri… Suddenly she noticed that she has become accustomed to life here in the shadow of ongoing tension. But this process is not right. Memories of her time in the field school, her confidence in relations with Gazans, these are the things that should be leading us.
Malki come to ‘an island of sanity’ – that’s how she sees the Migdalor circle. She connects to things said before her turn came. A while ago she listened to the speech new Knesset Member Ibtisam Mra’ana gave at the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) and was very moved. Mra’ana told a children’s story, about girls laughing at the beauty of the world, and the king who thinks they are laughing at him and prohibits laughter in the entire kingdom. Everyone obeys except the girls…
Gaza for Hana is us… He was worried about us during the latest “round”. Following the Meron disaster, someone wrote about the Arabs in the area who mobilized to help, how Tel Aviv residents were donating blood, and how a grocer was giving out food free of charge to the families of the victims. Hana says it’s odd that someone posted this as news, as though this humane reaction was extraordinary…
Shmulik considers himself responsible for us being able to gather here every Friday! Knowing the Gazans has made him feel uneasy about everything going on there, and he comes to our circle to ‘launder’ his conscience. Our encounter helps him understand the people with whom he lives. It’s significant because people believe a settlement can be reached. Our greatest friend in Europe is Germany. If that is possible, then it’s possible with Palestinians as well.
Hayuta is not too curious to find out where the conflict is rooted. She comes for the human experience. Even in the latest “round” she did not regard Gazans as enemies. She knows their struggle is true and just.
Nahshi agrees with most of the things already said. He has friends and they and he wish to meet and have a good time as in the old days.
Maharan has met racism everywhere. In Europe as well as in Israel. He cannot understand the tagging of someone as Arab or Jew. When there is distress, it’s not race that is discussed but the distress, survival. A week ago in the circle, he spoke about another ‘round’ soon, and this happened that very night. Maharan says his uncle was a senior officer of the military government and as children they spent much time in Gaza.
People arrive, Rami speaks about us, about the kite that decorates the circle and Hanan who built it inspired by the kites that came from the Gaza Strip, and the illustration of a Gazan girl that showed on “Star of Hope”. We hold a quick acquaintance circle.
Uzi defines himself as a “farmer, son of a farmer”. However, at some point in his life, he was involved in Middle East studies and toured Egypt and Jordan, and in different circumstances spent time in Lebanon as well… At an encounter with Egyptian intellectuals, they asked him what the Palestinians are like. He answered that they resemble mainly ourselves, Israelis. He himself, as he says, is a “proud and sad Zionist”. Maharan gives another historical talk about the Saudis, the British and Palestine, before we listen to the group that arrived (after they listened to us).
Fanny says they came to the area because of a wedding. They came from afar, took a zimmer and decided to travel a bit. We are so close to Gaza, she says, if they could only be released of the vice that holds them, we could make a paradise out of this place. Only their leaders and ours must understand this. Fanny was in Egypt right after the signing of the peace treaty, “we were as in a dream”, she says. Finally, it was possible, and she hopes this would happen with Gaza too.
Ofira, her daughter, is the one getting married. She organized her wedding here and that’s why they came. Minutes before they met us, Ofira said she feels like having coffee, and a few minutes later the miracle took place and they arrived. Leaders want wars, she says, because they serve their interests. People wish to live a normal life. Her brother served in the army in Gaza and told horror stories about what Arik Sharon did. She too served in Gaza and has good memories. She is moved by our circle. There are people who actually do “peace”. Ofira knows Fanny and her opinions, and knows how difficult it is for her to speak the way she did, but at the end of the day she loves people.
Leah also came for the wedding. It’s sad, this ongoing tension with Gaza. There was even a part of the group that deliberated whether to come to the area.
Yaron is retired from the Ministry of Defense. He worked for years in the Israeli arms industry and contributed to the security of Israelis in this area. He recalls his youth, working picking fruit at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, when there was peace and quiet. Then he recalls, the ‘hotspot’ was near Syria, and it’s all reversed. He and Ofira belong to a group of hikers who do not reach our area because of the security situation. They live in the north and hear about it in the media. Their hike today, here opposite Gaza, shows a possible normalcy even when the media says otherwise. A part of their pleasure in hiking is running into ‘surprises’. But such a ‘surprise’ as ours they haven’t met yet. “Go on”, he concludes.
When the son of Zohar and Fanny studied at the Sapeer College (in the south), they as northern residents found this frightening. But their son, who lives in Sderot, was not moved. He thinks that hatred is created as a process over time and brings people money… The question is whether there is a way to cut it off before it seeps down to people. Otherwise, it will last forever. There were good times. What was wrong with that?
Rami concludes the encounter today with a story about his family, his parents and grandparents on both sides, whose way of life in this area symbolizes the relations between humans who lived here.
Participants this time: Nahshi, Maharan, Hayuta, Shmulik, Hana, Malki, Bella, Oded, Noga, Shaul, Rami, Ayelet, Uzi, Fanny, Ofira, Leah, Yaron, Zohar.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 162 – April 23, 2021

The “Circle” awaiting its guests work to life as four soldiers, equipped and armed, accepted the invitation and came for coffee and listening.
We were already seated – Roni, Maharan, Hagar, Jaber, Oded and Shmulike who was making a pot of coffee.
I opened and explained about Migdalor, about us and myself…
After me, Hagar spoke, saying that when she came to our area it was good. Now, with things as they are vis-à-vis Gaza, it’s worse. Regarding Gaza feelings are mixed – ambivalence, anger, fear, pity.
Maharan speaks to the soldiers about the power divisions inside Gaza: the population suffers and no one can disconnect that from Israel’s responsibility. Economic troubles affect one’s thinking. In the Circle – says Maharan – we also relate to the complex economic contexts between them and us. Then Maharan says that in one of the military “operations”, a Qassam rocket laded next to his home and realized that targets have no ethno-nationality… We must arrive at some agreement, first with Gaza, even before the West Bank, because it will all blow up in our faces. We need to gather various elements in order for something good to happen.
Roni says that one is connected to the other. As long as their situation is not good, ours will not get better. She helps Gazans in every humane aspect, and this is how acquaintances are made that direct to her more and more people for help in things that for us seem simple and trivial but for them involve plenty of red tape on both sides of the fence. We try to encourage and give them hope, as well as to ourselves, she concludes.
Talk reaches the soldiers who have so far sat and listened, sipping coffee. They mince words…
For Ido, Gaza was always another country, distant and not in his awareness.
For Gil, too, Gaza is distant in every way.
As for Nehorai: He is from Atzmona originally, a settler-colony that used to be located inside the Gaza Strip and was dismantled in the “expulsion” (the term he used). He remembers lots of Qassam rockets in his childhood. His father was the colony’s security official. He recalls the expulsion. He does not deal with feelings about Gaza. Jaber asks him to try and remember one positive thing. Nehorai connects with his memory of the sea, to which they hitch-hiked as kids. Then he recalls that one day, before they left, their relations with the Arabs who worked for them turned around and they were no longer allowed to communicate with them.
Yaniv says that many mistakes were made in Gaza. He does not specify.
Shmulik believes that the two populations in this area could live together. If the Jews and the Germans could normalize their lives, we and the Palestinians can too.
I didn’t really hear Jaber because a phone call drew me away.
Just as I returned, the soldiers decided to leave.
After another round of coffee, Jaber wishes to share something with us. “I don’t know whether what I am about to tell you is relevant to what we normally speak about” he says, and adds: “I think it is, but let each decide for themselves. In 1979 my cousin Sliman fell in love with Nehama (Jewish woman’s name). Some months later, with money collected by his family, Sliman went to Germany to study medicine. After half a year, he notified his family that if Nehama does not come to be with him in Germany, he will stop studying there and return to Israel. Nehama did not come to Germany and Sliman returned and did not study medicine. He lived with Nehama in Beer Sheva. The families did not favor this union, but while Sliman’s family turned Nehama a “cold shoulder”, Nehama’s family responded with real violence, and more than once that couple, beaten and bleeding, came to the village for shelter, after Nehama’s brothers beat them up. Twice they tried to have a child and this ended up with miscarriages. The families kept wondering which nation the child would belong to… Jaber says he tried to convince Sliman to try and have a child in a different way (didn’t specify) and Sliman rejected the idea and said that ‘Nehama was even more important to him than children…’ About 15 years ago Nehama’s family finally agreed to “accept” Sliman as her husband. Now, says Jaber, I must got to the Migdalor from a funeral. We buried Nehama who passed away after a serious illness. “My world is shattered” Sliman said to him before they took leave at the end of the funeral.
Participants: Shmulik, Roni, Jaber, Oded, Hagar, Maharan, Ido, Gil Nehorai, Yaniv
Wrote:” Oded

Encounter 161 – April 16, 2021

It’s hot. The landscape in the nature reserve here is drying up which means – less travelers. They must have done their thing yesterday, on the official holiday… in fact, our ‘lighthouse’ circle today hosts only us ‘regulars’.
Rami must leave early and leaves us to think about his holiday experiences. He defines himself as suffering from PTSD and there, says he, used to simply not be in the country from before Passover until after the Memorial/Independence Days (Zionism’s ‘national’ month). This period is difficult for him. In the past two years, because of the pandemic, there is escape… To our Migdalor today he came because of missing it. He said “missing it’, and left to take care of his aching body and soul.
He leaves and others arrive: Malki, Bella, Dina, Maharan and Brian join Hayuta, Roni, Shmulik, Nahshi and Oded.
Most of our talk right now is about the Holocaust Memorial and the Israeli Memorial and Independence Days, and the insights they bear. We decide to do this in our usual circle mode.
For Malki, Independence Day has changed. She has issues with it now. She does not celebrate it wholeheartedly. On Memorial Day it’s different. Her identification with bereavement is clearer. On Independence Day she asks various questions: What does it mean, that the state belongs to us? Since when? And other such upsetting issues. True, what’s in the past remains in the past and were here, but there is this contradiction, even vis-à-vis Zionism. On Memorial Day eve she watched the ceremony held by the Forum of Palestinian and Israeli Bereaved Families. On the holiday itself she was glad to meet family, but nothing else.
Roni says there are things we used to feel more comfortable with in the past. She used to be proud to be a Jewish Israeli. Today this feeling is nearly gone. Memorial Day is different, but on Independence Day she feels uneasy with her friends’ views. She thinks that if we’re here, it’s our right to think of ourselves. She has a problem with those who absolutely and exclusively blame our side. ‘They’ don’t want to leave, and if so, it means that even from their point of view we are also right. We must cut things and begin to live here together. We’re all here. Let’s make life out of this.
For Dina, in the past Independence Day means only joy. Lately there are many question marks and things that make us doubt. She read an essay by Avishai Grossman, who says that the strong win, but in other wars – after the fighting is over, the winners help the vanquished recover. She was called upon to light a torch on her kibbutz. She felt honored but that the texts read there are debasing. She says that the term “exhausted” (which appeared on her speech and she omitted) is not suitable. Must we not be weak? She asks. What’s going on lately? Everything beginning anew? Everything called into question? What is happening to us? Frustration.
Bella has trouble with the fact that Memorial Day and Independence Day are sequel dates. Every year more and more of her acquaintances disappear. She has a hard time being gay. Suddenly “a Jew’s soul is aroused” (translated words from Israel’s national anthem) does not feel right. Lucy Aharish (TV celebrity of Palestinian Arab nationality married to a Jewish Israeli) said her son has an aroused Jewish soul but she cannot sing it. Bella is a Holocaust survivor. She had no home until she was 16. She asks, how can those who have no home feel at home anywhere? How come no reparations are being agreed on to those whose homes were taken away?
Hayuta worked in the school system most of her life. She educated Israelis with Zionist values. For her Independence Day is the most meaningful of holidays. She worked in Ofakim and invested much in ceremonies. She says that on the Holocaust Memorial she had a hard time making the children listen, but on the Israeli Memorial Day they were very attentive. Ceremonies are important to her. She was also responsible for ceremonies in Nir Oz.
Shmulik, responsible for the Memorial Day ceremonies in his kibbutz, reads out a poem he worte.
Nahshi also feels that the nationalist use of the memorials and holiday is exaggerated. He is glad and proud of the state he has. He feels that there are those who wish to exclude entire part of the public from the festive occasions. It should be everyone’s holiday. It is a date that for some is a kind of disaster, and for others – joy, and things should be found that are shared, in common. He works on himself to remain optimistic. Memorial Day is closer to him because of his personal ties with bereaved families or people he knew who died. There should be a way found to share this with the neighbors. It will come.
Marahan: this sequel of dates – between the Memorial and Independence – is bad. For Palestinians this is Nakba, catastrophe. They have a hard time accepting it, as well as the national anthem Hatikvah (Hebrew for hope). It’s like putting salt on their wounds. In a discussion he held with friends they concluded that first of all the anthem should be replaced. One needs an anthem that connects, not excludes. From there, from the connecting anthem, all inhabitants of this country could be united. He talks about his great-grandfather who in 1948 helped members of Kibbutz Shoval who were surrounded by the Egyptians. According to the moves of that war, the man wished to connect to the Jews. After the war Israel’s governments wished to expel the Bedouins, who were forced to collaborate and demonstrate their joy with Independence Day. It’s time for a constitution to be drawn, and have equality. Not populism that raises nationalists to positions of power.
Brian is thrilled with Israeli Memorial Day. He compares it to Memorial Day in the US which he finds measly… He is thrilled to hear the siren and see people stand and bow their heads. He think Independence Day is when all discrepancies should be put aside and people unite for that one day.
Raising this subject in the circle, I thought speakers would link Migdalor’s influence on their positions. Gaza consciousness in the context of independence or bereavement… I wish to believe that contestation and thought of most speakers, especially about the ostentatious celebrations of Independence Day were also the consequence of our talking circles in Migdalor.
Participants: Rami, Shmulik, Nahshi, Roni, Oded, Brian, Malki, Hayuta, Dina, Bella, Maharan.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 160, April 9, 2021

There were once 40 chairs: every time the chairs were replaced at the local elementary school, we’d get the old ones. First, we fastened them to the wall with a chain and lock. Once in a while anonymous people would cut the chain and take it. Then the lock. At some point we changed our approach – we stopped locking and wrote a sign in 3 languages: “You’re welcome to enjoy the chairs, remember to return them when done”. It worked well, but occasionally their number would dwindle and the school would supplement them. Lately a strange thing has begun to happen: what is taken away and not returned are the signs… We shall keep you updated.
So today we arrived and found a group of 7 nice young folks who were hiking from Nahbir (old Beeri). As they had coffee and we got organized, we sat in a circle and after introducing ourselves and our activity, they told us they were all from Ramat HaSharon, all employed in hi-tec (each of them also has a name, but as we got going they all escaped documentation…).
In the meantime, Mari and Roni joined us. The group heard our stories, asked questions, complimented us, supported us, and continued on their way.
Gali Mesha arrived, who used to join us and took stars, now returning them colored. She was glad to discover we persist, and listened carefully.
Idit from Sde Nitzan came to visit. Sometime in the past she was responsible for the encounters that bore the contact between Rami and Oded (and the rest is history). She too was glad to support our persistence and came to check on more possibilities for action.
Hanan arrived eventually (with the kite that returned from repair) and the three fighters from Gvulot: Bella, Malki and Dina.
Our friend from Gaza called, reminding us that exactly today was a year since our large zoom talk, following which our Gazan friends were arrested by the Hamas. We congratulate him within our communication restraints, and wish for improvements, and he continues his talk with Roni.
Rami arrives, as well as Maharan and Brian.
Niva from Beeri was also a veteran of our circle. She volunteers on “The Way to Recovery”, reminds and remembers our friends from Gaza.
Atar comes from En Shemer (northern kibbutz) – he wishes to shoot a film here about a trip beyond time in a ghost ship… For him Gaza is the land of unlimited opportunity…
Noa from Pardes Hana arrives with him – she is a camerawoman working with Atar and remembers the bags of sweets her bus-driver dad used to receive from his friends in the Gaza Strip.
What did we talk about?
• The importance of everyone’s little deed, the drops that we all contribute to the large stream that is sure to come…
• Beautiful initiatives that began here and are still running.
• Ideas and plans for more activity.
Participants: the 7 from Ramat HaSharon, Mari, Roni, Rami, Gali, Idit, Hanan, Bella, Malki, Dina, Rami, Maharan, Brian, Niva, Atar, Noa, Shmulik and Nahshai – 24 in all.
Wrote: Nahshi

Encounter 159 April 2, 2021

I skip the “we came, chairs, coffee, Rami and Shmulik” part…
Sitting with us are Eti, Adir, Gal Liat, Judy and Asaf (“with us” – meaning Rami, Roni, Oded, Shmulik, Jaber and Hana, the “usuals”…).
Rami tells us a story about a girl who in 1917 was evacuated from Gaza by the Turks and became a refugee. She was returned to Gaza by the British who conquered Gaza from the Turks. In 1948, she was already a mother and had to absorb hundreds of thousands of refugees who need to raise their tents in the British army bases that were now deserted. The Egyptians (unintentionally…) are the sovereign, and they promise the refugees that they would be returned to their Palestine homes and therefore, do not invest in civil development. In 1967 our girl is already a grandmother – and becomes a subject of Israeli occupation rule, after in 1956 she undergoes another round of violence courtesy of Israel, encouraged by Britain and France. If she were alive today, she would be imprisoned in the large open-air jail called “the Gaza Strip”.
Eti raises the usual mainstream Israeli arguments, that “they voted for Hamas”, “true, they are to be pitied but we are not the guilty party”, “we gave them everything back and they chose the path of violence” etc. etc.
Roni gently tries a different kind of knowledge – she tells her own personal story about spending time along with her family in Egypt on an agricultural mission, and meeting a Palestinian family whose daughter made friends with Roni’s daughter in school, consequently realizing how little she knows about the narrative of Palestinians who became refugees in 1948. She tells about collaborations that take place today and get no voice in the media, and about the thirst for normal ties and cooperation. She also talks about her own everyday involvement in helping and supporting people living in Gaza.
Asaf says that the question is to what extent we are involved in the goings-on in Gaza in order to change the regime there.
Rami says that looking for the guilty party right now does not help anyone. There are 2 million human beings living under extremely crowded conditions, with no hope on the horizon.

Eti tries once more with the mantra about “religious-fundamentalist Gaza”, Rami gently responds, saying it’s somewhat of a “myth”.
Roni says that in our circle we listen to other voices. Once someone came to the circle who opened by saying that Gaza should be destroyed. After he continued to sit and listen to others, he told Roni as he was leaving that she had left him with “food for thought”.
Adir who was born in the area says that at home talk had always been against Arabs, even though the latter worked for the family. But since he met his wife and they moved to her community, overlooking the Gaza Strip, his views have changed a bit.
Judy lives in the north. We live in a bubble, working and living, she says, and she knows about Gaza only what the media publicizes. It’s significant for her to be here today, and that’s what she will remember from this trip.
Asaf says that the question is one’s awareness of the other. In this sense, what people experience there is still a riddle. We know more about other places in the world than we do about Gaza which is really close but still a mystery for him.
Roni receives a phone call from Gaza. Skype. She shows the caller the empty seats in the circle saved especially for them. She makes the “rounds” with her cell phone and we all wave in greeting, even our guests! We have no loudspeaker and the call is short. We take leave of those who sat with us until now, and other guests arrive.
Adir (another one), Esti, Yael and Hanan. “Our” Maharan joins us too.
Adir is a local. He is curious meeting such a circle… The conflict has intensified in recent years, he says, but we here all need to find ways to live with Gaza in peace. From his parent he has heard stories about the past and hopes that the situation will change.
Esti says that we must find ways to share this place, there is no other choice. It could save us from the present situation. At the end of the day, everyone wants their own quiet corner.
Maharan says that the West Bank Palestinians call the Palestinian citizens of Israel “Cream Arabs”… There is a difference between those living in the West Bank and those in Israel. The ones thinking more “progressively” will assimilate with Israel, and Gaza will be more “Palestine”. When the economy blooms, war stays far. People are interested in their immediate existence, their “food on the table”. Everyone knows that Gaza is an explosive keg, if no regime change takes place there. He doesn’t see where a regime change comes first – in Israel or in Gaza. Only this can change the situation.
Jaber says that the Gazans are the area’s future partners. They will be good neighbors if the media sow less conflict. The moment this happens, it will be strong! One must look each other in the eye. It will benefit both sides economically when Gaza is a partner.
Hanan prefers to share his experiences from election day. As in every election, he helped transport Al Zarnouk (unrecognized Bedouin village) to the voting urns. He drove Jaber’s mother… There were interesting talks and they said they were voting for Ra’am (the Islamic party) because the Joint List does not take care of them. Some blamed Hanan for helping Ra’am, helping Bibi… He said that his preference is to help without minding anyone else’s business. Including about Gaza…
Yael and Hanan only listened and told a bit about themselves, but finishing time and the cold wind dispersed the circle without our hearing about their “Gaza consciousness”…
Participants this time: Judy Asaf, Eti, Adir, Gal, Liat, Rami, Roni, Shmulik, Oded, Hanan, Jaber, Haan, Yael, Maharan, Adir, Esti.
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 158 – March 26, 2021

Today we spoke about consciousness. It was fascinating. We agreed about certain things, not about others. Personally, I went home with many thoughts about who shapes our consciousness, and the link between knowledge and awareness. Are parents considered consciousness shapers? Teachers? Religious and political leaders are also influential. How then, and if not, how is awareness shaped? Does it change with time? What is the effect of knowledge, awareness, the lack thereof, or personal experience on the shaping of consciousness?
I spoke with Rami, our Gazan friend. He asked where his chair was, and indeed he had a chair saved for him, next to mine. I showed it to him on screen. Rami told us how important it was for him that we all go out and vote, also because of himself and because of other Gazans.
He asked that we demand of the elected government to choose another path, not everything is war. He asked that we help acquire the possibility for patients to get to treatment in Israel. Rami had watched the direct broadcast I had from Rahat (Bedouin community inside Israel) in which I encouraged people to go out and vote two hours before the elections. Among other things, I also spoke for the Palestinian residents of Gaza and the West Bank.
Today people came to our circle who had not been there for quite a while, and I felt this was in order to get charged with energy and a bit of hope after finding out the election results. Perhaps it was subconscious. At least it was in my own case.
The weather was amazing, visibility clear, so Gaza could be photographed very lucidly from the closest site possible.
Rami from Beeri tried to arrange his own throne-like seat but didn’t manage. Truth is he gave up too quickly and put the chair to the side along with the tool kit.
At some point it rained and we moved to a more sheltered spot.
A young woman joined us who had been grazing her family herd along with her sister. We invited them to have tea with us and she was glad to do so. She came to get it which was nice of her, told us where she was from and a bit about herself, and we introduced ourselves.
As usual, amazing Nahshi made the most delicious tea and coffee in addition to his own home-baked bread and tasty dips prepared by various friends.
Have a great weekend, and happy holiday to everyone celebrating the Jewish Passover.
Participants: Moshe,Jaber, Shmulik, Rami, Nahshi, Oded, Mari, Mark, Roni, Brian, Ghadeer.
Wrote: Ghadeer

Encounter 157 – March 19, 2021

This was one of those days when we sit among ourselves and no one else shows up, and then, towards the end, comes the big “story” and the usual finishing time goes by without notice…
“No one” isn’t quite right, since as soon as we got there – Shmulik, Nahshi, Hayuta and myself – four bicycle riders came by to our circle. Since they rented their bikes for a set time and had to ride them back to Beeri to return them on time, they preferred to hear us while having coffee, and when their turn came to talk about their own “Gaza consciousness” they already did this standing up and putting on their bike helmets. Each of them voiced a single short sentence more or less saying “I know that people in Gaza are suffering, and obviously want peace, we all do, but we can do nothing until they get rid of Hamas”… This is what Asaf, Ariel, Lior and Gal from the central part of the country said, traveling in the Beeri nature reserve. Thus they spoke and rode off to the horizon.
Then came Mari and Ilan, Uzi and Malki and… Nomi, spouse of Rami, the founder and ‘publisher’ of Migdalor.
Our talk moved between our coming elections and those of the Palestinians, each with the personal knowledge they received at home… At some point a family crossed our circle, some of whose children carried colorful plastic rifles. They did not accept our invitation saying they were filming, but after a half hour, on their way back, they passed by again. This time the parents chose to accept our invitation to coffee and the children continued playing outside the plant.
Immediately following came another couple and we opened the usual circle. I spoke in praise of our action since around us were posted pictures representing the organization “Stars of Hope” as well as an advertisement of “The Road to Recovery” – volunteers driving Palestinians to hospitals in Israel. I explained about those too. Interest was aroused and I was asked whether there is any communication with the patients on the way, and whether they realize that their drivers are volunteers. I explained.
About communication, I spoke of the language difficulties, and this connected to Michaela’s work as a midwife in Soroka Hospital, needing to communicate with Bedouin women giving birth without a common language. She went on to say that in Gaza live people in a desperate situation but she herself doesn’t think she can do anything to change this.
Her partner Tzvi said that Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip was a “crime against humanity”. Since then they have been suffering more and everything is solved by military force. They also chose Hamas to rule which definitely contributed to their suffering. He thinks we are a mere “comma in time”, and should see who will survive all of this in a hundred years’ time.
Rinat says that as sad as it is to say it, Gaza is transparent. She pities its inhabitants but is not especially empathic to their situation. “You are the heroes”, she tells us, “you who live close suffer”. Rinat is skeptical about solutions. Now that she is aware of the Migdalor’s activity, she emphasizes that it is important.
Uzi, born and living in Jerusalem, divides his words into three periods: the first is childhood. As a child he remembers going to a Bar Mitzva celebration in Yamit (former Israeli settler-colony in the Gaza Strip). They cross Gaza. As a Jerusalemite child Gaza reminds Uzi of the Old City of Jerusalem. Second period is his time as an officer in the Israeli army. Uzi speaks Arabic, and is “loaned” to a force taking care of “riots” as they were called, during the First Intifada. The army would arrest children and youth in demonstrations and wait for their parents to come get them. When the parents come their ID is taken and they are summoned to a talk/trial. Some children’s parents don’t come and Uzi’s job was to bring those children home. Sometimes Uzi and his pals had to take the child back with them because the boy’s father would beat up his son when he was brought home. For Uzi this is a memory that return to this day in his dreams. Now – third period, Uzi belongs to a group trying to promote the idea of building an island opposite the Gaza shores. He says there are economic and tourism possibilities for the project, and developers who would like to invest in it. It is Israel’s interest no less than the Palestinians’. It should be implemented in the coming years. He doesn’t see Israel returning to rule there. Hamas has not dismissed the idea. The State of Israel is able to make it happen. The Americans can invest.
Tzvi remarks that we should go back and rule Gaza, and Uzi says “Only as tourists”…
Shmulik hopes the fence would disappear and cooperation return. At eye level, one-on-one on much simpler issues. The potential in Gaza is huge, if only we could know how to use it.
Uzi (not the Jerusalem guy) says Gaza is “a deep sorrow and a huge miss”. He is ready to wait the century that Tzvi suggested. He thinks like Tzvi that the main guilt for their situation is theirs, but thinks that because we are the stronger side most of the solution lies with us.
Nahshi comes to remember that the present state of affairs is bad for everyone, and to hope that we shall get out of this stuck-ness with ideas like that of Jerusalem-Uzi. He wants to remember that things could be different. There’s great potential.
For Hayuta, her presence here is a sort of “demonstration”. The island idea gives her great hope.
Malki comes to become more hopeful, not to be depressed. Even though Migdalor doesn’t physically change things, something happens and continues. We should initiate more. On the other side people are living in a terrible state, and it is awful to think that we sit here and cannot do anything to help. There are people over there knowing about us and this cheers them up. We need shared interests.
Jerusalem Uzi asks us what happens when “security events” take place. How do we react as human beings. The answers number as many as the participants, and 4:30 p.m. is already here. We’ll continue next week, after the elections…
Participants: Shmulik, Nahshi, Hayuta, Oded, Asaf, Ariel, Lior, Gal, Naomi Haruvi, Mari, Ilan Uzi, Malki, Michaela, Tzvi, Rinat, Uzi
Wrote: Oded

Encounter 156 – March 12, 2021

We begin this summary on Thursday… Roni directed to us a group from the “Nachshon” pre-military preparatory year at Kibbutz Shoval. Nahshi, Shmulik and myself were glad to cooperate, and along with Mark who was already waiting for us at the sulfur plant, picked up the glove. A group of 34 participants and guides arrived, and we sat in one large circle.
Nahshi took care of the coffee, Shmulik of Communism, and I spoke and spoke.
Although I had spoken way too much, we managed to experience a proper circle with this group. After explaining to them the circle’s 2 lead principles: “What is Gaza, for me?” and “Each participant speaks in turn without being interrupted”.
Everyone had their say and voiced their opinions: most of them spoke little about Gaza, saying they don’t know very much.
In addition to their meager knowledge of the subject, I felt that Gaza is not really “interesting”. There were even those who spoke about those “[Israelis] who live near the Gaza border”, in other words about us, entirely disregarding the Gazans themselves.
It was difficult to find a different reference among all those who spoke. 34 persons – one mind. Zionist education works wonders… (“Who said you’re to judge?”, a voice inside my head wondered).
And now for Friday:
We knew beforehand that several activists from “Extinction Rebellion” were already waiting for us out there. This is a worldwide organization trying to prevent the climate crisis and its extinction of life on the planet. One of their activists is Mark.
Shmulik, Mark and I organized the chairs, the “rebels” joined us, as well as Maharan who brought his 4 children along.
After my introduction (have I already mentioned I speak too much?) Maharan told us that he visited Gaza a few years ago, and that it has declined greatly compared with his previous visit. He thinks Corona should be fought in Gaza and in the West Bank as well as in Israel. There is no peace, and therefore no expectations (hope) and hostility only grows. This he said, and left us to look for his kids who were more interested in the green pastures around us, so we didn’t even get introduced…
Michal doesn’t know much about Gaza. She has seen a documentary film on Gazan surfers.
Elinor said that human rights in Gaza are nil, people are really suffering. The children have no direction in life, there is no way for things to get better, no thought about the future. Anything bad about the world is far worse over there. No air conditioning in the summer, no heating in the winter. For us Gaza lies behind a curtain.
For Ofeq, Gaza is reminder of terrorism. He grew up in the area. He finds it important to hear other voices and “break” up the fears that he holds.
For Rinat, her first association with Gaza is a garbage bin. That’s where we throw our fear and loathing. This conversation has come at an interesting point in time for her – she is busy organizing an “alternative Independence Day” eve centered around talk of the Nakba (Palestinian catastrophe of 1948).
For Yuval, thought about Gaza leads directly to memories of military service. That’s the experience. He began as a combat soldier, but preferred working as a medic in order to serve on the sane, healing side. In one of their maneuvers he was required to answer whether he would save the life of a wounded terrorist, or confirm his death… His answer made his mates angry, and the mental process he underwent took him on to an early discharge from the army after 2 years of being inside.
Shmulik says that the water in Gaza’s wells is salty, and fresh water is brought in bottles. Sewage flows in the streets and into the se. In the circle he has met people he would not otherwise have run into. Gaza is a prison for 2.1 million people. He speaks about Roni and her activity to help the imprisoned Gazans as much as she can. Shmulik says it’s important for Gazans to know that people are working for them and remember that they exist. He is sorry that he can no longer meet Gazan friends with whom he had worked in the past.
Omer says there are several reasons for his decision not to live in Israel – Gaza and the conflict are a part. Even leftie liberals he meets regard Gaza with a condescending, disempowering gaze. Their lives are less important.
Mariel who grew up in France with Arab friends in leftie organizations, came to Israel in order to understand reality here, with her leftie ideas. She thought she would encounter demonstrations and protests, and is amazed that everything is so quiet… She loves Israel.
Hamutal says that Gaza is a place that concentrates all of our conflicts. The State was very important for her grandparents. Grandma had a map of the occupation’s “progress” from one confrontation to the other. When Hamutal was exposed to the map of the country’s partition (as drawn for the Partition Plan in 1947) she did not understand how one could live in such a small area. With the years she understood more about the conflict and the injustice of pushing out the Palestinians.
Ido has clear political opinions but has no room to contain all the suffering and sorrow around. It closes him emotionally to the situation in Gaza. Here he listens to others and this helps him feel a bit.,
Anatoli has not been in Gaza and never met Gazans. He knows things only through others. It’s nearby but with a different life. Suffering that is unknown to him. He would like the opportunity to meet and get to know them. If there is no communication, no ties can be formed. He would like to hear Gazans and experience them.
Mark tells us that his family distanced itself from Judaism and took a trip of returning to Judaism even when he was still in England. He was active in “Young Mapam” (leftist party) and when he decided to emigrate to Israel, he wished to get to Kerem Shalom (the kibbutz in its former version – leftist, revolutionary…). Mark came to Gvulot. With time he was swept in Israel to its mainstream. In recent years he has begun to seek answers to questions that bothered him all the time and were pushed aside by routine worries. Now, he says, Zionism has problems, especially the way we’re going. Mark is shocked that Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories has been ongoing for 53 years, and people know nothing about what happened and is not over. For them it is simply reality. What, he asks – are we not a part of it? Did we not cause it? Don’t we understand the reasons for explosive balloons and mortar shell attacks? Mark sees no awakening in Israel. He speaks of his skype talk with Haneen. In the past Haneen lived in the Gaza Strip with her husband and two daughters, obeying ancient traditions of woman’s “role” and her “place”. As soon as she had the chance, she left for the “Tamera” community in Portugal (a community that tries to create models for conflict resolution), leaving behind her daughters and husband. Her grandparents were expelled from a village near the Israeli moshav of Kochav Michael. Mark feels he shares the responsibility for the refugee-dom of her grandparents and her own. At present she is his Arabic teacher…
Ariel sees Gaza as one big disaster. He has difficulty relating for he has no influence on the matter.
Mark answers that we need to fix the situation because we caused it. If we admit our guilt, as was done in South Africa, dialogue will become possible.
Rami, who arrived in the meantime, says that as a nature and environment guide, a story teller and more, he has spoken so much about the area. In the 1990s he wrote an article about a track named “the perfume route” that begins in Saudi Arabia, ends in Gaza and passes by Beeri (his kibbutz)… He suggested creating our own reference to the part that passes through our own area. As a peace and reconciliation activist, Rami has toured the world but finally realized that the problem lies here at home, between Gaza and Beeri. He has no doubt that soon, still in his 85-year-old mom’s lifetime, the situation will change.
For Becky, Gaza is a news item, not present in her own life. On the news it is always present in the context of war. Nothing good is being told about Gaza…
The time is already 15:40 and a group of travelers, among them Nahshi and Limor, arrives. They had a social meeting and concluded it at the Migdalor. In the little time left until we leave, we listen to Rami recount Migdalor’s history to those who have just arrived and those sitting in the circle from the beginning. Rami emphasizes its importance for him, and the fact that these days we are marking 3 years of activity! “A place that sheds light [lighthouse] can be a destination…” he says.
That’s it – 4 o’clock. The Extinction Rebellion folks are getting organized to stay overnight. We’re not.
Participants: Maharan (and his 4 kids), Shmulik, Mark, Oded, Michal, Elinor, Ofeq, Rinat, Yuval, Omer, Mariel, Hamutal, Ido, Anatoli, Ariel, Rami, Becky, Nahshi, Limor, Peri, Dorit, Sal’it, Dror, Ilana, Hadas and Yuval.
Wrote: Oded