Excerpts from my journal during a recent 6 week journey to Gaza—now back home in the United States.
Today we say: ENOUGH! It is our turn to take our destiny into our own hands and to ACT to stop the cycle of bloodshed.
Other Voice is a grassroots group that has no political aspirations. We are citizens of the Sderot region and the Gaza region. We are interested in finding creative ways of hearing a new voice from the region and for promoting hope and non-violent actions for the benefit of the locals who live here in Sderot and in the Gaza Strip.
Other Voice includes diverse men and women from all political backgrounds, professions, and beliefs. We all agree that joint civil action is needed in order to create a new sustainable option for our lives in this region
שמונה שנות קאסמים ועשרות ביקורים מתוקשרים של פוליטיקאים מכל המפלגות, קציני צה”ל בכירים מהעבר ומההווה ומציאות של חיים בצל האימה, ללא מיגון, ללא תוכנית ללא כיוון המלווים בהבטחות שווא, עוררו בתושבים רבים באזור הזה ספקות ותחושה שפשוט אין להם פתרון.
עד עכשיו ביקשנו, זעקנו, הפגנו, על מנת שיעשה משהו להפסיק את המציאות הלא נורמאלית בה אנו מנסים בכל כוחנו לקיים את השגרה.
כל רעיון צבאי, קטן כגדול נוסה במהלך השנים האלו. ללא הועיל. אנחנו יורים. הם יורים. אנחנו מגיבים הם מגיבים וחוזר חלילה במעגל אינסופי.היום אנחנו אומרים די! תורנו לקחת את גורלנו בידינו ולפעול להפסקת מעגל האימים.
קול אחר הנה התארגנות אזרחית, לא פוליטית, של תושבים משדרות ועוטף עזה ושל תושבים מרצועת עזה המעוניינים לחשוב באופן יצירתי ולהשמיע קול חדש של תקווה תוך פעולה בלתי אלימה למען תושבי האזור כולו.
קול אחר כוללת אנשים מכל קשת הדעות. מגילאים, תחומי עיסוק, אמונות ורקעים שונים, כאשר הבסיס המשותף הוא ההבנה כי הפעולה האזרחית המשותפת נחוצה כעת על -מנת להוביל לשינוי אמיתי וארוך טווח.
אנו מזמינים את כל תושבי שדרות והאזור להצטרף אלינו ולהיות שותפים בהשמעת הקול האישי ושמיעת הקול האחר.
Sderot in Israel (built over a former Arab village) and the Gaza Strip in the Occupied Palestinian Territories lie less than one kilometer from each other. Yet they differ. Here’s one look at how they differ, December 2010.
January 1, 2011, Saturday, in an Air France Airbus, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean
Working on my computer as long as the battery power lasts—current estimate is 2 hours, 31 minutes, which is almost the time remaining before landing in Boston after a very long flight—5 + hours Tel Aviv to Paris, short layover there, and another 7 or so home. It’s been a long day.
Not only the flight time but the prelude: Eric Yellin so generously drove me from Sderot to Ben Gurion airport, a 60 minute ride at 6:30 pm yesterday [December 31, 2010], then the evening and night at the airport, working on my next blog (about the buffer zone), sleeping or sort of sleeping on an unpadded single bench (nothing like the Paris airport with its cushy chairs) from about 11 pm to 3:30 am, morning chores, eat something, one hour for security, board the plane at 8 in the morning.
Ben Gurion airport, Tel Aviv
Near Tel Aviv
At the airport in the morning, after passing security, I relaxed and wrote friends who’d written me—Sue MC offering me an airport pickup, Rick, Elaine, Y earlier with news about her impending trip to Japan, notes about gigs, and the like—but didn’t take the time to complete the buffer zone blog I’d begun during the evening. Too bad—a fast wireless connection and the joy of writing about Israel-Palestine from Israel. I discovered the airport wifi system had blocked Ken O’Keefe sites (reporting from Gaza), also the International Solidarity Movement and others of that nature (but nothing of mine, suggesting how little impact I’m having).
So much for the minutia of my travels, a matter of grave concern to me and of little concern to the wider world.
About Sderot: Nomika Zion was too busy for the interview I’d requested. She was caught in a whirlwind of last minute, last of the year work—proposals and reports due, she claimed, at midnight last night, Dec 31, 2010. She also planned to attend the party at Eric’s.
During the airport ride Eric asked me about my understanding of the situation and what might help. I began with the topic of providing security for all endangered people by building international institutions, including and most especially the international court system. We differ about BDS, Boycott, Divest, Sanction—he favors a selective approach, I the more general. Perhaps his mind is more nuanced than mine. I admire that, I think I tend to favor more extreme and conclusive views. Of course, being Israeli, living in Israel, he wishes for more understanding of the existential fear of annihilation many Israelis talk about. But he is also aware of how this fear is wrongly used to justify violence and oppression.
Sky over Sderot (from the ground)
We agree that one key to the solution is partnership, reconciliation, pairing, intimately knowing others from different sides and with divergent perspectives. By now I consider Eric and Nomika extraordinary friends of mine, unusual friends of mine, rare friends of mine. I think we respect each other deeply, I them for sure.
My interview of Eric on camera went very well. He is smart and articulate. I found a good site for the interview, his home with the street as background. I rested the camera on a food carton, moved it periodically. I asked him about Other Voice, the organization he cofounded to help people speak out with other views of what is happening in Israel and Palestine and about how he became who he is. Also the effects on local people of Operation Cast Lead, the devastating Israeli assault on Gaza from December 27, 2008 to January 21, 2009. He concurred with what I’d learned on my previous trip that the trauma in Sderot is widespread. On a long walk I made earlier into the town center, I’d photographed numerous protected rooms under construction in apartment buildings. Each floor gets one small room with thick walls and steel plate window shutters. Eric had told me about this, costing the Israeli government millions of shekels, perhaps much of that part of US aid to Israel, and anticipated my question about whether they were actually needed by telling me about the gas masks. When the government required these, people were skeptical, and then Iraq fired missiles in 1990. The construction of bomb/rocket shelters also, I believe, anticipated the later rocket attacks.
My walk was generated in part to see and photograph the safe rooms, in part to feel better the life of Sderotians, and in large part to find the ultimate falafel. Nomika had told me some of the best are found in Sderot. I’m not sure I ate what she meant, but what I ate—along with a much needed and appreciated beer (no beer for Skip in 6 weeks living in Gaza)—was excellent, muntaz.
On the airport ride he also told me about helping some Gazan families stuck at Erez as they entered with much luggage. The passport woman treated them poorly, yelling and demanding they limit what they brought in to 2 parcels. When Eric tried to intervene she called 2 men with big guns. Later he set up an interview with the commander and explained the situation. The commander apologized and agreed to try to humanize procedures.
Gaza to Sderot is night into day, day into night. Radically different, and yet both are aspects of the human. Few stare at me in Sderot, I’m not worried much about attacks from external or internal forces, I can drink the tap water, flush toilet paper, appreciate the greenery, ride the regularly scheduled public transport. But I can’t speak the language, can’t find a city map in English, can’t feel bonded with the people as I do in Gaza. Night and day, day into night.
JOURNAL ENTRIES TO BE CONTINUED
Israel’s Lonesome Doves by Tim McGirk / Sderot, Jan. 21, 2009
“Sderot conference hosts Gaza residents” by Hanan Greenberg
“War Diary from Sderot,” by Nomika Zion