Posts Tagged ‘eric yellin’


Qassam rocket, fired by militants from Gaza, on display in Gaza passport control office


American Friends Service Committee office in Gaza



Palestine-Gaza-Sderot-Netiv_Ha_asara-3508 From Netiv Ha’asara side of Gaza wall

Both communities are within 1 km of Gaza and often heavily attacked by rockets and mortars fired by Gazan militants. Nomika Zion lives in Sderot, Roni Keidar and her daughter, Inbal Yahav, live in Netiv Ha-asara even closer to Gaza.

…Not in my name and not for me did you go into this war. The bloodbath in Gaza is not in my name nor for my security. Houses destroyed, schools blown up, thousands of new refugees – they are not in my name or for my security. In Gaza, there is no time for funerals; the dead are put in refrigerators two by two in the mortuary for lack of room. The bodies of policemen and children are laid out and the eager journalists jump between the tactics of pro -Israel advocacy and “the pictures that speak for themselves”. Tell me, what is there to explain? What is there to explain?…

—Nomika Zion, “War Diary from Sderot”



Most recent photos

Older photos

Excerpts from my journal as I explore the situation in Palestine and Israel



Nomika Zion’s house

April 22, 2013, Monday, Sderot, Israel

I enjoy Nomika tremendously. She is of my heart and soul. There is a profound linkage, part of it verging on romance, a physical and attitudinal connection that motivates me to return to Sderot. I must confess I feel something of this for Eric Yellin (now temporarily in California with his family) as well and miss him. He is more sedate, composed, but equally committed. To reach Eric and Nomika I must endure the notorious Erez crossing point between Gaza and Israel. Relatively easy this time, partly because I know the routine better and partly maybe because Israel has smoothed out the procedure. I rode on a golf cart-like vehicle, rather than walked. I did not need to drag my heavy luggage. No more insistent men who would argue with me, demand I allow them to carry my luggage, charge me exorbitantly. I’m not sure who arranged this, Israel, Hamas, the two of them? Israel_Palestine-Gaza-American_Friends_Service_Committee-2141 Israel_Palestine-Gaza-American_Friends_Service_Committee-2130 Israel_Palestine-Gaza-American_Friends_Service_Committee-2128 Israel_Palestine-Gaza-American_Friends_Service_Committee-2105

From Gaza thru Erez to Israel

However transit required a long time to get thru, more than one hour. As we waited for the luggage inspection we were suddenly cleared from the area for a few minutes. I observed security people scurrying about and then all returned to normal: a bomb scare? Many were with me which may have slowed the process. We watched personnel search thru luggage. I’m not sure how thoroughly they checked my major bags. Not the usual mess after inspection. I seem to have lost nothing of value, in particular my photos and text files, nor do I believe they were opened and looked at. Oddly enough I did lose my olive oil of all items. I think I observed an agent looking thru a small bag and then throwing it into trash. May have been my oil. Why this? I have no idea. I did not question it because Roni Keidar was awaiting me.


During the long wait I noticed various verbal altercations between staff and those of us transiting. One young man in particular constantly argued with staff (he’d help me thru the turnstile with my luggage). All in Hebrew or Arabic so I had no idea of the content. Maybe about what he brought thru. A large man in army uniform than joined the conversation. I noticed how attentive and respectful he was to the young Palestinian. He cocked his head with an attentive expression on his face. He seemed to listen.


Israel side of Erez crossing

The usual questions to me from passport control—doing what with whom in Gaza, plans in Israel, how long, who, why, how did you meet, have a plane ticket? Minor hassle. I am experienced at this now and have many Israeli friends thruout the country. When I mentioned Sderot the agent seems to soften.

April 23, 2013, Tuesday, Bethlehem, Occupied Palestine 

At Nomika Zion’s another intense conversation, this time during lunch in the group building where I bumped into the guy who’d attended one of my shows in Berkeley California (in a home, sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace) which Eric from Sderot Israel also attended. Turns out he lives in the same urban kibbutz as does Eric, Migvan. Nomika, in her usual, super abundant, extremely spirited manner—which I so love about her but wonder how that energy might feel close up—was stunned about the connection. Later we discussed the Jewish and especially the Israeli Jewish propensity to interrupt, be loud, push, and feel the center of the universe individually and as a people. She might exemplify this, another reason I love her. She is so Jewish (also part Austrian I learned, something she agreed we shared).


Eric Yellin speaking with a friend of Skip Schiel’s in Gaza


Netiv Ha’asra

Unlike the previous 2 visits, on this one she has been generous with her time. Always serving me, making sure I’m content, and never pulling away from a conversation. Our best ever. I made the panorama of the wall near Netiv Ha’asara that I’d promised her and emailed it. She opened it immediately and exclaimed, where is this? I’ve never seen this! I described its location. She said, we take our delegations to a different part of the barrier, a fence, and seemed to suggest she might change the itinerary. My small contribution to news from Sderot. Nomika tours the West Bank every 4 months or so, last time to Nablus where she bought expensive olive oil. She asked me to remove her photo that I’d made in 2009 from my website, thanked me for removing it from my blog last year and gently chided me for forgetting or neglecting the second removal. I accomplished this in a flash and sent her the link. Too bad—such a handsome person. She explained, never photograph a woman in the morning.

Nomika introduced me to Roni Keidar and said of her, she is one of the “best and most active members of Other Voice.” Eric Yellin and Nomika cofounded Other Voice, residents of Israeli communities bordering Gaza who oppose many Israeli policies regarding the Palestinians. Nomika  published an article about life during Operation Cast Lead, the brutal air and ground assault on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009 which killed some 1,500 Gazans, some two-thirds of them children, and then another assault from the air in November 2012. It’s titled “War Diary from Sderot” (linked below).

I regret not writing more about Kirin, the young Israeli film student from the Galilee, now studying in Sderot. We met in  Netiv Ha’asara when I rode with her and her filmmaker colleague, Ose Oyamendanm, in Roni’s car. They are making a movie about Netiv Ha’asara, Sderot, and Gaza. Kirin is not representative of young Israelis. Much more aware of injustice to Palestinians, she lives near Palestinians so this might explain part of her story. Thanks to this filmmaking team I photographed Roni’s daughter, Inbal Yahav, as she told about the death of her good friend, Dana Galkowicz, in 2005, hit directly by a mortar fired from Gaza and killed instantly. Dana was 22 years old, soon to marry.


(Courtesy of Ose Oyamendanm)

I phoned for a taxi to meet me at 2 pm which gave me time to explore Nomika’s neighborhood. On an hour-long walk I met Sharon Ben Abu who with her husband makes sculptures (Haviv Art). I’d been photographing a metal drummer in a traffic circle, the drummer’s head  swarming with what might have been snakes. She called to me, hey, what are you doing, why are you photographing this? I ambled over to her, put on my gentle smile, and said, because I admire this sculpture, find it lovely, wish to show it to others. She suddenly warmed. Oh, she said, go right ahead, my husband and I made it.

Palestine-Gaza-Sderot-Netiv_Ha_asara-3575 Palestine-Gaza-Sderot-Netiv_Ha_asara-3573

This led to a long halting conversation (because her English was rough). I learned all the metal came from rockets and mortars that had fallen on Sderot. Thus the screaming swarming hair. When I revealed I knew Nomika and was staying with her, Sharon launched into a long criticism of something related to Nomika and the urban kibbutz Nomika lives in. Something about the people being privileged, living better than most Sderotians, and about the program that hires mentally disabled adults. She claimed they were cheated of their proper pay. She would not grant me permission to photograph her. Later when I told Nomika about the meeting I omitted the criticism.

Sharon asked if I am Jewish. I told her the Schiel-Sage-Zagy-mother story [that my sister wonders if we are Jewish because of how Jewish our mother acted and looked], which seemed to partially authenticate me. I said nothing about my mission. She didn’t inquire. On that same walk I photographed young kids playing outside their school, bomb shelters very conspicuous. I worked fast and only later, at another site, did a security woman stop me. No pictures! Nomika explained that a law prohibits photographing children’s faces without the permission of parents. When I asked Nomika why, she could not fully answer, something about pornography maybe. I felt I performed a possibly useful service by showing the ubiquitous bomb and rocket shelters in Sderot (also the walls in Netiv Ha’asara that protect residents from mortars and personal incursions).


ShelterSderot_4419 Palestine-Gaza-Sderot-Netiv_Ha_asara-3571 I could easily reside in Sderot longer—if Nomika would host me and if I could find a project. I do love it there, purely Mediterranean and very western. Too bad most Sderotians support their government fully, as far as I’m aware, and Nomika, Roni, and Eric are such exceptions. I mostly fit, nearly as well as I fit into Gaza. With one key exception: the level of suffering and fear is much greater in Gaza. When asked, why do you go to Gaza? I answer, I am impelled to go where there is suffering, try to show it, end it. And my peers would be aghast at my choice of residence and allegiance. I doubt many would contribute financially to my project in Sderot.

April 26, 2013, Friday, Bethlehem, Occupied Palestine 

I posted the Sderot-Netiv Ha’asara photos set after checking with Roni and her daughter about her daughter’s photos and my possible later writing. All 3 gave approval. I’ve yet to make a decent portrait of Nomika, or at least one she approves. This is an ongoing quest, one of many of mine.

Haviv Art Multidisciplinary Artist Studio lives in Sderot, near the border of Gaza City. His works combine musical elements, East and West, a musical bridge of peace between peoples and different cultures. He likes the dialogue through art, because art has the power to grow a new generation of peace and brotherhood. He says it is recommended for all people, despite the conflict in his area, because his art expresses the need, even in difficult times, of peace, sanity, color and imagination.

—Isabel del Rio, Yareah Magazine


Haviv Art on Facebook

Ose Oyamendanm’s “Bridges over Blood,” a movie in production about Israelis and Palestinians working for peace and justice

Nomika Zion at 2009 Survivor Corps – Niarchos Prize Ceremony (video)

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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

—Other Voice

לחצו כאן לקריאת מכתב מקול אחר לראש ממשלת ישראל הקורא לסיום המצור על עזה

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.

On the way to France

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.

Near Sderot

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.




Israel’s Lonesome Doves by Tim McGirk / Sderot, Jan. 21, 2009

Other Voice

Gaza and Sderot, Moving from Crisis to Sustainability

“Sderot conference hosts Gaza residents” by Hanan Greenberg

“War Diary from Sderot,” by Nomika Zion

Blog and photos from 2009

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Rocket shelter in a playground

December 31, 2010, Friday, Sderot Israel, Nomika Zion’s home-part one


…And right action is freedom
From past and future also.
For most of us, this is the aim
Never here to be realised;
Who are only undefeated
Because we have gone on trying…

—T. S. Elliot, “The Dry Salvages”

Once again in Sderot, with friends Eric Yellin and Nomika Zion, overnight, dinner with Eric and family, lots of conversation with Nomika and Eric, deep and satisfying.

Passage thru the Erez crossing into Israel was relatively easy, except for the mess inspectors made of my luggage. They spilled out everything that I’d carefully sorted and packed. I will now need to redo the packing today before heading to the airport with Eric later. Why complain? They confiscated nothing, so I’ve safely leaped the first of 2 security hurtles on my way home, Erez and then the airport, all photo and video files intact, at least as far as I know.

I went thru with a young woman from the UK working with Oxfam and a man who appeared Palestinian. Waiting to enter Gaza was what looked like a large extended Gazan family. Nomika said she’d heard that Israel allows more Palestinians to pass. Is this part of the easing of restrictions after the humanitarian aid ship convoy debacle of May 31, 2010? Palestinian security, aka Hamas, was not a problem either, altho I’ve heard that some Palestinians who’ve left Gaza to meet with Israelis are questioned by Palestinian security upon entrance. Collaboration is a major problem.

A quiet period in Sderot: Eric reports that altho there have been hundreds of rocket attacks on Israel since Operation Cast Lead [the brutal Israeli bombardment and invasion of the entire Gaza Strip for 22 days beginning on December 27, 2008, Gaza’s Day of Infamy], killing one worker from Thailand, and numerous violent and often lethal confrontations along the border, Sderot itself has suffered minimal attacks since Cast Lead. However, residents experience continuing anxiety about the resumption of those Qassam rocket attacks and by Israel on Gaza. While discussing this he received a robo call about exchanging gas masks. All are required to store masks in their homes. They are periodically collected, cleaned, and returned.

Rocket shelters

Now snippets of the rich conversation I’ve had with both:

Nomika, busy at the end of the year with proposals and reports, was horrified at some of my stories. The buffer zone—why did you go there? she asked, and risk your life?

To support Palestinians afflicted by the buffer zone.

The Samouni family. [massacred by the Israeli army during Cast Lead]! You actually met them? Please show me some photos.

What do you do in Gaza?

I teach photography and make photos.

Teach to whom?

Young adults.

Can you show me some photos of them?

She also requested links to an English translation of the Gaza youth manifesto that she’s read in Hebrew. Plus the video showing the bullet whizzing by the International Solidarity Movement and Palestinians in the buffer zone. And she’s heard of the Qattan Center for the Child and its director, Reem  Abu Jabber, and requested a photo.

Photo courtesy of Nomika Zion

She was amazed when someone had earlier reported the presence of fancy hotels in Gaza. That life continues, that a few people are rich, that goods and services are available to some, while highly restricted to most because of rampant poverty. She bemoaned the practices of Hamas, especially—I would assume, knowing what a powerful woman she is—stricken by the treatment of women in Gaza.

She confirmed what I’ve been reading about Israel tending toward fascism, and certainly becoming more openly racist. She recently completed a series of meetings or workshops about the Nakba [Palestinian catastrophe coincident with the formation of the Israeli state] provided by Zochrot, and either did or soon will visit a destroyed Arab village. She also confirmed the growing suspicion among Israelis that another attack on Gaza is imminent. I’ve reported that one major finding in Gaza is the widespread fear of another attack, and this one more ruinous than Cast Lead—the final solution?

Ah, one of the intrigues in this Palestine/Israel dynamic is mirroring (along with symmetry: radical Palestinians and radical Jews, both right radical as with Hamas and some settlers, and left radical as with the Palestinian Popular committees of resistance and people like Eric and Nomika and the organization he co-founded which seeks reconciliation with justice, Other Voice). Mirroring is the phenomenon of Jews treating Palestinians like Nazi’s treated Jews, using some of the same techniques. Ethnic cleansing as a form of genocide. Cast Lead as a form of pogrom. Checkpoint harassment as a form of ghetto treatment. And the separation wall as a ghetto wall.

No doubt many Jews would be sensitive to the claim that they’re acting like Nazis. Too close, and, in some cases, too true. Of course there is no comparison in numbers: 6 million Jews annihilated by Nazi’s, vs. upwards of 5,000 Palestinians killed since the Second Intifada or Uprising began in 2000.

Another mirroring phenomenon might be Jews using the Jewish holocaust to justify the treatment of Palestinians, as Germans used the outcome of World War 1 to justify their militarization and as they used selected incidents related to Jews and Jewishness to justify The Final Solution. With many differences obviously, important ones.

Altho she was busy with her work—her main job is with the Center for Social Justice in the Van Leer Institute based in Jerusalem—she’s made time for me, and not begrudgingly or only slimly so. Ample time for conversation, heated and deep conversation. She is a woman of passion and conviction. Asking her again why she is different from many other Israelis, her first response was, I’m asked that a lot. When I mentioned Eric’s answer related to his family upbringing, she nodded yes, true with me also. She added, I’m afraid of the alternative, which is to become blind and numb to other people’s suffering. She comes from a  strong left Zionist family, her grandfather one of the founders of an early radical left Zionist movement in Israel.

Nomika is single, has said nothing about children altho some of her walls display child-made art. I’ve not seen photos of her with kids. She is a connoisseur of art including some of my favorites like Monet and Egon Schiele. She is elegant in clothing, home, speech, and being. A woman of majesty and mystery. I’d love to know her better, her history, her destiny. I am gifted by her willingness to receive me and be one of my friends in Israel. I believe we support each other.

Eric Yellin

Eric: a casual sort of fellow, with a strong dedication to justice thru partnering. Also able to nuance dynamics and give a well reasoned, fair-to-many-different-views analysis. For instance, Zionist and anti Zionism. When I told him about the International Jewish Anti Zionist Network (IJAN) conference that I attended last summer in Detroit, he offered this: if Zionism means the right of Jews to a safe homeland, I’m a Zionist. If it means a homeland that disregards the rights of others living there, I’m an anti Zionist. And about BDS, Boycott, Divest, Sanction, I see how blanket condemnation of all things Israeli cuts off many avenues for reconciliation and justice. For instance, many of the people I work with in Other Voice are Israeli academics. A full academic boycott would prevent meetings with them.

Eric and Other Voice are planning a conference called Gaza and Sderot, Moving from Crisis to Sustainability. To be held February 14 – 17, 2011 in Sderot. A local progressive-leaning college, Sapir,  will host it. One of Eric’s main directions is linking people so he is attempting to get permits for Gazans to enter Israel and take part in the conference. The organization invited Dr. Eyad Serraj, founder and director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, who replied that he supports the conference but because of the academic boycott can’t participate. John Ging, retiring director of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, has agreed to appear—Nomika told me that she admires him as does Eric, and he’s been several times to Sderot giving lectures. She hosted him for a large meeting in her home.

Eric is not sure yet about conference funding, which would determine whether they could bring international presenters. He asked me for suggestions. Friends of the Earth Middle East was one of my suggestions because one theme of the conference will be the environment and FoEME seems to have lots of money. Also the Open Society Foundation founded and funded by George Soros. I promised to think further about this matter and to promote the conference. I wish I could attend.

As I wrote earlier, Eric’s family background is liberal. He lived in the United States until age 5, then in Israel, then one teen year in the States before finally moving to Israel permanently. He married an Israeli whose grandparents, he told me, left Poland in the 1930’s when the Nazi party started gaining power. All family that remained perished. He added, I believe most of my liberal education came from the kibbutz education and upbringing.

He and his wife have 3 sons. During our meal together last night (with food we picked up from the community kitchen—Eric reports their urban kibbutz is doing well, Nomika was one of the founders) we discussed a recent youth program journey to Poland by the eldest son, Yuval. Yes, we were told to be worried about what others might do to us because we are Jews, but it was not an extreme scare (I mentioned the movie Defamation, which Eric had seen). And while at the death camps we were instructed to believe never again, not only to Jews but never again to anyone.

This son is also taking part in optional physical training, a sort of preparation for the military. Eric told me his son is willing to become a soldier, probably would prefer an elite combat unit, succumbing to the temptations so irresistible to youth that age—I remember my impulses at that stage well—but that he might be more moderate because of sharing most of Eric’s political views. The 2 young sons, twins, were returning from football practice. All were very engaged in our conversation. My credential of having visited Gaza might have provided incentive for their interest in me.

Shelter and bus stop

I ventured that the son’s experience of Auschwitz was probably much different from mine. He would identify with the Jewish victims, I with the Nazi German perpetrators. I thought hard about revealing one of my major discoveries of not only my visit to the death center but generally: that with my German and Austrian heritage I could have been a Nazi perpetrator. Had I been born 10 years earlier and in Germany I might well have been seduced by Nazi ideology and thought working in the camps not only tolerable but noble. Kill the Jews! I stated some of this, and I believe I was respectfully heard.

Eric, despite a veneer of casualness and distance, is very generous. Not only did he volunteer to repair my ailing power unit for my Apple computer—it failed yesterday at the Gaza Quaker office, as I was completing what I could of transferring files. I smelled smoke, thought first one of the office appliances had malfunctioned, then realized to my horror my cord had burned finally thru, the cord I’d worried about during my entire trip, finally and perhaps permanently. No more power once I drain the battery—but he offered to drive me this evening to the airport, a ride of about 1 hour each way, this the last day of the year, a party at his home looming in front of him with all the preparations necessary. This will save me some hours waiting in the airport. Earlier he’d contemplated driving me in the early morning tomorrow so I could arrive by 5 for my 8 am flight. Remembering the party and the drinking, he wisely changed his mind.

We’d considered other transport, bus and train. Because of the Sabbath beginning today at sunset, all public transport stops. Where else but in Israel? I love being here, despite the problems it creates for me.

He succeeded in the repair, for now. I have power. For how long I’m not sure, enough to travel home? I could use the computer tonight at the airport as I sit trying to get thru the long night.

The powers provide, when called, sometimes. Eric and Nomika are angels. I mark their friendship as a vital part of my long-term journey to the region.



Other Voice

The Center for Social Justice in The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute

Gaza and Sderot, Moving from Crisis to Sustainability

“Sderot conference hosts Gaza residents” by Hanan Greenberg

“War Diary from Sderot,” by Nomika Zion

Blog and photos from 2009

Gaza youth manifesto

Whizzing bullet video with Kevin O’Keefe

Qattan Center for the Child

Zochrot (in Hebrew and English)

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