Posts Tagged ‘netiv ha’asara’


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”



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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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From Netiv Ha’asra, Israel, looking into Beit Hanoun, Gaza

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.

This wasn’t my war, Bibi, and neither was the previous cursed war: not in my name, and not in the cause of my security. Neither were the boastful, theatrical assassinations of Hamas military chief Ahmed al-Jabari in November, and Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi in 2004, and Hamas founder Sheikh Yassin, and Al-Kaysi, and Shahada and Ayash—wicked as they were—these were done neither on my behalf nor for my security…. —Nomika Zion


Older photos

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

April 22, 2013, Monday, Sderot, Israel, with Nomika Zion

A full day yesterday with Roni Keidar of Netiv Ha’asara, probably one of the Israeli communities nearest Gaza, and 2 filmmakers, one from Nigeria and the USA, Ose Oyamendan, and a young woman from the Galilee studying film making in Sderot, Kirin. Roni hosted the 3 of us and guided us to several walls, the main wall for “infiltrators” as she named them, i.e., escapees from Gaza perhaps intend on damaging Israeli Jews, and a barrier to prevent sniper fire. There is around-the-clock army presence to prevent tunneling and several chain link fences to control access to agricultural fields. The village (Netiv Ha’asara, meaning path, path to something) is a moshav, a cooperative farming community. Palestine-Gaza-Sderot-Netiv_Ha_asara-3530 Palestine-Gaza-Sderot-Netiv_Ha_asara-3536

Roni Keidar’s house and yard

She explained to us that all families, comprising some 750 people, have about 10 acres of fields each, and some 70% actively farm them. She and her dour, stern-looking husband, an agricultural engineer working for a seed company, grow tomatoes and other plants for seeds. Many of these fields squat between the Gaza wall and Netiv. She showed us the several walls, including one with a ceramic and calligraphic installation made by a resident. It’s called Netiv Shalom, Path to Peace, and invites visitors to add shells to fill out the lettering. For some reason we did not participate.


Netiv L’Shalom – Path to Peace

Ose and his hired assistant, Kirin, are making a movie comparing life in Gaza with life in the surrounding Israeli communities, an obviously good idea. I wonder if anyone has tried it before. In a minor way that is the theme of my various visits to Sderot. They filmed an interview with Roni’s daughter, Inbal Yahav. With tears in her eyes Inbal told us about the death of a close friend of hers, Dana Galkowicz, who at the age of 22, ready to marry someone from the moshav, while fleeing a rocket attack in 2005, tried to race into her house shortly after speaking with her fiancé. The rocket landed on or near her, a piece of it struck her head, probably an instant death. Death is a close neighbor in Netiv Ha’asara. Inbal named her daughter after Dana. Apparently severely traumatized, Dana’s former fiancé will not return to the village and has since married. Also, Dana’s father was in great pain until recently. As are or were many in the community. Less physical carnage perhaps in these Israeli communities than in Gaza and much of the West Bank, but a high degree of trauma. Palestine-Gaza-Sderot-Netiv_Ha_asara-3537 Palestine-Gaza-Sderot-Netiv_Ha_asara-3549

Inbal Yahav

dana gelkowitz

Dana Galkowicz (courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Roni told us her story about how she arrived at her twin passions: face-to-face meetings with adversaries and negotiations. She meets Gazans at the Erez crossing who are entering Israel for medical treatment and accompanies them thru the system. She is active with the organization, Other Voice, linking the 2 communities. She told us how Inbal, her daughter, at a very early age like 6 years (my granddaughter Eleanor’s current age), while living in Egypt (Roni’s husband is Jewish Egyptian, driven out or voluntarily fleeing shortly after Israeli independence), was excluded by an Egyptian mother from the daughter’s birthday party. Thru Roni’s persistence and the intervention of an understanding teacher the mother relented and included Inbal in the party. The 2 girls came to be closest friends. A case study in reconciliation—human beings transformed from enemies to friends. And she believes this can happen, should happen, on a much larger scale. I’m sure her story is online somewhere so I won’t try to retrieve details. Palestine-Gaza-Sderot-Netiv_Ha_asara-3556

From Netiv Ha’asara

Roni recently returned from a 3 week speaking tour of the USA where, Nomika told me, she exuded high energy at an advanced age (I believe around 67, I’m 72, I wonder how long I can sustain energy for this project) and spread the good news of Israeli Jews who live close to Gaza and shout with Other Voice: peace with justice!

…as Israeli airstrikes shook homes throughout the crowded enclave. “Hi Roni,” [Mimi, a Gazan friend] wrote. “I hope you and your family are well and safe. What’s happening is really insane. Please take care and stay safe. Love, Mimi.” Keidar felt the warmth of the gesture but also the sheer weirdness of the circumstances. Rockets fired from Gaza—maybe even from Ibrahim’s neighborhood—were raining all around Keidar’s tiny farming town, Netiv Ha’asara. “Thank you for your concern,” Keidar replied. “I’m thinking of you since it all started and I hope you and your family are okay. If only our leaders would talk. Take care.” It took only a minute for Ibrahim to respond: “Our leaders don’t care about us. The situation is really bad and I expect it to get worse. I hear bombing everywhere. We are safe so far. Take care.”… —”A Brave Friendship Spans the Border Between Israel and Gaza,” by Dan Ephron and Sarah A Topol

RoniKeidar(David Blumenfeld for Newsweek)

Roni Keidar (David Blumenfeld for Newsweek)

Now Nomika who lives nearby in Sderot, herself a major story (all in a visit of less than 24 hours). First my impressions: high energy, near manic, interrupting me constantly but also able to listen, treating me with great respect, nearly every one of my needs fulfilled, passionate, dedicated to justice for the Palestinians, critical of Israel’s habitual militarized responses to threat, courageous, innovative (she claims to have founded this urban kibbutz), active, far from numbness (I asked how she avoided numbness, thinking of T—mainly my family, she told me, parents and grandparents, all very active politically, grandfather a founder of the Haganah and active with labor-derived kibbutzim), and constantly tweaking her long black curly hair. I estimate from appearance and stories she is in her 50s. NomikaInPhoto_4519 She informed me about an article she’d written about Operation Pillar of Cloud/Defense that occurred in November 2012. It had been translated into English and published by the New York Review of Books. I found it on the internet and swiftly forwarded it with a personal note to my Levant list. It is titled, “It’s Not Just About Fear, Bibi, It’s About Hopelessness.” She slyly remarked, it is just a rewrite of my famous earlier article, “War Diary from Sderot”, which I wrote during Operation Cast Lead in 2009. But I find it is more—articulate and impassioned, a plea for wisdom.

Her story (I should probably take notes if I wish to be a professional journalist, but I don’t and I’m not—I’m a photographer looking for images and a human being forming relationships with a variety of people): in large part it’s about growing up on a kibbutz near a development town (people strategically resettled to claim the land). She observed racist hatred directed by her peers against those living in the town. Which motivated her to form the urban kibbutz, Kibbutz Migvan, in another development town, Sderot, then largely populated by Moroccan Jews resettling in Israel. The population of this urban kibbutz is now mixed and the site of a major NGO (that had its board meeting last night) offering social-psychological services to a wide variety of people, including mentally disabled. She showed me the many gifts and products from their production, ceramics mostly decorated by the participants.


Nomika’s home

When I asked her what Other Voice was doing to end the Gazan siege and transform the situation of conflict generally, she listed a variety of projects from Voice that brought Palestinians and Israelis together. During the conference Eric Yellin helped organize and indeed may have initiated 2 years ago (that I supported and promoted) a young Gazan man who attended gave an interview on the web which Hamas apparently saw. They tortured him, probably alleging collaboration with the enemy. He fled. But returned, was again tortured, refled and now is separated from his wife and kids and extended family—without country, perhaps barely surviving. All because of this “fraternizing” with the enemy. Nomika and I  deplore this attitude and policy. It’s as suicidal as are many of Israel’s violent policies. Nomika adamantly opposes these of her own country. She also listed the many international delegations Other Voice hosts and speaks to…. Palestine-Gaza-Sderot-Netiv_Ha_asara-

Wall separating Gaza and Israel Click here for larger image



It’s Not Just About Fear, Bibi, It’s About Hopelessness,” by Nomika Zion, with an introduction by Avishai Margalit (in the New York Review of Books, January 10, 2013)

“War Diary from Sderot,” by Nomika Zion, January 13, 2009

“A Brave Friendship Spans the Border Between Israel and Gaza,” by Dan Ephron and Sarah A Topol

Other Voice

Ose Oyamendanm filmmaker

Netiv Shalom, Path to Peace

Dana Galkowicz killed by a rocket from Gaza

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