Israel’s Back Yard – a blog
I am an Israeli, jewish, PhD student, and an activist of MachsomWatch – Women against the Occupation and for Human Rights.
Aryeh is taking responsiblity for translating my posts from Hebrew to English.
The purpose of this blog is testimonial. I try and avoid expressing my political views on the conflict and the proper way of solving it. There are columnists and journalists that do that far better than I would (look, for example, for Akiva Eldar and Amira Hass, both of Haaretz).
Rather, this blog is intended to provide information on the intricate ways in which the mechanism of the occupation functions and operates.
I didn’t always think the way I think today. I was, what I label today as a “couch-leftist”. I sided with the Left, but thought they tend to exaggerate and above all tend to conspiracies and paranoia. I can’t recall exactly how I got up from my couch. I only know it was a slow process, burdened with excuses. For years I wanted to join the olive harvest. Every November I asked a good friend of mine to come with me. And when he didn’t show up, I had a great excuse: I have no one to go with.
But eventually I got up from the couch. It happened about four years ago (2005). I joined the demonstrations in Bil’in. A harsh dissonance, familiar to any Israeli peace activist. When the Palestinians started shouting Allāhu Akbar, I wanted to go stand by the soldiers, to ask for their protection.
Bil’in was too violent an experience for me. In one of the demonstrations – when I was no longer straddling at the back of the procession – as we were approaching the Wall, a shrapnel of a smoke grenade went in my eye. When I came home I knew I was not going to give up, but that I was going to look for something else. I thought of MachsomWatch. I didn’t believe I could fit in, they seemed much older, “a bunch of grandmothers”, but the checkpoints intrigued me. A few weeks went by. One Friday morning on Ben-Zion Blvd. I spoke with a group of Women in Black. I asked them about MachsomWatch. That’s how I met Alex. I arranged to meet her on Sunday.
Alex and Susan picked me up by Hassan Bek Mosque in Tel Aviv. At the time I was living in Kerem ha-Teimanim. We started at Jubara, from there went to Anabta (Tul Karm). It was December, I was shivering. A group of some twenty Palestinians was waiting at the side for the car check to finish, and the soldiers will signal them – a small gesture of “come here”. I went to stand by them. Even today, always when it’s possible, I stand with them. But ultimately they remain in the corrals, and I leave, return to Tel Aviv, to my comfortable life in a sunnier side of the world.
We moved in to Beit Iba, west of Nablus. We stood for three hours behind the carousels. From there we went to Jit Junction, and from there to Za’tara at Tapuah Junction. In the evening, after saying goodbye to Susan I went walking in the alleys of the Kerem. It was cold and it was late, but I didn’t want to go home. I was living alone at the time. I went to the Mitbahon for dinner. Then a shower, and I went to sleep.
A few weeks ago I called Susan. I was at Beit Iba checkpoint. A Palestinian who caught a ride with her forgot his cellphone in her car. She told me – she says this often – “I didn’t think you would come again. You were really trembling”.
It’s hard to describe the process I’ve been through. It’s a complex, sad, painful and aging process of sobering. I don’t always fully understand it. But today I know that the Left wasn’t exaggerating. These are activists, who went to see things for themselves, and were exposed to Israel’s back yard, and returned from there with some insights. It’s worth listening to them. We have seen something which you haven’t.