Searching for Justice and Healing
Sderot and Kibbutz Zikkim: July 30, 2009
Delegation 31 Announcement
Report 1: Settlements
Report 2: Eric and Suheir
Report 3: Searching for Justice and
Report 4: Bil’in — After an Israeli Raid
Report 5: Experiencing Jerusalem Report 6: Final Reflections
Delegation 31 in Action!
Prophets in Their Own Land
In Nazareth today, I was reminded of the rejection of Jesus' message in his own hometown. It is especially hard to be a prophet, to confront oppression, in your own place.
Over the last few days, I have been privileged to meet some amazing prophets in their own land. Israelis who want things to be different in their country.
Nomika Zion, who lives in Sderot, an Israeli town near Gaza. Nomika works with Other Voice. She has refused to surrender her empathy--the ability to feel the pain of another--and continues to reach out to Palestinian residents of Gaza, attempting to create public and concrete partnerships for peace and a good life for all.
Israeli staff, volunteer physicians and other health care workers who are affiliated with Physicians for Human Rights - Israel. They struggle against the occupation by providing medical care, advocating in the courts and elsewhere, and bringing facts into the public eye which the public may not know or may prefer not to know.
Finally the members of New Profile. The courageous Israeli women and men seek to "civil-ize" Israeli society through activities ranging from work with teachers to reduce the impact of militarized education to legal and moral support for conscientious objectors.
May God protect and bless the work of these modern day Israeli prophets as they work to make change a reality in their own land.
Voices From Sderot
As you drive through the streets of Sderot, you see beautiful bungalows and gardens, and you feel like you are in a nice neighborhood. But there are bomb shelters in children's parks. Sderot is near Gaza, and rockets from Gaza land in Sderot with enough frequency that residents feel the anxiety as a part of their daily lives.
Nomika Zion has something real at stake in this conflict. She has spoken out against the war. She wrote an article, War Diary From Sderot, which was translated into many languages and widely distributed. She said she knew when she wrote it that she would be deemed a traitor. "I am old enough to pay the price of social isolation; I can't pay the price of fear", she said. Many people called her to thank her, saying hers was the voice of reason that they were afraid to express because all of their friends and neighbors supported the war.
Nomika believes that people should talk and negotiate. The more time goes by, the more difficult it becomes to talk. People become more and more extreme, entrenched in their positions, and they just don't care anymore. Nomika is working hard to draw attention to the human catastrophe in Gaza. She fears Israeli society is becoming more and more violent and racist, and that war pollutes the mind, heart, and soul.
We also met with Eric from Sderot, who is still hoping for peace, but feels it is very hard to talk about these days because people are not willing to listen. "War is usually not a good time to talk peace", he said. He also observed that each side in the conflict has "taken every opportunity to miss an opportunity." How sad.
A Kibbutz Next to Gaza
The kibbutz, an agricultural collective where all property is held in common, is a uniquely Israeli expression of a strong Jewish tradition of socialism and labor-leftism, one that has attracted Jews and other idealists to Palestine/Israel throughout the twentieth century. We found this tradition alive and well when we visited Kibbutz Zikkim.
Originally founded by Romanian Jewish immigrants in 1949, this commune of 150 adults has persisted in a day and age when the kibbutzim are dwindling with more and more of them going bankrupt or privatizing. The kibbutz consists of a dairy farm, avocado and sabra (prickly pear) cultivation, a foam paneling factory, and good schools that attract students from outside the kibbutz. It has survived and adapted to provide a life outside of the capitalist system for its like-minded members who are paid equally for their work. One person attracted to this lifestyle was an American we spoke with who came to the kibbutz in late ‘60s whose left of center viewpoint, in his words, represented “95% of what 95% of people” on the kibbutz thought.
Situated in southern Israel just north of Gaza Strip, Kibbutz Zikkim has found itself on the frontline of the Gaza crisis. Located near a main powerplant on the coast, whose smokestacks loom overhead, and due south of the city of Ashkelon, the kibbutz is in the direct line of fire from rocket attacks launched from the northern Gaza Strip aimed particularly at the enticing target of the powerplant. According to our hosts, one thousand rockets had been launched in the area in the preceding nine years, with thirty actually hitting the kibbutz randomly killing a few cows but also, in one incident, injuring two small children. Yet, the kibbutz has not turned to hating their neighbors in Gaza, despite the threat of rockets.
“I’ve found the Palestinian people to be warm and hard-working,” observed our host. From 1949 through 2000, he befriended and worked alongside Palestinian neighbors from Gaza. But now the situation has turned. “We can’t visit them, they can’t visit us. We’ve sent them money [to help them survive under the siege conditions].”
Rather than blaming the common people, he blamed “stupid politicians,” Israelis, Palestinians, Americans and the world community for perpetuating the Gaza crisis.
But our host went further, now as an Israeli criticizing Israeli society: “We are responsible for what we do… Israelis don’t realize how strong we are… The stronger [party] in the conflict must take the first step.”
Before taking a short tour of the kibbutz, our Israeli-American host closed by urging us emphatically, “If you want to do one thing for peace, support President Barack Obama holding both sides accountable.”--Dave Matos
Ambivalence in the Kibbutz
After the description of the Kibbutz, the group’s questions started coming. We asked one of the members about his perspective on the occupation. A very emotional response followed. He spoke about his disgust at the government’s actions, how ‘stupid’ they are. How wrong the oppression of Palestinian people is. Tears welled up in his eyes as he contemplated their situation, his fist banged down on the table during a particularly impassioned episode. Very genuine emotion was felt.
We had a tour outside and we started to discuss things again on the site of the original Kibbutz building. We asked the same man, so ardently opposed to the occupation, what he thought should happen, did he think a one state solution was viable?
He dodged and skirted, avoided, glossed over, skipped and changed the subject. Shakeel managed to ask him straight ‘should Palestinians have the right to return? Yes or no?’ He answered, “I don’t see how it can work.
This was the point at which the group realized for the first time, the level of denial present in Israeli society. Since then we have met other people with similar viewpoints. Supporting an end to occupation but refusing to give anything up in reality - anything for it to work.--Mark Smith
Absolutes v. Simple Justice and Injustice
As we go about our meetings and observe the situation on the ground, it’s easy to get bogged down in trying to determine who is right and who is wrong, who is good and who is bad. But it is not necessary to determine the absolutes. When someone is suffering, it is good to alleviate the suffering. When injustice is committed, the injustice should be addressed. It’s as simple as that.
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