November 9, Day #8

Shaul David Judelman and Jamal Meqbil, from “Roots”

Shaul Judelman and Jamal Meqbil

“We need to have a group of people who have accepted the presence of the other side as a fact on the ground and not going anywhere…we are stuck here together. Let me listen to you and understand as much as I can and let me tell you who we are and lets work together to create something”. ~ Shaul Judelman, Israeli settler, founder of Roots, and partner for peace with Jamal

 

Excerpted Transcript, Jamal Meqbil

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My name is Jamal Meqbil; I was born to a family of refugees from 1948. We lost our town, Iraq al-Manshiyya, now called Kiryat Gat. My family travelled to many places, to the refugee camps in Jordan, also Saudi Arabia and other places. I ended up in the town of Beit Ummar, north of Hebron, at that time under Jordanian rule.

I was in Beit Ummar during the first intifada in 1988. I was 15 years old. I was very active. I threw stones, I participated in demonstrations. I was put in jail twice during the first intifada, four times altogether. In jail I learned a lot of Palestine history, violence and non-violence. I had to choose. Which way.

After the Oslo peace agreements of 1993, I opened my mind to the agreement, started to think about my life and my future in the West Bank. Instead of destroying, I decided to build. I built a house on land my father bought in 1965. We were a big family in a small house. When the soldiers came in 2000 with the first demolition order, many things changed. What should I do? I was between two ways. Occupation and throwing stones, or Oslo?

Then the second intifada came and our whole way of life changed: the roads; the checkpoints. All my energies turned to my family, to care for them. Then one day a friend from Jericho called asking me to come to a meeting with Israelis, just come and listen. I was shocked! Israelis! I thought: he is crazy! My friend said, “Jamal, just come and listen. You don’t need to touch any of them, just listen.” Not easy for me to meet the people who occupied us, injured me, jailed me, took my town. All I knew about Israelis was soldiers, checkpoints, guns, settlements, demolition orders.

I returned home to tell my wife and my son what my friend had told me. They didn’t believe me. My wife thought it was a joke. My son asked, “is it true?” I talked with myself: to go or not to go. I went. I met Israelis. All of us talked. I went back and told my wife. She said, “You are crazy, not normal.”   It was the beginning. I continued. I noticed most Israelis don’t know enough about Palestinians from the West Bank, in the camps and the towns under occupation. I wanted to tell the Israelis about their soldiers and police, what they do in the West Bank and at the checkpoints. Many of them know nothing about Palestinians. For them, Palestinians are violent people who want to throw the Jews into the sea. For me that is not true. We have our history. We are human. I started to teach them about Palestinian life under the occupation.

Not easy. When I started to meet Israelis, I lost a lot of things. I lost my job. I am a barber, with a barbershop in Beit Ummar. I lost my customers. I lost my role in my family and in my wife’s family. I used to be a hero, but after my meetings with the Israelis, they would not even look at me. Some were against me in the mosque. They said, “You are not a Muslim. Do you not have eyes to see? The soldiers come every night, damage houses, arrest us!”

It is not easy. The situation is not normal. It is still the occupation; there is still blood flowing, more and more and more on our side. Farmers cannot go to their fields, children cannot go to their schools. Sometimes I think violence is easier. But I continue in this difficult way of non-violence.

One day, five years ago, an Israeli friend met me in Jerusalem and he hugged me. He said, “Today I will take you anywhere in Israel. Where do you want to go? Any restaurant you want. To Jaffa. To the sea. Al-Aqsa mosque. Any place,” he said. Today I’m here for you with my car”.

I said, “I heard about the Holocaust. About the Yad Vashem museum in Israel. Can you drive me there?” He said, “Are you sure?” I said, “Yes, I’m sure. I don’t need to go to the sea or to Al-Aqsa.”

We went to Yad Vashem. Because I believe that to deal with others, you need to try to know about them. If you don’t know about me then you can’t deal with me. People are not all the same. Some are against me. Others welcome me. Some are afraid.   I am afraid when I am here now, especially these days. I am afraid but this does not mean I will close my doors. We continue to try. My courage comes from my pain. I think the pain must push us and teach us to end the conflict. If we know the pain, I think it is easy to find the medicine. To end the blood, to stop it. Our kids; our life. We need to look in the mirror. My mirror is my kids. When I see that my kid is afraid, this is one of reasons that opens my heart more and more.

I think now we need to buy small flowers, to give them to the soldiers at the checkpoints. To the soldiers who killed our kids, who closed the roads. Not as a gift, but to get them to think about stopping the killing. One soldier not so far from here was named hero of the week because he killed three Palestinians. If I meet him, it will not be easy, but I will give him some flowers. Not because he killed my people, but because maybe there is still a little in his heart. I need to help him open his eyes and his heart.

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(Photos by Peter Hamon)


 

Tiferet Weinberg, Tekoa

Excerpted verbatim from listening session with Tiferet Weinberg in her home in the Tekoa settlement, November 9, 2015

I’ll just tell you guys a little bit about myself, OK? My name is Tiferet; I live in Tekoa, this is my family’s house. I’m a student; I just came back home. I did my national service for two years up north, and then I was living in the Golan Heights for a year, doing art. And then I came home and started studying art therapy and behavioral science. It’s really fun, I just started two weeks ago. I am also studying Jewish studies and it’s really interesting and amazing. Also, I’m a hair dresser, I do hair for events. I’m like a hair artist. That’s my business. I just started that a few months ago and it’s doing very well.

A few things that are maybe a little bit more connected. I’m a counselor at Camp Kobe Mendel. It’s a camp that basically – it’s a camp for kids who have lost someone from their immediate family from terror. So I’ve been a counselor there for seven years now. I work there over the summer and the holidays. There are activities, we keep in touch, being there. You know, the memorial day comes and they feel like they need to talk to someone.

I guess the reason that you guys specifically came to listen to me is because I personally went through a – sort of like an attack almost two weeks ago. Like just – thank God nothing happened that’s not that dramatic. At least I try to think of it like – I guess it’s not fun to have something interfere with your day to day life. So I try not to make it a big deal.

Like what happened was I was just driving home for Shabbat with my neighbor, she’s 16, and we were on the main highway, just here, and the car in front of us was driving slow and they threw a grenade out of their window. Like just in the road. And I didn’t really notice that it was a grenade. My first instinct was to think “that is so weird. It looks like a fruit but it’s black.” And then automatically, I just like moved the car so it would go in between the wheels and we would go over it. And it didn’t blow up. So that was really a miracle.

And then they slowed down to kind of see that was going on and that was really the scariest part. They slowed down and I also slowed down because I didn’t want to ram into them, and I also didn’t want to stop because it didn’t feel very safe to stop there. And then, like after a few minutes we were both just going really slow and then they zoomed off. So when I got back, the girl that was with me was really, really freaking out, she was traumatized, it was really scary. Like, she was trying to call the people you’re supposed to call and it was like the phone fell out of her hand she was shaking so much. So we called them again and we got home after that and I didn’t think it was that big a deal – I mean it was a big deal – but I was OK and I just wanted to be sure no one else would get hurt. So obviously someone told the army what had happened and right away they went there and apparently like two minutes later another report came in from another woman. It sounded exactly like the same car and they slowed down and actually made her stop and they went out of the car towards her to come and get her but she drove off so nothing happened there. But they told us if we would have stopped and they maybe would have gotten too close then it would not have been good.

So that a lot of maybes there but that’s what happened. I think that for me personally I know lots of people who were attacked, who lost people, a lot of my friends are in the army, and they get injured, something that’s alive in their day to day lives. I think for me, having that happen to me, kind of like shook me a little bit. I guess I knew that this is what’s going on and so you know, walking around on the streets I’m sure you guys have heard, like there’s a wave of stabbings and running over people. Like, you feel it when you’re walking on the street. You watch. You notice where you’re going and what you’re doing. But when it really comes to you it’s a little bit different.

Tifferet Weinberg and her mother

Tiferet with her mother

It’s not that fun to have your day to day life shaken. Other than that I’m OK and everything’s fine and I keep living happily. And right away – it’s right on my way home so I can’t really avoid the place that it happened – so I guess it’s good for recovery from trauma, like, that you have to go back again and see where it happened. So there’s that. It’s a scary reminder.


Leah and Reuben Werber, Israeli residents of Gush Etzion, West Bank

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(Narrative transcribed by Joel Berman and Helen Fitzgerald)

My husband and I came to Israel in 1970. We met as students in a one-year program in Israel. I was straight out of high school and my husband had already finished two years in the university. We came as kibbutzniks. It was a program of education and work, trying to get to know Israel from the inside out.

We lived on the kibbutz; we also experienced the six-day war. All of a sudden, the kibbutz was almost empty of the male population and the older high school students and us became very important people because a lot of the functions that had to continue were put on us. For Israel in general and for us, it was a very, very moving and important experience. 

Over the year we came to the conclusion that we would go to the States and finish university, get married, and set up for a family in Israel. We settled in Israel in 1970 and six weeks later our first daughter was born. The kibbutz did not look at all like it does now. We got one room when we made Aliyah (immigration to Israel).

Just before the war of independence in November, 1947, by the United Nations plan of partitioning, K’far Etzion was supposed to be outside the Israeli land. And right after the acceptance of the partition was the beginning of the war of independence. This area was very important to help save Jerusalem. The Egyptians were coming up from the south and they wanted to cut off the country through Jerusalem. The people here stopped the Arab armies from the south toward Jerusalem.

There was a battle in this area right before the declaration of the state of Israel. In the end it became obvious that the settlers could not continue the battle and there was a surrender. After the surrender…the wounded had been removed the night before, and the settlers were all arranged in one area. They were told that they should surrender their arms. They were all assembled in a parade ground and they were opened fire on: the massacre of 240 settlers.

This area was under Jordan’s rule for 19 years. There was a Jordanian camp here. All the houses that had been built were destroyed, except for a few. And that’s where we came to live in 1970.

We had a room with a cold water sink outside. That’s where I brought my newborn baby. I think about that now – I’m a nurse – that was really crazy to do. My mother-in-law – when she came and saw the place, she said, “I left Europe to give my children a better life and what are they doing in Jerusalem?” But you can see that the area has definitely grown since then.

I would like to tell you a story. It happened three weeks ago. I have a son who is doing army reserve duty. He is a liaison officer with the Palestinian Authority. His job is to make sure the Palestinians can pick their olive harvest. Some of the olive groves of the Palestinians are inside Jewish communities. His job is to make sure that they go in, get their olives, and come out. At the same time Reuven and I are driving one day on a road that we drive all the time. It was in this period of time that has become quite without rest. As we were making a turn between two Arab villages, I was the driver, I said, ‘I think they are throwing rocks.’

At this turn, there is usually an army chief. It’s known that it is not safe. I looked toward the side and there was a boy who was wearing an orange and blue scarf covering his face. He was a young adult. He was holding a rock about the size of a cantaloupe. And he threw it at the car. It landed on the windshield. It broke the windshield but it did not come into the car.

The instructions that every good Israeli has is to keep on driving. Don’t stop. Don’t go out to see what happened. Keep driving. Reuven said to me, “Drive! Drive! Drive! Keep on driving! You’re doing great! Drive! Drive! Drive!” When we got to the kibbutz which is about ten minutes later, we got out of the car and looked. In the back of the car, we saw another rock had broken the side window and came into the car. Had there been someone sitting in the back seat, it could have been very dangerous.

People ask me, what were you thinking about? As soon as I saw that the rock didn’t come in and I didn’t get a rock in my face, I said, OK, we can deal with what we have. But rocks kill. But it’s a very small line, you know, I could have been driving a little faster and he could have been throwing the rock a little harder, and it would have gone right through into my head. I would have lost consciousness and lost control of the car. I could have been full of blood and not be able to see, or it could have penetrated the car and I could have not been able to continue as I did. It’s a very thin line between financial damage – which is a pain in the neck – and coming out with severe physical damage. It’s very frightening.

Just a week ago, there was a knife attack. Just a nice woman going to buy her groceries and it was a knife in her back. It’s just very, very difficult to go anywhere, difficult to understand, difficult to deal with it. Life is very uncertain. If you’ve noticed, people don’t know how to stand in line in Israel because everyone’s very nervous.

I’ve had a very liberal American education. I would like to be optimistic, but it’s a very, very complicated situation. It’s going to take a lot of effort from both sides for some sort of solution. People have gone in all different directions. We have my next door neighbor, Myron, who’s one-on-one helping people understand each other. I think that’s important. But the political situation is very, very difficult. No side is completely right and I’m not optimistic for a solution in the near future.

(photos by Peter Hamon)

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