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Wake up Call

1.2 The Amir mountain range overlooking the Israeli Arab city of Umm al-Fahm.

When living in Britain over fifty years ago I would have described myself as a pacifist. I was then a Swinging Sixties teenage hippie struggling to pay rent, buy sufficient food and dig up a shilling piece from time to time to feed the gas meter so as to have hot water for a bath.

Having lived in Israel for over 50 years, nowadays mother of five and grandmother of twelve, I now realize how easy it was to define myself a pacifist when I never felt my life was threatened although I had been the victim of a great deal of anti-Semitism wherever I went to school and in most places of work.

I also realize that the Swinging Sixties were not all they are nowadays made out to be. I did, however, feel very comfortable being one of a large group of young individuals who cared about each other and collectively dreamed of changing the world, of spreading peace around the globe.

We are all entitled to our dreams so I am told.

Joining a kibbutz community in Israel in the late l960s seemed a good place to put my community consciousness to the test.I believe somewhere along the line I became more of a kibbutznik than many of the locals.

Dealing with many of the drastic changes over the last few decades has not been easy, although not exactly complaining either about the economic success of my still socialist based kibbutz community over the past decade or so.

However, I did struggle for many years with having to give up my independence. I worked really hard to individually contribute to a collective whilst the majority of individuals born since then are chipping away at the collectiveness in favor of their individuality.

Bit of a riddle, but facts are facts.

Some 40 something years ago an aunt from Britain came to visit.With my then toddler firstborn son busily playing with the building set she had brought as a present, she asked me how I was going to deal with his being conscripted to the army fifteen years down the line. I was quick to reply that by the time he would be eighteen there would be peace in the Middle East.I truly believed that then.

How naïve could one can be.

Some months later the Yom Kippur war broke out and we spent a great deal of time together with his toddler group in an air-raid shelter. The kibbutz kids loved rolling around on the mattress covered floor and waited eagerly for the sirens to wail.

My son sometimes refused to go inside.We would sit on the concrete steps leading down to the shelter doors where I would make up adventurous stories about Noddy and Big Ears, his favorites at the time. Noddy, however, is known as "Naddy" in Hebrew – a 'nod' being what would in nicer terms be described as 'passing wind'.


Interviewing a Palestinian near the Jewish settlement of Shaked in the West Bank

The Enid Blyton groupie of 1973 was badly injured during his second year of national service in the IDF where he served in a commando unit – as did his three younger brothers, the youngest of whom today is in his mid-30s and still called annually to do reserve duty in the IDF. Their sister, my daughter, served in the intelligence corps.

All five of my children are married to Israelis, have professions and are parents.Although all wish it were so, none of them think their children will not have to serve in the IDF.

So much for dreaming that peace would come, that my children should know no more war, that Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat standing together, hands clasped, saying: "No more war, no more bloodshed," would have been more than just another fashionable-at-the-time mantra.

Dreams and reality are poles apart, with every hurdle possible in between.

For 30 years I was a staff member of the Givat Haviva Jewish-Arab Center for Peace where innovative projects bringing Jews and Arabs together for dialogue are developed and implemented on and off campus.The projects bring together Israeli citizens of all ages. Although they have their own and very different narratives they seek common ground, to break through the negative stereotypes they have of each other and to create workable shared communities, shared public spaces, in a small land the size of where I originally come from, Wales.

I was the victim of anti-Semitism for most of my life in Britain, whether in Wales where I was brought up, or in Birmingham, Manchester and London where I lived before making aliyah to Israel. "Go back to Palestine" I was told by many, who for some reason also thought that there was something wrong with my nose as it was relatively small, that I should have horns and that we as a family drank the blood of Christian babies at Passover, just to name a few of the "facts about Jews" thrown at me during those years.

For at least two decades my work also took me abroad to lecture, participate in seminars and conferences and more.I always told folks that I dreamed of being made redundant as there would no longer be a need for this kind of work, that peace had been achieved, no longer just a pipe dream.

However, reality leaves little room for dreams. 

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Tuesday, 24 November 2020

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