Today was a jam-packed day! As a group we furthered our knowledge of the geo-political issues that over the past 15 years have been plaguing Israel and the Gaza Strip; however, before we dove deep into this new information, we made a stop for breakfast. After packing our bags in the morning, we ventured to a shop named Cofix where we had Israel’s famous version of iced coffee. It tasted sensational, a few of us even tried their breakfast sandwiches. Next, we went back to the hostel to load our bags onto the bus as we began our journey to Tel Aviv.
On our way, visited the Path to Peace Project in Nirim kubbutz. Netiv HaAsara, a moshav on the border between Israel and Palestine is where we met Tsamaret. She’s a mother, a potter, and founder of the Path to Peace project. The project hopes to shed light into the geo-political issues surrounding Israel and the Gaza Strip. They share and spread the message of peace by painting and gluing ceramic tiles onto the first separation wall between the two. She showed us a video explaining her story and how this great conflict affects her own life and the community she lives in. The video began by describing her peaceful life before the attacks. She went on to explain when rockets from the Gaza strip are fired in a vicinity close enough to her town, an alarm begins to play the words “COLOR RED” three to four times at an extremely high volume; residents of the area have about five seconds to make it into either the safe room in their home or one in the street. Even if one is farther away from safety than five seconds, they must run as fast as they can because every second without action could mean life or death. She explained how this raging conflict affected the way she raised her four children, saying that sometimes she felt like a bad mother for living in an area prone to such conflict; however, her kids would respond by saying that Nativ HaAsara is their home and that they would not want to leave it for anywhere else. As more and more missiles were targeted at her community, Tsamaret decided to try and spread a message of peace. She painted peaceful phrases in large letters and in languages including Hebrew, English, and Arabic onto the first separation wall. The support for her cause skyrocketed instantly, gathering the attention of residents and tourists from around the world. People would come and glue colorful ceramic tiles onto the painted messages of peace and wrote their own personal wishes on the back of each tile. After watching the video, our group went to the first separation wall and glued our own tiles onto the wall and viewed the peaceful notes in person. Our experience with the Path to Peace project taught us how the conflict between Israel and Palestine affected the people living close to the border and how they, especially in Tsamaret’s town, are proud to live where they are.
Following our excursion at the separation wall, we then went to Nirim kubbutz and met Adele Raemer. Adele is a resident at the kibbutz, creator of the blog page Life on the Border with the Gaza Strip, and dear friend of our beloved Rabbi Stern. Adele spoke to us about how the geo-political issues between Israel and Gaza affected her local community and why she started to publicize her personal experience. She began with a brief background of herself, how she moved to Israel in 1975 and her various professions whether it be a mother, teacher, or even medical clown. After that, she told us about the first attacks that happened in her area. These attacks were unlike anything she had ever witnessed; however, it seemed as though people closer to the center of Israel were unaware of such attacks. Adele took it upon herself to teach people of about life on the border by publicizing her stories and encouraging others to share their own personal experience. Her Facebook page quickly gained a strong following as more and more people started to share their stories. The Facebook page averages 100 new members every month. As the attacks continued, Adele explained to the group how the Israeli government paid for a safe room in every house within a seven-kilometer radius of the Gaza Strip. She showed us videos of attacks on a kibbutz where two men had to duck for cover. She even told of how a mortar shell exploded in her own house destroying part of it. Sadly, due to these attacks, two men lost their lives and one was severely injured. Adele’s accurate accounts of these tragic actions led to her being interviewed by popular news sources such as CNN. and she was invited to the speak at the U.N. Security council about this pressing matter. After her presentation, we walked as a group to the edge of the kibbutz. She showed us a place in the kibbutz where a missile had landed and got stuck in the ground. The active missile stayed in the patch of grass for about a month until the government could remove it.
Meeting with these two women brought a very important questions to light. Why would people stay in these areas even though they are in danger? It seems that in both situations, people feel a very strong love and attachment to their homes, whether that be in a small town or a kibbutz. They would rather stay in a place which they feel connected taking the chance they will have to flee if under attack; however, at what price does this come at. While some may argue that staying in places that are known to be targeted is foolish and illogical, this mindset does not apply to residents of these endangered areas. Their goal is not to run from the problem, but rather to bring a solution. These are people fighting for peace! Peace for their families, their communities, and peace for Israel. By spreading awareness whether through painting murals on walls or by telling stories and real-life anecdotes of these tragic events, these communities are empowering themselves and others around to make the changes that must come.