By Asafa Peled – Yedioth Aharonot 14/4/2006
Translation: Adam Keller
The Separation Fence is closing in upon more and more Palestinian villages. Their inhabitants are cut off from sources of livelihood. Some Israelis are not willing to remain silent.
Matan Cohen lost an eye because of it. Shai Karmeli-Polak gave up for its sake a promising career. Leila Mosinzon is going to prison for its sake, next month. The Separation Fence has become their obsession. What is it about this wall, designed to separate Israelis from Palestinians, which is bringing young people to give up the well-fed bourgeois life and get tear gas blown in their face every Friday afternoon? The border inside.
For a long time, dozens of villagers – children, youths and adults – waited at the entrance to the Beit Sira Municipal Council building. They were very excited, and it burst out when the car stopped nearby. A seventeen-year old boy came out, a bit clumsy and wearing glasses who looked like a a typical Tel-Aviv high school pupil. The crowd surrounded him with shining eyes, and stood in line to shake his hand. The boy, wearing stylish jeans and Adidas shoes, seemed rather embarrassed by this very warm reception. “You were willing to give your eye for our struggle” said one of the village leaders to Matan Cohen. “You risked your life to let our voice be heard. If it was possible, each one of us here would have exchanged his good eye for your damaged one”.
This was Matan Cohen’s first visit to the village after being severely hurt in his eye by a rubber bullet shot by a Border Guard soldier a month and half ago during an anti-fence demonstration. Cohen had undergone two operations already and his sight is very limited. Only in some months will it be clear if he would be able to see with the damaged eye. Sunlight is difficult for him and he is blinking all the time.
In the Palestinian press published immediately after it happened, the photo of Cohen’s face covered in blood was published under the caption “an Israeli peace activist shot in the eye during a demonstration against the fence”. “It is very moving to see how the village people react, and all the children waiting for my arrival” says Cohen. “As far as I am concerned, this human warmth, our togetherness, is the biggest achievement of struggle. More than a struggle against the physical wall and the thousands of acres it is stealing from the Palestinians. The real struggle is against the mental wall.”
The demonstration in which Cohen was hurt, on February 24, was one of a series of demonstrations organized in different West Bank locations every Friday, organized by local committees along the route of the fence. Some call the organizers “The Palestinian Gandhis” because of their unarmed demonstrations.
Every week since the building of the fence started there is a regular ritual: after the village ends the Friday prayer, everybody leaves the mosque, together with Israeli activists from “Anarchists Against the Wall” and some sympathizers from abroad, towards the fence west of the village.
The army declares the area, which is a large part of the village lands, as a closed military area. The procession advances. Some are singing, some make speeches, some present a kind of street theatre which changes every week.
The soldiers and Border Guards form a cordon and wait for the demonstrators, to prevent them from nearing the fence. The demonstrators try to reach it anyway.There are many photographers, and nearly every minute is preserved. This material would be used afterwards in court, to defend those who would be accused of assaulting soldiers.
The sun is hot, the dust clouds go up. They call “Soldiers, go home!” and the soldiers try to push them back. There is pushing, shouting, and cursing. Soon smoke grenades and shock grenades are hurled and rubber bullets are shot. Demonstrators scatter, calling out “Go away, this is out home!”, “Thieves!”, “Don’t shoot!”. Some demonstrators are hurt, some are detained and taken to a military vehicle parked beyond the fence. The event lasts several hours until everybody disperses.
“The demonstration was in fact over when they shot me” tells Cohen. “I was left, together with three other Israeli activists, quite far from the soldiers. I shouted to them not to shoot, but one of them raised his gun and shot me directly in the eye”. In photos and video footage from that day Cohen is seen frightened and bleeding, crying out for an ambulance, between his fellow activists and the soldiers who had just hurt him and who were trying to help. Eventually, a Palestinian ambulance took him to the army checkpoint from which he was transferred to an Israeli ambulance and taken to hospital.
He is still not calm. “Yes, I am afraid” he says and tells of other cases, during the three years that he is participating in protests, when soldiers shot at unarmed civilians. Hundreds were wounded and ten killed.
– Were you willing to sacrifice your eye for the struggle against the fence?
“I don’t think if somebody told me that I was going to be wounded in this way, I would have gone to the demonstration. But the risk of being wounded or killed is always hovering above everybody’s head. As far as I am concerned, I will go on with the non-violent protests, because there is no choice. The fence leaves people totally dispossessed, in complete despair. continuing the struggle is vital in order to show that, though they use daily violence in order to break the struggle, we will go on and not let them silence us. I believe that non-violent protest has much more power than the violent oppression”.
The group known as “Anarchists Against the Fence”, to which Cohen belongs, is one of the fascinating phenomena which came into being because of the building of the fence. The term “anarchists” brings to mind a group of tattooed punkists, who run away from conscription and who protect wild flowers with as much fury as they devote to the downtrodden Palestinians. In practice, their anarchism is mainly expressed in the independent activity of every member, with many individual differences between them.
In fact, this is not really an organization, but a collection of individuals. Many of them had not been active at all until the bulldozers started to create their accomplished facts. They are between ten to a hundred people, without a leader or hierarchy, membership dues or fixed obligations. Each one finances his or her own expenses. Coordination takes place via phone or email, and anybody who wants to join is getting help in transportation and entry into the Palestinian villages.
Many of them had served in combat roles in the army. Some are lecturers, computer experts, students and pensioners. Most of them are vegetarians or vegans, and some arrived at the anti-fence struggle via Animal Rights protests.
The fence had taken them to a place far beyond the mainstream Israeli debate and discourse, the defence-minded debate on the need for the fence and the political debate on dismantling settlements. Perhaps like youngsters in divided Berlin, the fence has made a deep mental impression on them. They feel as if the fence is dividing their own lives, which they perceive as “before” and “after”. The enemy which they had known mainly from news reports became human precisely due to the building of the fence. The barrier caused the desire to meet the humans behind it, who have gone unnoticed before they were Separated from Israel. The price is high – they get beaten up, wounded, detained for days at a time and face dozens of criminal charges at the court.
It is difficult to understand what makes ordinary people, who had lived calm daily lives in the center of the country, let themselves be drawn into this daily ritual and in many ways give up their freedom. After several days among them one can at least understand what keeps them there. The scenes to which they are exposed are very different from what you can see in the news: villages cut off from their sources of livelihood – water sources, schools, hospitals, jobs. Movement is severely restricted, thousands of acres are confiscated and thousands of trees uprooted for the erection of the fence. The people which they meet are caged behind walls, with a single gate between them and the outside world. People who until the intifada had jobs in Israel are unemployed for five years already, with their families at the edge of hunger. The fence takes away also the chance to go back to agriculture as a source of livelihood. For the activists, every trip to the fence makes the going back home more difficult.
To be a bit blond
Three years ago, Matan Cohen moved with his mother from Kfar Vardim in the Galilee to Tel-Aviv. He was raised in a left-leaning, humanistically inclined home. Already as a child he was looking for his own way. After one year at Jaffa’s “Democratic Open School” he found even that rather loose framework uncongenial. He went away and prepared by himself to the matriculation examinations, which he successfully passed a year ago.
When he was fourteen he started participating in activities in the Territories. It started from basic curiosity. “I read about terrorist attacks and the killing of Palestinian civilians. When the victims are Palestinians they remain nameless. Just numbers – two Palestinians killed, seven Palestinians wounded… No names, no personal details. This language is what causes Israelis to close themselves for the suffering of the other side.
“The same is true now, in my case. When I was wounded the media reported it, but the fourteen Palestinians who were wounded in the same demonstration went unreported, unknown. If somebody who is a bit blond is hurt it arouses identitification. There, if a person is killed there is no commission of inquire. Until now no soldier had been prosecuted for killing unarmed demonstrators, their humanity is totally ignored.
I meet soldiers of almost my own age, some of them people with whom I grew up, and they have never been in these villages, never spoke to the people, have no idea of their situation. They feel that they are fulfilling a mission to defend Israel. They don;t understand that I am not their enemy. I am here to tell them that this is not a security fence, that you can’t establish security by oppressing another people who live at our side.
He says that his family supports his political stance but has asked him not to go to demonstrations. With time, however, they understood that their child is serious and not an unrestrained adventurer. His first activity was joining a relief convoy which brought humanitarian help to a village under curfew in the Nablus area. He was the youngest of the Israeli dissidents who set out. “I remember my feeling of fear and thinking that I am doing something dangerous, but the reality I saw was shocking.
We were kept and harassed for three hours at the army checkpoint. When we finally got there everything became real, concrete, real life. The dead and wounded have a real human form. The gap and abyss between us, this habit of talking of “us” and “them” is weakening and is mixing into a “we” which includes everybody. I did not see a difference between a person who suffers here and a person who suffers there.”
– Is this not a biased look? The Palestinians are throwing stones, and the soldiers are hurt.
“The presence of the soldiers is in itself violent. When people live under a daily oppression, some young people can’t restrain their anger, and I can understand that. Their livelihood was taken away, and they are forbidden to demonstrate against the theft of their lands. When an armoured jeep enters the village in order to make a demonstrative show of force, I understand quite well why people throw stones at it”.
With the building of the fence Cohen joined the intensive activity in the villages on whose land it is being built. There were whole weeks when he went there day after day, and on many occasions he and other activists stayed the night. “Staying the night in a Palestinian village is neither dangerous nor frightening” he says. “The perception of it as frightening comes out of ignorance of the real situation. We have grown up with mist forever in front of our eyes, a whole generation living under a permanent feeling of fear. The greatest thing which happened to me is to discover that I am welcome among the Palestinians. I go to the Territories, people talk to me Hebrew, I learn a bit of Arabic, and I get a friendly reception everywhere.”
Like most of his fellow activists, he is financing from his own pocket such things as travelling to the West Bank, phone calls, paying lawyers fees. In time, he had less and less friends who were not involved in all this. “Non-activists think that what I do is very strange and eccentric behaviour, that a person in Tel-Aviv just ups and does what I do”.
He does not intend to accept conscription [to which he would be liable within a year].”I have soaked up the scenes of the Territories. I saw families being cut off by the fence, children shot a short distance from where I stood and were left handicapped for life. This has become part of the reality of my life. I am still shocked that a soldier of my own age is capable of just pointing a gun at my head and pulling the trigger, even though I was shouting ‘Don’t shoot, nobody is endangering you here!’. Just because he got an order, something like ‘Teach them a lesson, don’t let them demonstrate’. How can I join such an army? The whole feeling of comfort which I had, of security in the routine of daily life, is eroded and gone. The best service I can do for our security – yes, also for our own security – is to continue the struggle for human rights and liberty.
Hell – half an hour from here
A group op of Israeli and Palestinian activists tries to advance towards the western side of the village, to the fence, near where Matan Cohen was wounded. An army force comes by and stops them. The Palestinians are angry, because it is their own lands, but nevertheless seem about to move back.
Shai Carmeli-Pollak (37), film director and central anti-fence activist, refuses to accept the army dictat. He calls the Army Spokesman’ office on his mobile phone, and explains at length that he and his companions are in a completely kosher Palestinian territory, that they do not seek a confrointation, and that it is the soldiers who are breaking the law.
Soon Lieutant-Colonel Avi shows up who authorizes the demonstrators to march another half a kilometre, albeit closely accompanied by himself and his soldiers. Pollak seizes the opportunity to talk to him and explain at length his opinions and world view. “You look at the Palestinians from a completely military angle. You are completely blind to the fact that you are facing civilians” Pollak says.
The Colonel answers patiently. The two continue talking in front of the astonished Palestinians, to whom such an eye-to-eye contact with a military man is inconceivable. A few days later Pollak would insist on conducting a no less profound talk with the soldiers at the checkpoint who refuse passage to everybody except holders of a journalist’s card. Every Thursday evening, the area around the fence construction site is declared a closed military zone, in an effort to prevent the entry of Israeli activists. Pollak insists upon seeing the order – “If you don’t have a proper order, signed by an authorized officer, you cant enforce a Closed Zone” he tells the soldiers. While he is deep in debate with the army detachment, the other demonstrators bypass the checkpoint on foot and continue on their way through the fields.
In the demonstration, he addresses the soldiers who had firmed a cordon blocking the protest procession from reaching the fence: “You are being sent to protect illegal activities. You are not protecting the country, you are protecting the interests of real estate tycoons and building contractors. You have to understand that the state of Israel has signed an intentional treaty which obliges an occupying force to care for the occupied population. Even the Supreme Court accepted some of our arguments”.
Without shouting, but quite determined, he continues a long conversation with the soldiers – a calm, non-confrontational discussion, and explains to them where he thinks they have gone wrong. When a soldier says “we are defending the border” Pollak corrects him: “No, you are not. The border is not here, it is seven kilometres behind you. You are given all these weapons not in order to defend the border, it is to act as the villagers’ prison guards, to cage them in”.
When a soldiers addresses him roughly, Pollak has no hesitation in calling the Army Spokesman’s office again, demanding that the threatening soldiers be calmed down. He says that since starting activities on the West Bank three years ago he had not stopped this talking and discussing. “In the first two years I was very much lecturing and preaching to them, I now realize I was insufferable. Of course, when you see what is going on here you can become crazy with anger. Now I try more to understand how the soldiers perceive the situation. With more talking to them I realize their ignorance is really astonishing. I suggest to them to talk to their commanding officers, to ask for clarifications about why are they sent here and what are they supposed to do, not just to follow orders blindly”.
Until three years ago Pollak was far from being politically active. True, he was leftist, but expressed it mainly through the ballot box. He served as a conscript in a field unit of the Israeli Air Force, studied cinema at Tel-Aviv University, and directed the drama ‘Avramov’. He became deeply involved in Israeli televion, directing especially humorous features such as “Zbeng”., and was elected Chair of the TV Prorducers’ Association. Three years ago he went to Holland to visit his brother Yonathan Pollak (23), a prominent anarchist active both against the fence and for Animal Rights. The younger brother was then deeply involved in a wave of anti-globalisation protests, and Pollak was impressed.
When he came back to Israel the Second Intifada was already raging, but Pollak was still “caught up in the Rabin Peace Euphoria” as he puts it. But there came the day – so he tries to explain what has shaken up his life – when he realized he could no longer believe the news broadcasts and the official claims that “there is nobody to talk to”. “I don’t know why it did not happen before. It is a kind of decision to grow up and not to believe blindly what they tell us. Or to put it another way, I saw angry Palestinians and decided to believe their anger.”
His first active step was to go into the West Bank and join a group which set out to bring food and medicines to villages under closure. “I was confused” he reacalls.” I was still new at this, I hardly knew anybody. I remember near the settlement of Susya [in the South Hebron Hills]] the police stopped us and forbade us to go on. The people of Ta’ayush [Coexistence, a joint group of Palestinian and Jewish activists] decided to just defy the police. It was the first time in my life that I turned against the law, against what a policeman told me to do and not to do. At that moment I was mainly angry at the violation of my civil rights. But when I met the Palestinians and saw under what conditions they had to live, I realized that that was completely the wrong focus. How puny was my complaint at my rights being infringed, compared with the brutal trampling over of their most basic rights.
In the first year of being active he was going out about once in two weeks, but since the anti-fence campaign started his involvement sharply increasead to several times a week. Simultaneoulsy, he continued producing “Zbeng” and various other TV programs. It became a kind of schizophrenia. “It was so difficult to go back from there to Tel-Aviv and change totally your mode of thinking. In Tel-Aviv everybody walks carefree in the street and sits in cafes. True, from time to time there is a suicide bombing in which people are hit, and this is in everybody’s subconsciousness. But over there, the people don’t have this luxury of just walking the street freely. Suddenly, friends call you in the middle of the night, friends from a village, and tell about the army coming in, about detentions, about people being beaten up. half an hour from here it is Hell, and nobody knows about it.”
-Why not choose for your personal life, for your promising professional future?
“When you are young you have a set of beliefs about the world, but gradually reality catches up with you. In that stage most people just resign themselves and say this is the way the world is and you can do nothig about it. But I felt myself waking up from the brainwashing, from being told all the time that we have no partner and there is nobody to talk to. I am surrounded by people who search for ‘spirituality’ in all kinds of obscure sects and myths. I am not interested in that at all. What I am doing now – in my view, that is a real way of acquiring some spiritual merit.”
The more he was drawn into demonstrations his Tel-aviv work dwindled. Once a promising director, he had by now almost completely disappeared from the TV scene. “What I was doing were lightweight funny productions. Now, I can hardly conceive of such things. I am still attracted to making films – but films which would be part of what I am doing today, the struggle I am involved in.”
-It is difficult to understand how a young person just gives up what were his cherished dreams.
“I don’t feel that I am giving up a promising life, not at all. Perhaps for a short time I felt that way, when everything I saw was shaking me up into a reality shock. Nowadays, I feel that my daily life includes experiences which previously I could only see in fictional adventure films. Dangerous moments with angry soldiers directing their weapons at me, but also the sudden realization at the checkpoint that suddenly I see the soldiers are willing to listen to me. And the Palestinians who accept me, an Israeli, at their side. Alll this is no less worthwhile than having a career and going abroad in the wolrd. Anyway, I don’t feel that my career has ended. I feel that it has just turned in a different direction.”
From his father, actor Yossi Pollak, he has gotten a small video camera and started to document the event he participates in. At first, it was just as private mementos. About a year ago he got a producer to share the work, and is now in the process of editing for Channel 8 a film about the anti-fence struggle in Bil’in. His camera documents damage to persons and property, meetings with human rights activists, the building of the fence and the changes in its route, and especially the behaviour of the army. When he and his brother were beaten up and detained by the army, Pollak passed on the footage to the Channel 1 News. The filmed testimony proved false the army claims that it was the Pollak brothers who had assaulted the soldiers.
Pollak: “the camera helps set free Palestinian activists who faced severe charges. There were cases when the judge expressed anger with the army and police for having detained these people. When a Palestinian is put on trial, it is him who must prove his innocence much more than the prosecution needs to prove guilt. They can also remain in pre-trial detention for long months. Video footage also helps get events on the ground into media channels which often don’t bother to send their own crews. Sometimes we get to show the general public at what price the security fence is being built, how quick the army is in hurling tear gas grenades at 12-year old girls who protest the theft of their families’ land”.
Pollak himself got beaten up with clubs to the head and body, and schok grenades exploding near him. Also when he is not physically near the fence he is permanently available on the phone: coordinating with the action committees, asking about the situation of his friends in various villages, volunteering to transport international volunteers. With the Palestinians he speaks a far from bad Arabic.
“I have changed totally in these years” he says. “If you have a modicum of sensitivity, when you get to the West Bank and see the situation there is no way you can remain what you were before. It also effected me to become from a vegetarian into a vegan, not to consume any animal products whatsoever.
What I saw also gave a deeper understanding of the animal food industry. I took the decision to implement things which at first sight look like an impossible fantasy. If I would now produce a film, I would obviously choose a script about somebody who chooses to go to the Territories and meet people, a kind of character resembling myself, and make this the Good Guy in the film.”
-These is something very naive about this. You live in the reality which you chose for yourself and decide that you are the Good Guy.
“In our society, to do something just because it is a good deed, a moral act, seems to people like an idiotic motive. The hype is ”what do I do in order to succeed in life’. Many Israelis would have liked to ameliorate the situation but are afraid to lose their privileged positions. What is better than to be born into a privileged stratum, not into the group where you are born to be construction workers and street cleaners? The difference is that I can see this comfort as the illusion it is, and I am determined to break down the division. I just don’t accept phrases like ‘you are naive’ and ‘this is how the world is’ as legitimate. I don’t accept that there can be immoral solutions.”
-Do you also feel hurt and outraged about the suicide bombings?
Of course. It is self-evident that I oppose murder and random killings on both sides. Bu there is something very hypocritical about the common attitude to suicide bombings. Life under occupation is life under permanent terrorism. This is something people here are unwilling or unable to understand this. They are fixed on considering themselves as the victims. A man of my age in Israel is born into a reality where his people is oocupying another people, and that he has a role to fulfill in that occupation. I think everybody must ask himself if he wants to go on doing it. They must understand that they are living inside a bubble which will one day blow up in their faces. When I go around the Territories and see how people live, suicide bombings seem to me a logical outcome – notwithstanding the fact that when I am walking the street in Tel-Aviv, I can become the next victim just like everybody else.
The next stop is the home of 50-year old Wagee Burnet of Bil’in Village. He and Pollak embrace warmly several times. Burnet, a building contractor, had worked in Israel for thirty years. He speaks fluent Hebrew and could have been mistaken for an inhabitant of a Jerusalem Region moshav community. Two days after the Intifada broke out, an army bullet hit Burnet’s son, the eldest among ten children. The son was crippled and consigned for the rest of his life to an electric wheelchair, moving slowly through the cobbled alleys of Bil’in. His father was automatically denied entry permit to israel [on the authorities’ theory that anybody who might have a motive for revenge should be barred]. He had no choice but to go back to raising vegetables and herding sheep. A short time ago he suffered a heart attack, but continues to go to demonstrations.
“I know there is no symmetry between the two of us” says Pollak. “What I am permitted and can do, he can’t. Still, I feel that I am getting from him much more than I can give. I look at him with a never-ending astonishment. With all the terrible suffering he passed through, he still has a joy of life, he still can greet us Israelis. We have so much to learn from them, from their intimate knowledge of the land. Instead of learning from the mistakes of the past, we continue to confiscate lands and hold people as prisoners.”
The achievements of Pollak and his friends are minute. They try to get into the consciousness sof the public, but the public just does not want to hear. The humanitarian help which they succeed in delivering, collecting foodstuffs and vital products from the center of the country to the villages, is far from answering all needs. The fence is being built on and on, closing down upon more and more villages. many activists have been eroded and burned out during the years, and new ones took their place. Sometimes, only a handful of Israelis arrive at the demonstrations, and they must divide themselves among different villages.
“The achievements are very small” agrees Pollak. “Sometimes I get up in the morning and tell myself ‘I am tired, worn out, totally broken down I won’t go today’. But in the end I do go. I can’t do otherwise, especially when I know that only ten activists, or even less, will be coming”.
After two days of going to Bil’in and meetings with Palestinian activists, Pollak really seems worn out, Still, he continues answering his mobile phone which does not cease ringing. ” As long as I am an Israeli and I live here, I can’t be at peace with myself if I don’t do something against the occupation. It might be that I will have to do this for life, I hope I will always have the strength to carry on”.
Eleven criminal charges
At the entrance to Budrus Village Leila Mosinzon (31) pulls out a big kerchief and covers her hair.
She hides her long hair, as the Palestinian women do. With the long skirt over her jeans and the blue sweatshirt above, she could easily be mistaken for a Palestinian girl. She says she is tying the mandil over her hair in order to spare the village women the discomfort they feel when some Israeli and international women demonstrators arrive in the village wearing revealing clothes.
In the home of Sudkiya and Ahmed Abd-el-Rahim and their 15 children, at the village center, she is received with kisses and embraces and immediately becomes a virtual member of the family. In the inner courtyard of the poor house everybody crowds around her, the children waiting impatiently their turn to come and kiss her.
For a moment it is difficult to recognize the determined activist who throughout the car drive here spoke with such ideological ferocity about the iniquities of the occupation. For a moment she drops down the volume, asks questions and answers them delicately with a shining happy face.
Mosinzon, like Pollak, was born at Jaffa, in a mixed Jewish-Arab environment. Her mother is Mizrahi, originating from an Arab country. her father is Ashkenazi [European], whose parents rejected their daughter-in-law.
When she was eight years old she and her younger brother were separated from their parental home and taken to live with their grandparents. “I grew up in a racist home, my grandfather used to say: ‘The only good Arab is a dead Arab.’
For years I suffered physically and mentally, we were forbidden to see out biological parents. At the age of seventeen I ran away from home together with my dog. I tried to tell my schoolteacher how much I was suffering, she just did not believe me. It was just like now, when I come back from the Territories and try to tell what I saw and people don’t want to hear. They can’t face the truth.
When I came the first time to a demonstration and the army started shooting, I felt the helplessness of the Palestinians and it reminded me of my own helplessness as a small girl. When I stand in front of the soldiers’ guns I tell myself that perhaps due to me being there somebody else avoided being hurt, that is is a kind of tikkun (redemption).”
She is active in the West Bank as a kind of independent activist. She participates in the actions of most organized groups, but in a very personal and emotional way.
After being conscripted she was assigned to serve as teacher in an impoverished town in the north. Afterwards she went on a long trek abroad, and on her return she worked at a lot of passing jobs, from waitress at a restaurant to office cleaner.
Already then she was involved in actions for animals and volunteered in Ta’ayush and Amnesty International. She says she was a rather passive activist until the campaign at Yanun Village three years ago. The settlers of Ithamar constantly threatened, harassed and assaulted the tiny village’s 25 families, until they finally ran away in fear. She was among the activists who came to spend the night in the Palestinians’ homes until they felt safe enough to come back and re-inhabit their village. She had spent there five nights in all, and with one of the families she established a contact which changed everything for her.
Mosinzon traveled to Germany to take part in a Peace Now sponsored meeting between Israelis and Palestinians. From there she went on to Japan at her own expense, to collect funds for a Yanun family whose two daughters were born with handicapped hands and needed a complicated and expensive treatment.
When the anti-fence demonstrations started she joined in. Since then, in the past three years, she is only rarely working – finding a passing job and remaining in it just long enough to finance food, travelling expenses and a mobile phone. She has given up having an apartment of her own, and is wandering between the homes of friends in Jerusalem to those of Palestinian families in the villages, especially the Budrus family which virtually adopted her.
She sold olive oil on behalf of Mes’ha families who could not leave their village because of the army road-blocks, and passed the money on to them. She organized children’s summer camps in seven Palestinian villages and got friends who are circus performers to come and teach the children some of their tricks. She was beaten up, hit directly by a gas grenade, detained ten times and ordered to keep away from the fence and always came back. She got charged with eleven criminal charges of “disorderly behaviour” and “assaulting soldiers”, and the prosecution insists upon sending her behind bars.
Next month she will probably start serving a three-month term under a plea bargain. You can hardly ever find her calm or moderate. She is beautiful, emotional, hot-headed, suspicious towards the media and towards anybody who sees things differently.
“Of course I don’t want to go to prison, like I don’t want to get shot at during demonstrations” she says. “Often, I am very afraid in demonstrations because of the violence, but I know why I am there. I am not willing to close my eyes like the Germans closed their eyes in the Nazi period. I am not willing to stay silent when people have to wait long at the checkpoint while I can pass freely”.
She is not motivated by a very well-organized ideology, but by a personal feeling of moral responsibility. She had also volunteered and helped charity organizations collecting food for the poor inside Israel.When she still tries to talk ideology, what comes out seems a too concentrated mixture or various creeds: “Our society produces violence and then solves it with another forest cut down and another shopping center going up. The overdraft in the bank continues to grow because we don’t love ourselves and therefore we must consume more and more things which we don’t really need. And we don’t care if the milk we drink comes from a cow who suffers hell in an industrialized farm. What do we care about homeless people sleeping in our streets? We have created an alienated society. I want to break down that alienation, to cross the fences which surround the human heart.”.
Mosinzon came to know the Budrus family when she organized a summer camp in the village. “They know I have nothing to give them except to come and sit down with them and laugh together with the children with whom I fell in love and who have opened widely my heart. Visiting here returns me to myself, to my will, to nature. They are happy that I am there, and this gives me the feeling of a real family which I never had before.
In order to provide some economic help to the family Mosinzon got together with a friend who works at an ecological farm. The two of them organized a kind of workshop at the village, to let Israelis study farming and ecological agriculture at a plot belonging to a relative of the family. The Israeli pupils came seven times to Budrus, with each of them paying 50 Shekels per lesson which were given to the family and doing such work as removing stones from the plot.
At stormy periods she avoids visiting the family, for fear that her presence would anger the army and cause them harm. Two years ago, she tells, they got part of their land confiscated for the fence and 50 of their olive trees were uprooted. About a month ago Sudkia was hurt by rubber bullets when soldiers came to arrest her brother. “When Sudkiya was hurt I was on my way to a social event in Jerusalem. When I heard it I started shaking in my whole body and fell down unconscious. l decide that it might be more harmful when I am not with them. I devote to them whatever I have to give.I love them. They are close to the land, close to each other. I am here because I adopted and was adopted by a family. Our contact is without politics, and without either arrogance or guilt feeling.”