Category Archives: Kibbutz Eilon

Both Sides Now – Israel/Palestine Pt 2 (39)

Be CourageousWhat has changed in the intervening years, from my ardent support for Israel which I think was pretty prevalent among most people at the time, to the widespread condemnation of the recent vicious warfare in Gaza, is the fact that people now have access to far more information about what’s going on in the world.

If we relied on conventional media, we would have had no idea of what was happening in Gaza – only what was allowed by Israel and supine media outlets too much intertwined with Zionist interests to publish the truth.
But nowadays we have social media – mobile phones, tablets, Twitter, Google, Facebook and other independent news outlets who are showing the carnage as it is – doctors, nurses and medical staff killed when hospitals are bombed; paramedics killed when ambulances are fired on; dead babies and children carried out of the rubble of smashed homes; elderly men and women grief-stricken as they see their homes destroyed; medical staff like Dr Mads Gilbert pleading for an end to the insanity because hospitals are overwhelmed with the dead, the dying, the injured; people praying under the ruins of a mosque bombed to smithereens.
And in the face of silence from leaders in Europe, the UK and the US, I would ask how loud their howls would be if synagogues were bombed by Palestinian resistance fighters at the same levels mosques, religious buildings for Islamic people, have been flattened in Gaza. And how loud would the US, British, Israeli and European howls have been if Palestinians had bombed Israel on Holocaust Remembrance Day or another other religious observance day in that country, whereas it’s okay to bomb Gaza during Ramadan, the holiest month of the year for Muslims, and during Eid-Al-Fitr, an important religious festival for Islamic people following on from Ramadan?

In the past few weeks we’ve seen huge support building up for the people of Gaza. Tens of thousands have marched around the world to support Palestinian people and condemn the slaughter by the Israeli Armed Forces. It is people on the street who have come out against the injustice perpetrated by Israel, the US, UK and European leaders.

What to do in your daily life?  I fully support the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions grassroots movement which is Peace can do bettergrowing rapidly. You can support calls for an arms embargo on Israel.  You can join Palestinian support movements. You can donate to support the rebuilding of Gaza and the support of its people.

What can happen in the future?  Whenever political leaders talk about the situation, they start with “I acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.”  But why does it have the right to exist?  It was founded on terrorism and is maintained by state terrorism.  The United Nations passes resolutions critical of Israel, describes its settlements in Palestinian territories as illegal and thumbs its nose at the UN because the US backs Israel to the hilt and has turned the UN into an impotent organisation.

So no, I don’t happen to think Israel has the right to exist although that will probably send some people off into paroxysms of incoherent range. I don’t think it should be demolished by violence either.  Violence just begets more violence. My own view is that work needs to begin – perhaps under the aegis of community elders respected around the world (which excludes the despised Tony Blair) – of moving towards a one-nation state of current Israeli residents and Palestinian people. Such a state would need to be secular and with a constitution which includes equal rights for all.  Do I believe such a thing could happen overnight? Well, no. But it’s the logical, long-term solution to achieving peace in the Middle East.

Whatever – just don’t be silent. Speak up for justice for the Palestinian people, and also for Israeli people, because when you are consumed by hate, you do yourself an injustice. When Israelis sit on chairs, watch the bombing of Gaza and toast to the deaths of Palestinian people, they are to be pitied because they’ve lost their humanity. The task in the Middle East is to restore humanity to all the people who live there, however hard that task might be.




….Where Angels Fear to Tread: Israel-Palestine, Pt 1 (38)

Gaza Conflict figuresI called this post “Where Angels Fear to Tread” because I am firmly of the belief that we lose our humanity when we stay silent in the face of crimes against humanity, in this case, Israel’s genocide in the rubble-ridden, stinking-of-the-dead, open prison that is Gaza.

I’m wading into the Palestinian-Israeli situation because to stay on the sidelines and be silent is gutless and cowardly.  I am also always cognisant of two saying which I consider my core beliefs in regard to justice for me:

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of
thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. . . . ”  – John Donne


“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”  – Martin Luther King

Given that if you speak up on behalf of Palestinians you’re likely to be labelled anti-semitic, you do tend to consider whether to comment or not. But to be appalled and disgusted by the carnage in Gaza and to speak up about it isn’t being anti-semitic, it’s being anti-Zionist. They are two completely different beings. I’ll condemn loudly anti-Jewish comments because I abhor anti-semitism. Anti-semitism enabled the functioning of the gas chambers in Nazi Germany, and wherever it rears its ugly head today it needs to be smacked down. But anti-Zionism is to be against the way in which Israel carries out genocide against Palestinian people – not just today but since the founding of the state of Israel.

So I’ll nail my colours to the mast:  I think the Palestinians have been the victims in the Palestine-Israel situation and deserted by world leaders, that Israel is a thuggish, nationalistic nation, committing war crimes with impunity because of backing from its main arms dealer, America, and Palestinians have a right to choose who represents them. Remember, Hamas was elected democratically in 2006 which is when Israel, with US backing, decided to impose a blockade on Gaza, turning it into a huge open prison/concentration camp. And Hamas arose – and has the backing of the Palestinian people – because of the suffering imposed by Zionist Israel.

But this was not always my attitude on Israel and Palestine.

When I lived on the kibbutz in Israel I would see numbers tattooed on the inside arms of some of the older kibbutzniks and know they were concentration camp survivors. One day we were in the middle of a meal in the communal dining room when a siren went off. At first I thought it was a fire siren as everyone stood up, but when no-one moved I asked the volunteer beside me what was going on. It turned out to be Holocaust Remembrance  Day with people bowing their heads to honour and remember the five million-plus Jews who died in Nazi Germany’s concentration camps.

And when I was a kid, I came across a book which my parents had kept hidden due to the images and articles in it – about the concentration camps run by the Nazis in which, initially, German Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, Gypsies, Jehovah Witnesses, homosexuals and physically and mentally handicapped people were incarcerated.  Jewish people were then included on the Nazis hate list, millions were rounded up and transported to the killing fields of  Sachsenhausen, Bergen-Belsen, Auschwitz,  Treblinka, Buchenwald, Theresienstadt, to name a few. These camps were where the infamous ovens existed where inmates were gassed to death. The image which remains engraved in my mind from that book of my parents is of an elderly Jew with a Star of David gouged out of his cheek – the Star of David being the yellow star which Jews were forced to wear wherever Hitler spread his evil empire.

I was told that my doctor in Ramsgate, Kent, UK, was one of the first medical staff to enter Bergen-Belsen, although – as far as I know – she never spoke publicly about this part of her life. It made the existence of these ghastly camps real for me.

I say this because I grew up in the post-war era when there was much discussion about concentration camps, torture, the perils of neo-Nazism, the way in which Nazis operated: you kill one of ours, we’ll kill a whole lot more of yours. I saw photos of concentration camps where people were just bags of bones, saw the piles of gold teeth taken from dead people, and I despise those nowadays who try to pretend that these barbaric camps were a piece of fiction.

So yes, I was a fervent supporter of Israel when I lived on Kibbutz Eilon in 1972. I had no idea about the history of Israel nor was I aware of any information about Palestinian people. As far as I was aware, Jewish people settled in Israel and rebuilt it from the shambolic state it was in when the primitive Arabs occupied it.  The Arabs are cowards, murderers and were basically barbarians. Anything put out by Zionist Israel was the truth. Anything spoken by dirty Arabs was lies. Racism allowed the grotesque falsehood of making the victims the criminal, and the criminal the victim. That’s the way it was for years, until recently.

Things changed for me a lot earlier, two years after I arrived in Australia, when I joined the Australian Union of Students in 1974 as the Organiser for Western Australia. Suddenly I was meeting people who had a quite different view of Israel, its formation and its actions. I met and helped take around in Western Australia two Palestinian students, Eddie Zananiri and Samir Cheikh of the General Union of Palestinian Students. There was uproar over their presence in Australia and Zionist forces did their best to derail their tour, but they weren’t successful.nelson_mandela_palestinians_460

And so I was forced to reconsider my views because I was finding out facts from the other side – from the Palestinian side, from Palestinian sources – the voices of the hidden, the repressed, the dispossessed. I found out that Israel was founded on terrorism – by the Irgun, the Stern gang and Haganah; that Palestinians were massacred and forced to flee through more terrorist threats; that two British sergeants who were kidnapped and hanged by the Irgun terrorists were not summarily executed but were hanged with bailing wire so they suffocated slowly (courtesy of my late father-in-law who served in Palestine); that the British encouraged Zionist Jewish settlers in Palestine, not out of any sympathy for Jews, but to act as a buffer between the indigenous population and the British political system. Similarly the US supported the founding of Israel for it to serve as a policeman and look-out post or US interests and meddling in the Middle East.
I found out that tens of thousands of Palestinians were living in refugee camps that I never knew existed. I learned that so-called “terrorist” groups were resistance and freedom fighters who had come into existence because of the brutal repression of the Palestinian people. I came across reports that Israel actively colluded in the massacres by Lebanese Christian militia in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in which between 762 and 3,500 civilians were killed. This slaughter is considered a war crime but the “international community”, ie, US, UK and Europe, have done nothing at all about it. Indeed, Ariel Sharon, who presided over this genocide, ended up as the Prime Minister of Israel!
One thing I also discovered was the racism which coloured the whole Palestinian issue – that Palestine was a wasteland until the creative, skilled Zionists colonised the area; that Palestinians were illiterate, inveterate liars and nothing they said could be believed because only Israel spoke the truth. Well, ha-bloody-ha to that load of tripe. I know that once I’d opened my eyes to the truth, I was furious at being deceived by all the Zionist-US propaganda – the same propaganda that operates today when President Obama talks about how awful genocide by Islamic Nation is in Iraq, while signing orders for more weapons for the genocide against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and not saying a word about the recent Israeli onslaught.

I think one of the saddest things about Zionist nationalist ideology is that it sets out to present Jewish people as All Lives Matter“the chosen ones”, the ones with “the right of return to Israel” from anywhere in the world (which means “move over Palestinians, we want more of your land as Jewish people heed this call and move onto your land as settlers”). It is deeply racist and, to my mind, has made life more difficult for Jewish people living in other countries around the world. It has not only increased resentment against Jewish people because it’s so easy to tar them with Zionist ideology of the superior race – ironic when you consider that Nazis considered themselves the superior race and Jews the inferior Untermensch. It also increases anger against Jews in general among people who don’t know the background to Zionism that any criticism of Israel is automatically considered anti-semitic by Zionist forces, instead of having the guts to consider the criticism and ask why it has emerged.

At the same time, when you look at the disparity between Israeli and Palestinian deaths, nearly two thousand Palestinian dead (mainly civilians) and 67 Israeli deaths (mainly military), there is no doubt that Israel is exacting collective punishment upon the people of Gaza – you kill one of ours, we’ll kill nearly thirty of yours. And collective punishment was made a war crime because it was practised by the Nazis in World War 2 – you kill one of ours, we’ll kill ten, twenty… one hundreds of yours.

In Part Two, I intend to look at the different situation today with the rise of social media and the ability to circumvent the conventional media. In the current Gaza conflict, it has left the Israeli government wrong-footed as it has relied on its usual propaganda outlets without realising that pro-Palestinian forces and supporters are using social media to show the truth about the situation in the hell that is called Gaza.

Peace better than war




Adventures in Israel: My Time on a Kibbutz 1972 (37)

In 1972 I was still going out with Bill, someone I’d known since my second year at University. We broke up and got back together again on countless occasions, mainly because he was a Gemini. He always thought the grass was greener on the other side, until he got there and decided he actually preferred being with me. I, on the other hand, had little self-esteem or self-confidence, thought I had to have a guy around to show I was part of the in-crowd – because I was terrified of being an outsider – and put up with this bizarre behaviour. El Stupido and mad, quite mad. But I was young.

I’d split up again with Bill (story of our relationship) just before he went to Israel but he phoned me from there to ask me to join him as he was lonely. And I was soppy enough to agree, much to the disgust of my friend at the office where I was working. What can I say? She was quite right, but I was too stupid and insecure to say no.  Plus I was getting bored where I was working and resentful at their refusal to give me a pay increase.  So I contacted the people who organised kibbutz visits, got the name of the kibbutz where I was to work – Eilon – as well as my flight tickets and I was all prepared to hoof it to the unknown because it sounded interesting.

Things got a bit derailed before I left though. I had met Jack through one of my flatmates and we were casual friends for a while but then suddenly clicked at a party for – wait for it – my departure to Israel to join Bill! As Jack had already booked also to go to Israel to work on a kibbutz but a bit later, we decided to suspend our relationship until after we were both back in the UK. Once the Israeli adventures were over for both of us, we intended to head off to Australia which, as I’ve written about in an earlier post, we eventually did in autumn 1972. Dark Side of the Moon

At that time, you could work on a kibbutz for three months or so and get a fairly cheap flight to Israel on El Al. I knew nothing – zip, nada, zilch – about Middle Eastern politics. In fact, I really think I sleepwalked through my early life, as I’ve previously mentioned, until I got to Australia. So I said goodbye to Sam and flew to join Bill in Israel where he’d already been working on a kibbutz.

As the plane approached Tel Aviv Airport, I got distinctly uneasy because the guy sitting beside me had disappeared leaving a black bag under the seat in front of his.  I kept glancing at it, imagining a bomb of some sort, and had just geared myself up to approach one of the cabin crew when the guy returned – he was an El Al pilot returning to Israel and had wandered up front to talk to the flight crew.  You have no idea how relieved I was!

When I got to Israel, I realised I’d really landed in the proverbial quagmire. I still liked Bill, he was a really nice bloke, and I was torn as to whether I was making the right decision or not. Eventually I told him what had happened just before I left and he was pretty angry and upset. But we decided to keep going and my parents had advised me not to make any decisions one way or another until I got back to the UK.

Before we took off for Kibbutz Eilon, we enjoyed visiting Jerusalem, Jaffa on the coast, Acre, and then Haifa and other ports along the coast as we travelled to our kibbutz on the border with Lebanon. Jerusalem was absolutely fascinating and beautiful. The Dome of the Rock was stunning. And I loved roaming the pathways of the Old City, feeling the ancient history in the narrow walkways and admiring the various arts and crafts. We hitchhiked most of the time as it was a common practice then to pick up travellers. If there was a member of the armed forces also hitchhiking, however, they always got preference.

I thought it was amazing as we travelled up the coast to see banana plantations with bags over the fruit in different colours according to the ripening of the fruit. And orange and lemon groves were also a new experience – it all seemed so exotic. I was also surprised to find that there were no tides in the Mediterranean, something I’d never even thought about (but which stood me in good stead when we moved to North Cyprus!).

Orange tree

Orange Tree

At the time I was there, Eilon was a relatively small kibbutz with a small number of volunteers, as we – transient visitors/workers – were called. I really loved my time on the kibbutz. I had no idea what was going on in the rest of the country or the politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and lived really in a bit of a bubble during my stay.

I didn’t start general work at first as the first night we were there I managed to trip over a chair at tea-time and sprain my ankle. Instead I did light duties such as ironing where I didn’t have to stand.

I got on well with the other volunteers except for one of the American Jewish volunteers who was truly obnoxious. There were other American Jews there as part of a sort of cultural programme, if I remember rightly, who were really terrific. But the particular bloke I’m talking about was rich and let everyone know it,  loud, obnoxious and a real bully.  He also drank to excess which was really frowned upon in the kibbutz where drunkenness was not considered acceptable. One of my New Zealand friends ended up going out with him which really surprised me because I thought she had better sense. But then look at me – on and off 13 times with Bill, so I was hardly one to comment!

In the main, though, we worked at picking bananas, grapefruit and oranges, while some of us worked on general duties in the kitchens and canteens of the kibbutz. I was mortified the first day to be sent to sit at the foot of the potato peeling machine, digging the eyes out of the potatoes as they bounced at the end of the mechanical peeling process. I thought this was the worst, most boring job ever until later I was put to knocking the dead flowers off the end of bananas to prepare them for export. I don’t think I have been so bored – then and since – as time seemed to literally creep past. The only really good part I remember is eating a grapefruit from the tree and it was utterly delicious!

On the other hand, the potato peeling seemed quite appealing after my next job turned up – cleaning out the volunteers’ toilets and showers, and then working in the children’s kitchen. I was horrified – I’m a Libran and Librans don’t do crappy (literally) jobs! But as the toilets and showers were cleaned every day and there were only 15 or so volunteers, it turned out to be quite a good job, not least because I didn’t have to get up as early as those working in the orchards, and I’ve never been an early bird at the best of times. I was a bit lost in the children’s kitchen as there really wasn’t a huge lot of work there, mainly washing up the big pots and pans and doing general cleaning.

Dancing SparklesI was assigned to the orchards one day to pick grapefruit but I was absolutely hopeless. I’m no good in the heat, got a blinding headache, and then got my long hair tangled in the big thorns found in grapefruit trees. My productivity was pathetic. I think the guy in charge of the volunteers’ farm work gave me the thumbs down because I was then put onto serving at tables at lunch. I really enjoyed this, because I got to chat to people, as well as assisting at the conveyor belt which washed all the crockery and cutlery after the meals.

Work on the kibbutz for us volunteers generally used to finish around lunch. I worked later in the day when I was assisting with the washing up on the conveyor belt in the evenings. But mostly we had long, lazy afternoons where we could hitchhike into the nearest town on the coast, Nahariya, or play games like chess or Scrabble, or simply sleep. It was a lovely existence. One day Bill and I climbed a rock face nearby to explore the remains of a Crusader fort. Like as not we ended up in Lebanon which was pretty stupid. We were very close to the border and had army patrols day and night. One night I went to use the toilet which was across the way from our hut and found myself facing two soldiers with their machine guns drawn. Luckily they didn’t shoot on sight! But those same soldiers also took us out for a trip along the border which, again, was really interesting.

As for the goings-on in Israel and the whole Palestinian question, I had no idea about the situation at all. I visited Israel in the wake of the shooting of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists in 1972 and was avowedly anti-Palestinian. In fact, in those days, I had very little interest in political affairs at all. I do remember someone discussing Black Saturday and the shooting dead of 13 Irish people by British paramilitary (another, 14th, died a few months later), and my only comment was that the people shouldn’t have been marching if it was illegal. I cringe at this statement when I think of it now, but I was pretty ignorant about the world beyond my own little circle of self-interest in those days.

Later in our stay on the kibbutz we were taken on a tour of Israel by the kibbutz which was absolutely fantastic. We travelled in a coach and we stayed in hostels, doing all the cooking ourselves. We travelled as far as Hebron where we visited a traditional glass factory. I remember the armed soldiers on rooftops but, again, had little idea of why they were there. We later visited the magnificent, historic ruins atop Masada where Herod had lived and where the Zealots had committed mass suicide the day before the Romans invaded their fortress. We climbed up to the fortress from the side where the Romans had built a ramp to reach the top of Masada. It was a hot day, bright sunshine, extremely quiet and the views when we reached the top were just stupendous. You could see in the clear desert air vast swathes of ancient rocks, desert and strange formations. To walk among such ruins was to experience humility at the majesty of the scenery, the ruins and the memory of those who had inhabited this monument and died on its heights.

We climbed down the path to the summit rather than use the cable car which most tourists used to reach the top, and I can remember being incredibly envious of the Swiss in our group who leaped down the rough and stony path down the other side like mountain goats. I’m not particularly daring or adventuresome on paths like this and it was a great relief when we finally reached the base.

We also visited the Dead Sea where I had a grand time floating in the salty water and rinsing off in the Ein Gedi Oasis, and we finally finished up in Jerusalem, if I remember rightly. We stayed in a dormitory and I remember being awakened by the call to prayer from the minarets, an eerie, powerful sound which I’ve loved ever since.

Back on the kibbutz, I was still dithering about what to do when I got back to the UK, until one day Bill came out with a put-down in front of the other volunteers – a harsh criticism which left me humiliated and everyone else around our table very, very embarrassed. I recalled all the other occasions he’d put me down. I remembered a sheet of paper I found once where he’d listed the reasons for and reasons against staying with me. The most hurtful was that I had no imagination. I had little self-confidence in those days and it devastated me. But I didn’t have the confidence to say a final good-bye and strike out on my own.

This last comment on the kibbutz and made very publicly, however, was the nail in the coffin. I didn’t say anything, just decided to keep the peace until I got back to the UK. After we left the kibbutz we travelled down to Eilat on the Red Sea which was another whacko experience.  It was real cowboy territory and frontier land – we slept on the beach in sleeping bags but kept our money and passports in our hand as it was common for people to slit the bottom of a bag while you slept and pinch your possessions.  You also had to duck in and out of the restroom very fast as there were holes in the walls where Peeping Toms would try to have a look.

When we arrived, there was a bit of a sandstorm so that visibility across to Aqaba in Jordan was reduced to a few metres in front of us. And then the dust cleared and we could see Jordan so clearly, such a surprise as it had been completely obscured the night before.

We eventually started back to Tel Aviv and hitched a lift with a truck driver who was really friendly and helpful. I remember stopping at a cafe in the middle of the Negev Desert and seeing my very first hornets’ nest. These were dirty big hornets and I was very, very cautious as I passed by them to enter the cafe for a quick meal.  And as we were driving up the hills from the desert, the truck driver was changing gears constantly and glancing over the road towards the side mirror on my side.  I wondered why until Bill told me he was judging his closeness to the edge of the road where it fell away into deep gullies. I went green when I opened the window to look out and realised how much we were relying on the skill of the driver not to go toppling down the steep slope beside the road!

Finally we got back to Tel Aviv and took separate flights back to London. When I did get back, there was Jack waiting for me, I remembered how great he was, and I knew I had to finally quit my relationship with Bill. When I finally met him, I told him it was all over. He was devastated. I was really upset as he was a nice guy but not the one for me.

As for me, my views on Israel and Palestine have change drastically, ever since I joined the Australian Union of Students in 1974 as organiser for Western Australia, and I’ll comment on that in my next post.

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