Meretz Symposium Day 6-7: Ha Lev Sheli B’Smol

Bar-hopping on Allenby and Dizengof with Isaac and Savyonne after a long week of battling despair.

If two days ago I was starry-eyed, and yesterday I was bleary-eyed, then today I was teary-eyed.

Yesterday we went down to Be’er Sheva to visit a bilingual school called Hagar. There, they have an equal number of Arab and Jewish students. Each class has two teachers, one Jewish teacher who only speaks in Hebrew and one Arab teacher who only speaks in Arabic. All the signs are written both in Arabic and Hebrew. Downstairs, they turned the bomb shelter into a pirate ship library. It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Totally mitigates the fear of being showered by missiles.

At lunch, we met Vivian Silver, the co-executive director of the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development, a program dedicated to creating a shared society between Palestinian Arabs and Jews in Israel. She filled us in on the situation of the Bedouins, the indigenous inhabitants of the Negev desert. I’d been to a Bedouin community before, on Birthright. Their tea was glorious, and so were their camels. Despite the fact that the Bedouin are legal citizens, the Israeli government is trying to get the “maximum amount of Bedouins in the least amount of space.”

Later, we visited the border of the Gaza Strip. It was the first time I’d ever seen it, and the idea of the biggest open-air prison really hit home. There are 1.7 million Palestinians living in 365 square feet of land. Their economy is based entirely on foreign aid, since they have no raw materials and no resources are allowed to go out, only in. A gentle breeze played with knee-high grasses as we gazed at the area, just two days after over 60 missiles had been launched into the towns nearby, and during the Eid al-Adha holiday. The serenity was surreal.

This morning we met Zahava Galon, the head of Meretz. Harold really hit the nail on the head when he said they saved the best for last. I don’t care what Israelis think. It’s incredibly important to build a strong Left, and Zahava Galon is just the woman for the ticket. Biberman is disgusting, and Labour is totally selling out. But Meretz is the only party that refuses to change its values simply as a tactic to win over the disheartened Israeli public. Almost makes me want to make aliyah, just so I can vote Meretz.

Goodbyes this morning were difficult. I handed out copies of Leviathan and was suddenly overcome with an embarrassing (yet unsurprising) amount of emotion. Hugs and kisses were exchanged, bags were packed, and now I’m basking in the beauty of my sweet mishpacha in Ramat Gan.

This week I joined the battle. They turned me into a soldier, and now I will fight. Every day I was reminded of how much despair everyone feels, how privileged I am, and how hard this will be. This nation is both disintegrating in scary ways and flourishing in exciting ones. Making aliyah is an idea that has lodged itself in there somehow. But it will be a conscious decision, taking in both the beauty and the blood. I will not stop until the occupation is over. I will not stop.

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