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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

13 May 2001
Subject: Resisting the Siege with Food

Peace Yes, Occupation No

by Nicole Cohen-Addad

M. came to Israel when she was five years old. She is a beautiful young woman with long hair and blue eyes. She says she is Russian. But when asked from where in Russia, she corrects herself. She comes from Ukraine. She is a writer who finished her first novel about to be published.

Y. is from Kfar Qasem. He is young, with a serious face. He is part of Physicians for Human Rights. He is also a student at Hebrew University on leadership and management in non-governmental organizations.

G. is an Italian journalist who resides in Jerusalem for the past ten years. He is married to an Israeli Arab and has a four-year-old “baby.” He is the correspondent for a leftist Italian newspaper.

N. came to Israel two years ago from the United States. She was born in Algeria. She is a physician working and living in Tel Aviv.

M., Y., G. and N. have one thing in common: they are traveling in the same car, together with 70 other cars and one truck, bringing flour, rice, canned peas and other food products to Kfar Marda and Kfar Qeri.

This is yet another peace and solidarity convoy organized by Ta’ayush (Arab-Jewish Partnership) together with the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace and the Committee Against House Demolitions.

This is the fourth such convoy. The first two were performed during Ehud Barak’s tenure. They were performed without incident. The third one, on April 24th, (the first under Sharon’s tenure) was not so eventless. It was stopped by the army in Yassuf, not far from Salfit. An army unit entered the village and tried to prevent the unloading of the food by pushing people off the truck. The food was nevertheless successfully unloaded. However, on the way to the next village, the police arrested eight members of Ta’ayush.

The present convoy is an impressive caravan of cars in a slow procession around the hills of the Palestine (West Bank side), with signs on the cars, in English, Arabic, or Hebrew: Settlers Out, and purple ribbons, floating out from the car windows. It could have been a wedding procession, but it was silent. Silent and dignified. From time to time, in between cars, an army van/tank becomes part of our procession for a few brief moments and then sets itself on the side of the road. Two or three men inside.

Once or twice, a police car on the side of the road. A police woman, armed with an automatic gun, outside of her car, in position, gun barrel slightly pointed down.

Winding roads, up and down, cactuses with yellow flowers, and then a few children waving at us, smiling, trying their English “Hello.” Some adults alongside, greeting us warmly in Arabic, women smiling at us. We are entering the village. We unload the truck, the cars. Everyone helping everyone in a human chain. And then we gather, in the shade, all together, for a few speeches, in Arabic, translated in Hebrew and vice-versa. Young lads from the village welcome us with food plates. There is a feeling of mutual respect and solidarity in the air.

Outside, private houses, all seemingly well-built, terraces, women and children on the terraces or in the front door frames. The men have joined us. We talk. Most have not had work for the past eight or nine months.

A young man tells me about the houses being built up the hill in Ariel, at night, preventing the people in the village below from sleeping. At night? I ask. Yes, at night. And I think to myself: but, isn’t there a law against noise at night???

Well. I must check this one out. I take a picture of the house being built up there, making a mental note that I might want to come back one night there and film the action, that is the night building activities.

The young man then shows me the left side of his forehead. He was shot. This is what is left over.

After winding up and down the hills again, we repeat our voyage into the next village on our program. The welcoming warmth is the same. After unloading, we are served drinks and the traditional coffee. Speeches in the courtyard. R. from Kfar Qasem patiently explains to me with a map in Arabic where we are, where we have been, and the rest of the West Bank, this part of Palestine. R. is a bright young woman wearing a white shawl over her head and a warm brown long dress.

Our mission accomplished, we return to Kfar Qasem, ever richer from the interaction with the villagers and with our for-a-day car companions. Goodbyes, exchanges of phone numbers. Most of us, ever wanting to prolong the feeling, opt to finish the day all together around... what else but food, in a restaurant, next to our rendezvous point of a few hours before.

We have closed the circle. Food, our connection.

At-Home with Gila Svirsky

Letters from Jerusalem, 2001
Letters from Jerusalem, 2002
Letters from Jerusalem, 2003
New & recent letters from Jerusalem (2004)
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© 2001 Nicole Cohen-Addad.

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