Third installment: I had a lovely lunch with Mimi from my [1959-60 Habonim] Workshop at a health foodish, partially vegan, partially fish and fowl type restaurant, but very creative, not far from the train station in Benyamina* a yummy vegetable couscous–whole wheat couscous topped with roasted vegies (eggplant, skin and all; carrots, onions, etc) topped with “bean cream” and what they called a vegan paella, which was red rice and lentils with some vegies and cubes of firm tofu that had been marinated in coconut milk. It wasn’t cheap (each of our bills was 74 NIS, including taxes and I think tip, so not so bad for a very nice meal, and they didn’t make a fuss about our sitting for a long time chatting and phoning (using their free-for-customers wifi), etc. My friend had recently moved there from the Jerusalem area to be near son and grandkids, and was not happy with how hot and sweaty her new home was.
So, I tried over and over to get ahold of folks in Gesher Haziv, and I even tried an old friend in nearby Atlit, but no luck, so I got rather confusing instructions from Rachel (Elana and David’s daughter) about how to reach her at home if I continued directly there or at work if I came the next morning . . . – partly my confusion and partly hers – but when folks on the train told me to get off at a particular stop in Haifa for the bus I required, the exit turnstyle rejected my ticket, since it was for an earlier station. So I thought, maybe this is a sign I should try Aaron and Iris in Gesher Haziv again. At this point, Rachel noticed I’d been trying to reach her, and called me (she explained she hadn’t seen my texts because she’d been on the phone for an hour), and when I asked her about what bus to take to get to her, she said she didn’t know.
By then I had decided I didn’t want to attempt to follow such vague directions at this hour of the night (with dark approaching) in a part of the country I’m not all that acquainted with, so I decided to give Aaron and Iris in Gesher Haziv one more try. BINGO – Aaron answered and said to come on up. I let Rachel know I’d see her at work the next day, and –with a certain amount of relief–extended my ticket north to Naharia, where Aaron would pick me up. It’s always nice to visit them. In fact, Aaron is one of the few members of my 1959 Habonim Youth Workshop group that I’m still in more-or-less ongoing contact with; especially now that Hannah isn’t speaking to me any more and Marlene has written me off as having “turned against [my] own”–SIGH!
I ended up having another rather depressing conversation. Aaron is convinced that a two-state solution is the only feasible one–although without a real idea of how we’ll get there–because he doesn’t think that we and the Palestinians can live together peacefully on account of what he perceives as deep “cultural differences” as well as what he sees as the overwhelming influence of militant Islam in the region on the one side and militant Zionism on the other, and that sort of thing, which (along with Jewish and Christian extremism) will “need to run its course…” although I’m probably missing a lot of subtleties here. He was getting a bit hot under the collar at some points when I challenged some of his assumptions. For instance, I would give an example that was an exception to some of the generalizations he was making, and he would say, “Well, that’s just a single thing; you’re not looking at the Big Picture,” and so on. I think some of what I said made him uncomfortable and, being a thoughtful person, maybe he’ll think about them. For instance, he was talking about how things might be going well in a nonviolent demonstration, but then, if even little kids start throwing stones, that gives the soldiers an excuse to be violent. He seems to think they should all be a bunch of Gandhians, and that if they were, that eventually they’d win like Gandhi did.
But hey, as far as I understand, in Beit Ummar–at least during the weekly demonstrations–that’s what they did, and it didn’t help prevent violence by the soldiers. But he says, “That’s only one example…” So it’s totally impossible to argue with him. He, as always, is quite opinionated. And although I respect his thinking, and it’s definitely worth taking his ideas into account, I should remember not to get overwhelmed. Just because Aaron is convincing doesn’t mean he’s always right. He is for a settlement boycott–but just products, not individuals or even institutions. Anyway, we had a nice breakfast.Aaron dropped me off at the train in Naharia, I got down to Haifa and caught the right bus for Kufr Kana, and Rachel picked me up at the bus stop and drove me to the Sindayanna (http://www.sindyanna.com/) warehouse and offices inside the village. She showed me around the place, and I took pictures. The Palestinian-Israeli women who she works with didn’t look all that pleased to have a visitor, somehow. They looked quite grim, altogether, particularly the supervisor, who was moving stuff around and didn’t want to pause to have her picture taken.
Turns out the CEO of Sindyanna is Hadas Lahav, whom I knew from when I did translations for Challenge Magazine back when it was published in Jerusalem! (www.hanitzotz.com/challenge). She was finishing something up and under some pressure of time. We did chat briefly. She recognized me, but thought she knew me from Women in Black in Tel Aviv and apparently didn’t recall that I’d been a volunteer translator for Challenge for several years in the nineties. I sat around for a while while Rachel finished her work, and then I realized that if I joined them for their end-of-season restaurant meal in Nazareth, I’d never make it back to Tel Aviv on time. I also didn’t feel all that welcome, even though Rachel had invited me and Hadas assumed I was joining them. They dropped me off at the bus stop, and I was really lucky in that the bus I needed came within about 5 minutes. Even so, it was a touch after four by the time I got to Tel Aviv, and nearly five when I reached the building housing the Zochrot offices. There were no signs indicating Zochrot’s whereabouts, however, and I couldn’t even see a way to get up to the fourth floor. So I phoned, got Voice Mail, and left a message that was never returned.
Then I started heading in the direction E and D had told me would lead me to the location of the Pappe talk. The best part of the evening was that I stumbled on this wonderful little restaurant with a very limited menu, but offering one of my favourites–humus and foul together–for just 10 NIS. It was super yummy, and came with some kind of tasty sauce on top, pickles and two hefty, thick pitot. There followed a bit of a comedy of errors, with my getting directions from E and D, writing them on my napkin, losing the napkin, calling back, and being told I needed to turn on HaCharoshet street, which no longer exists. That is, the street still exists, but not under that name (David insists that his map is just fine, but this street name appears to have been change quite a while ago, as no one local that I asked had ever heard that name; I eventually found one sign with the old name in parentheses–and another landmark he mentioned had also vanished).
When I finally arrived at the place, there was no sign of an impending talk by a well-known figure, and when no one but me had arrived by 5 minutes before the talk was scheduled to start, I called E and D again, and they checked again, and reported that the venue was actually in the Zochrot offices! Elana then told me how to find the correct entrance to that maze of building , and up I went to the 4th floor, only to find, again, no signage AT ALL! Only signs indicating that most of the inhabitants of the floor were either travel agents or law offices. After going up and down several hallways, I called E and D again, at which point Elana gave me a room number (which hadn’t been on the announcement), and I found one more hallway, which ended in the number (400) – et voila, the talk was in progress.
Interestingly, it was quite a young group, which bodes well for the future of this group, but meant I didn’t see anyone I knew except for Mahmoud Muna from the Educational Bookshop in East Jerusalem (www.educationalbookshop.com) ! All the 20 or so chairs were occupied, Mahmoud and a couple others were sitting on the floor, but I knew my back would not be pleased if I joined them there. I found a place to stand only to realize I was right behind one of the volunteer translators who wasn’t aware that when you translate for the person next to you, your voice should be pitched so as not to reach much beyond that person. I found I couldn’t focus on either the Hebrew or the English, which competed at similar volume, and since I saw that the event was being filmed by folks with professional-looking equipment, and determined to contact zochrot (www.zochrot.org) to find out where the vid would be posted–AND LEFT.
* Benyamina – a town near the Mediterranean coast between Tel Aviv and Haifa, with hot, muggy summer weather, unlike the higher and dryer Jerusalem area.