HER STORY #55 - hanale
I was born and raised in Kibbutz Palmachim [in central Israel].
I’m 58 years old, a mother to three children and an adopted daughter.
Most of my life I have worked within the field of education for children. Right now I work as a caregiver for babies.
I’m married to Jan, who is from Holland, and I also lived in Holland for 6 years from 1982-1994.
To live in Palmachim is fun. Palmachim is a kibbutz next to the sea. Most of my life I’ve lived next to the sea, so to not live next to the sea would be very difficult. It’s very fun to live in nature.
Palmachim is a kibbutz that is now going through a process of privatization. It actually started ten years ago. We’re not really a kibbutz today, but rather more like a joint community.
I’m very connected to the place; however, perhaps less connected to the people.
I would be much more irritated if I lived in a city. When I leave the kibbutz to go to the city, for example, I try to do it as quickly as possible, in order to come back to my quiet place where I feel more comfortable. It has to do with my personality as well. I like small and quiet places.
It’s a challenge to live in Israel.
We lived six years in Holland, and our lives were very good. I really liked it.
We didn’t move to Holland because of the conflict. We moved to Holland because Jan’s [husband] parents were getting older, and instead of going there to visit, we figured it would make more sense to move there.
At the same time, it had become difficult to live in the kibbutz with the way things were working in the community. You couldn’t do anything without the permission from a form of committee [of the kibbutz]. It was really difficult, especially for Jan. When you are born into this [kibbutz] you are used to it.
So we left Israel, not because of wars or because of the fear of our children having to go to the army. It wasn’t because of that. It just didn’t fit us.
I really liked Holland. If you had asked me 20 years ago whether I would have stayed there or not, I would have stayed.
The one who wanted to go back [to Israel] was Jan, and it actually had to do with the Oslo Agreement in 1994.
Both of us were in some kind of euphoria, when we saw the handshake [between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat], and we really wanted to come back to Israel with this “new Middle East.” It was seeing the handshake, as well as hearing about the agreement with Jordan. It created a form of happiness, a hope – a hope that something would happen, that we could finally live in peace.
I remember talking about how we would be able to travel to Holland from Israel by car, and not have to take a plane. That was our dream once.
Also economically, we knew that there would be very big economic developments, that this agreement would help further Israel’s economic development.
Our expectations were very high, both in terms of the economic and social consequences. We thought things would be much better, but when we came back, it all exploded in our faces.
When we came back I got pregnant with Boaz [third child], and I was put on bedrest for the first three months. That was when all of the terrorist attacks began, and it put me in an awful mood. It really wasn’t nice – coming back to this dream, and the dream exploding in our faces.
I remember lying on the sofa, pregnant and watching the news about more and more terrorist attacks – how they tricked me and how it all was thrown in my face. But you continue with your life.
I won’t say that we didn’t regret moving back in the first two years ago. We thought about going back to Holland, but it would have been our fourth move, and Boaz had just been born, the older children had begun living their lives here, and Assaf [oldest child] went to the army. So it wasn’t suitable to go back.
The most powerful thing that I experienced, and which really made an impression on me, was the trauma from Tzuk Eitan [“Operation Protective Edge,” military operation launched by Israel on July 8, 2014 in Gaza], where we [staff in nursery] were with the children in the shelters, with the booms and the sirens. It reminded me of the Six Days War [in 1967], where I remember sleeping in a shelter for six days.
But right after this I remember that we travelled to Holland, and it was during the New Year’s celebrations, where there so many fireworks. I had a serious trauma [from the war in 2014], so every time I heard the small whistle from a firework being shot, I would jump.
I remember people looking at me and asking why I was jumping like this. Nobody understood the level of personal trauma that had been left with me.
I think that as a child I didn’t really feel it as I felt it as an adult, because [during the war in 2014] I was responsible for other children.
Our Dutch family members didn’t understand this trauma at all.
I also remember myself publishing something on Facebook during the war [in 2014] having to do with the children.
I think that during the war, writing on Facebook is what calmed me, as it gave me a way to express myself, but I was [verbally] attacked for it.
Once, I specifically published something where I explained the experience of taking a child in my arms and falling on my way to the shelter. I had also taken a picture of the children in the shelter and I put it on Facebook. Of course the faces of the children were blurred, but I just wanted to give people a feeling of my situation. I just really felt like expressing myself.
It’s not that I would write every day, but it was a way for me express my fears.
And I was [verbally] attacked by many Dutch friends, to the point that I decided to block people for a couple of days.
Some of the people would say that since we are occupying [the Palestinians] it was okay for us to live like this, and it justified the behavior of the Palestinian side.
I think the media in Holland is more pro-Palestinian, or it’s basically like this in Europe in general. But it really bothered me, because they wrote things without thinking about what they had seen. They came to me saying, “You do this, so you get this…” and didn’t even think about what I had written.
I was basically writing about how I felt, as a human, as an educator responsible for 20 children, and I didn’t want to get into politics. What I wanted to show them was that it wasn’t only happening there [in Gaza] or in Judea and Samaria [reference to the West Bank]. It was also happening here with me.
They didn’t recognize my fear – they even attacked it.
I remember how another person wrote, “You are so scared, but what do you think about all the children who are scared all the time [in Gaza]?” I know that the children in Gaza are scared all the time. You don’t need to point that out but right at that moment, I was in a situation, where I wished to express myself and show that we also suffer, or never mind the “we”, but that I suffer right now.
I think at some point I said to one of the people who had commented, “I invite you to be here for an hour in a shelter with children,” and then I blocked him.
I was in a mental situation, where it was expected of me, for a certain number of hours per day, to be responsible for other people’s children.
And of course we knew how to navigate the children, although there is a limit to how much a two-year-old can be “navigated.” But I needed to show the children that I wasn’t scared, that I was okay, although inside I was basically very scared. I get emotional, when I speak about it. I was very scared.
Of course I wasn’t alone. We were three adults, and there was one adult for every third child, which is above the average, but the situation of having to bring those children to the shelter was difficult.
I remember that when the war finished and the whole staff had a concluding meeting to talk about it, I told everyone that next time I wouldn’t take part in this. I wouldn’t be here. I would go to Holland. I would take my things and leave.
I don’t want to be responsible for other people’s children and to be this scared. At a certain time, we had three or four sirens [warning of missiles] daily.
And they weren’t children, but babies up to the age of two, and I remember that at some point I got angry with the parents. I remember saying that if it was my child I wouldn’t let them get to this situation. I would let them be at home. But the war lasted one month and I can understand that people need to work.
But I remember saying that if it had been my child, I would take a vacation, and I would say this with anger like, “How can adults today take their children to such a place?”
We had a set ritual.
We were right next to the shelters, so every time there was a siren, we would take three children each. Some of them we had to carry while running down stairs because they couldn’t walk yet.
In the shelter we would sit and sing certain songs to avert their attention to something else. For example, there was this song we would sing about being strong. It’s even hard to talk about this.
This ritual would take ten minutes every time, and then we would leave the shelter.
It was not a good experience.
I remember when I was a child during the Six Day War, we were also in shelters, but I wasn’t as scared as I was during Tzuk Eitan, because people would bring things to us. For example, a lot of the volunteers on the kibbutz came and entertained us, and I remember this Japanese volunteer who taught us a song in Japanese.
Although it was a scary war, with planes flying right above us, I wasn’t scared.
The Yom Kippur War [in 1973] was much scarier, or perhaps not scarier but more intensive.
I was in 11th grade at the time. A lot of people had been recruited to the army, and a lot of responsibility was given to the young people. I was 15 or 16 years old at the time.
At that time there weren’t phones in the kibbutz, so we had shifts of sitting next to a phone, and we had to wait for phone calls from soldiers who wished to speak to their parents. So we were busy all the time, and therefore didn’t have time to be scared.
I remember once receiving a phone call from a soldier that was hurt, and I had to tell his parents. We had a procedure. When we got a phone call, we had to call the main office of the kibbutz if something severe had happened, and when we got the phone call, we would have to run to the parents to tell them that in five minutes their child would call again.
It seemed like an interesting experience, although there was a lot of sadness involved in it as well. Two soldiers from Palmachim died in the war.
But I think the fact that we were very busy was what didn’t turn the experience of the war into a traumatic experience. Perhaps we were pushed to be busy all the time, so that we wouldn’t be available to feel the feelings of fear.
Another incident that really affected me was the incident that took place in Beersheba [in 2015]. There had been a terrorist attack, and a Sudanese guy had been caught, although he wasn’t even related to the incident.
They caught this man because he had been there by mistake, and they tore him apart.
I thought to myself, “Wow, where did we get to?” The fuse of Israelis has become very, very short. We react to things in very extreme ways. This form of extreme reaction really bothered me.
Routine / Bubble
There are many small incidents like this one. Also, during what they would call the “Stabbing Intifada,” you would hear and see things, and the next day you would say, “Okay.” All these small incidents would become routine. Okay, that happened, moving on; okay, that happened, moving on etc.
It’s not logical at all. It sounds weird that a person can behave like this, and I don’t think I’m the only one who behaves like this: who hears about things and lets it pass as it becomes part of your daily routine.
Perhaps it’s a form of defense system that I have in me that makes me live in a bubble and makes my life okay to live. I think that if I didn’t live in this bubble, I wouldn’t be able to live here. If I would relate to everything on an emotional level and, and I would have to deal with it all the time. I wouldn’t be able to live here, because there is tension all the time.
We, as the Israeli society, have this form of systematic behavior. I think that if we weren’t “vaccinated” against it, if we didn’t have it, it would be very, very difficult to live in such a place [for Israelis].
It’s not that I don’t give a damn. I really care a lot, but if I lived in it all the time, it would be very difficult to live here. If I constantly had to live with the feeling of being threatened, of thinking about the tension between two peoples and to think about anything that could create further tension, I would always be tense.
I think that many people created this kind of system for themselves – to live in a bubble basically, to see what happens but not to let it affect them.
I won’t participate in demonstrations, but I do support them on Facebook. I see it as a mitzvah [Hebrew word for “commandment” commanded by God, also refers to a moral deed]. I see that one of my friends published something political, and I shared it on Facebook.
But at the same time I created this box for myself, next to the sea, trying not to let things get too close to my heart, because if you sit and think about it constantly, you realize you are living in a form of craziness.
And I think I’m used to living like this. When you are used to not eating salt, just to take an example, then you get used to not eating salt, or when you want to get used to not eating sugar, you become used to it. As a girl, a young woman, and as an adult I grew up within this situation.
If you were to ask me if I wanted to live in Holland today, I would say no. I’ve built my roots here.
We [husband and interviewee] do dream of going away when we retire, of living here half a year and there [Holland] half a year, and of travelling. But my home is here. My home is here – for good or bad as they say.
Every person sees a certain place as his/her home, and if people ask me, where my home is, I say here in Palmachim. These are my roots.
I don’t want to leave Israel, but you can never know. I think that if my children chose to live in Holland, for example, since they all have Dutch passports, I would perhaps follow them to be with them, but it wouldn’t be my home.
I have a fear of young people leaving Israel.
I think that if the country doesn’t provide what is needed to the people, they will get up and leave. Look at all the young people going to Berlin, where they know their future is more secure, not only in terms of security, but also politically and economically. Everything is related.
We are stuck here because a lot of money goes to security.
Perhaps this [young people leaving Israel] is not really a fear. It’s just sad.
Interview conducted on April 5, 2017 by Sarah Arnd Linder