HER STORY #70 - racheli
I was born in Israel. Today I am 65 years old. I am a psychotherapist, divorced and I have a 34-year old daughter. That’s my situation.
I began working as a psychotherapist by chance. I can’t say that I chose it. It wasn’t a conscious first-choice.
When I finished my unimportant army service in the Kirya [area in Tel Aviv containing the major Israel Defense Forces base], I then went to travel abroad a year, and when I came back to Israel, I had to choose what I wanted to study.
When I was in the army I had studied philosophy for a year, at Tel Aviv University. My position in the army was very comfortable. I could go there without a uniform most of the time, and I did unimportant work tasks. They let me leave early, so it [army service] felt like an easy work place. It didn’t really feel like the “army.” I did however once go to an army trial, as I was accused of not wearing a uniform, but it was a very small trial.
The Six Days War, in 1967, happened when I was 14 years old, but at that time I had no political consciousness. I remember that I would talk to right-wing people, and that I would accept their opinions, and then I would talk to left-wing people, and then they would convince me, but at the age of 19 ½, I took a leftist stand, which I still have today, although at the time it was Zionist as well.
Basically, I’m not a “system-person.” I don’t like to live within systems and frameworks, so the army, among other things, didn’t interest me because of the system there. It didn’t fit me.
When I studied philosophy for a year, I really liked it, but it was very shallow. And then I got into a specific situation, where my friend, who had got into a physical fight with a taxi driver, went to a detention house in Abu Kabir. I had to give a testimony, and when I went to the detention house in Kabir, I saw a lot of prostitutes, who were there. And I had come there with a background in philosophy, which was very nice, but I suddenly felt that it was all disconnected from real life, and I needed something concrete.
So I signed up for studies in agriculture and social work – both fields of study that are very down to earth. I wasn’t accepted to the agriculture studies, because my high school grades were too low, but I was accepted to studies in social work, so that’s how it started.
During my social work studies, I had studies about organization and society, and I said to myself: I’m going to change things on a big scale, and very quickly I realized that this wasn’t for me, meaning everything connected to changes, meetings and discussing things. And somehow, step by step, I got involved with the world of psychotherapy and individual sessions.
I can’t say that it was ever a conscious decision, but today I love this place, the connections that I have made through psychotherapy.
Besides the work that I do, I have a center that is called “Alternative Parenting,” which is a center that I also love to work with. It’s basically a center for people, who want to be parents, but who don’t want or who cannot be parents within what is most “acceptable” within our society.
All the men [within the center] are homosexuals, and all the women are either lesbians or heterosexuals, and men and women involved with the center can make a contract between themselves and raise children together in that way.
I started this center with a partner, and we have worked with it for 24 years now, as we wanted significant changes in our society. Back then we were considered radical, but today we are almost mainstream, and not only in Tel Aviv.
The idea behind the center started, as I saw my friends, who were single mothers, and I saw the loneliness in being a single parents, and how difficult this form of loneliness is. It’s not only physically difficult, but also economically. It’s difficult to raise a child alone in general.
On the other hand I saw all my gay friends on the other side, and then the children’s need on a third side, and in social work studies, they say that you have to locate needs and then to find solutions for them, so I saw the needs and I saw the solution.
The state of Israel is ready to make any woman, who is married, pregnant. There are many more fertility clinics per capita than in any other country in the world, and IVF treatments are almost for free for women up until the age of 45. So the system spends fortunes on fertility treatments because of the “demographic threat” and the Jewish commandment of “be fruitful and multiply.”
In Israel there is a huge pressure on Jewish women to have children, and there are many women, who are single mothers, who live in poverty, and who have no family and no money. The state basically has thrown them into the streets by not supporting them. The state of Israel makes everyone become pregnant but doesn’t take responsibility for it, so we saw a need for these women and a need for homosexual men, who wanted children, and who can be great parents. And like this the children can have a mother and a father.
I remember how I became a leftist. At the age of 19 ½ I had a boyfriend, and I went with him to a demonstration held by the people of Iqrit and Biram. They were two [Palestinian] villages in the Galilee region in Israel.
During the War in 1948, the state of Israel and the army had asked the Palestinians there to leave their houses for some days and had told them that they would be able to come back afterwards. So the Palestinians went to all other kinds of villages in the surrounding areas, but they never got their houses back, and basically the kibbutzim under Hashomer Hatzair [Socialist-Zionist, secular Jewish youth movement] had taken over their lands and destroyed their villages.
After this the Palestinians of Iqrit and Biram went to the Supreme Court of Israel, and they won the case and were supposed to return to their villages, but that never happened, and the demonstration that I participated in at the age of 19 was against this happening.
It was the first demonstration that I had gone to besides the May 1st demonstrations that I had gone to with my parents as a child. This was, however, really the first time that I had gone to a demonstration from my own decision, and that’s when I became a leftist, and when I began to understand that something unjust was happening in Israel.
For many years I was a Zionist left. I was never a member of a political party, but I would support certain political bodies, and I would go to all kinds of demonstrations. I felt that if I didn’t go to demonstrations, there would never be peace. I felt that I needed to attend everything and that I had to be active. For years I behaved like this.
I became involved with Machsom Watch [a group of Israeli women who monitor and document the conduct of soldiers and policemen at checkpoints in the West Bank] for many years.
I would go to checkpoints once a week or once every second week, if it became too intense.
I would do this, because I thought that letting these voices be heard in the world were one of the most important things to do. What is happening there is terrible, and little by little my eyes opened up to what was happening thee.
The strongest feeling that I felt [when standing at checkpoints] was shame, because I am part of this country, and I have a responsibility to what is happening there [in the West Bank], and what I saw them doing in my voice and with my money made me feel ashamed. I felt a strong sense of sadness as well, but mostly shame.
Eventually, when I my father got sick and then passed away, I had to organize my life differently. I suddenly got my parents’ house, and my life took me in a different direction. I felt like I couldn’t participate in Machsom Watch activities at that time, although it’s an organization that I really love and appreciate.
I live in a country that I have been ashamed of for many years, and that is a very difficult feeling. And recently it has only become bigger, as I see this place getting destroyed.
I got married to someone once, who was from Safed, and I lived in Safed for seven years. I gave birth to my daughter there.
Safed is a difficult place to grow up in it. It’s a place that could be the most beautiful place in Israel. It could look like any Italian beautiful city.
When I lived there, I met a lot of people, who had immigrated to the city from many different places, and they all came with good intensions of trying to help the city, but they all got burned, one after another. Somehow the city destroyed all of them, and Safed became more religious. In addition to this, there was a lot of corruption within the municipality. People would always ask you, in a cynical tone: “Since when have you been in Safed, and when are you planning to leave?”
It’s a very difficult place to grow up in, and with the years it has become even uglier and even more difficulty to be in.
It’s basically become a lab room for Israel: What happens in Safed is what will happen in all of the country, in terms of everything becoming more religious, more corrupt, harder, more fascist, worse…in every sense.
Little by little I became more leftist, and I began moving over to the non-Zionist left. I began voting Hadash [acronym for HaHazit HaDemokratit LeShalom uLeShivion, radical left-wing political coalition in Israel], and things became clearer to me in general.
When I studied social work I wrote a paper about Israel, and on why Israel needs to turn right ideologically, and the reasoning for that is related to an Israeli documentary called “Jews, Third Time” by Rino Zror. There are parts in the documentary that I don’t agree with it, for example, how it says that living abroad was bad for the Jews. I think that Jews also had good times in the Diaspora, and that Judaism developed there as well.
However, Rino Zror’s theory says that Jews had a first and a second home, and in his documentary he talks about how there, in these two homes, was a blossoming followed by corruption and then the destruction of the Jewish kingdom. He says that for thousands of years of the Jews’ existence, they have only had 100 years or so of independence. Every time a state blossomed it got destroyed, and he argues that now is the third time where this will happen.
I think that the connection between Jews and land is a connection that will always lead to destruction, because you can’t have a Jewish nation without religion. Our existence here is based on religion. It doesn’t matter how secular you are. The connection to the land is religious. That’s the basis, and that is the connection that always will prevail, and which will always lead to destruction.
The moment the Jews got ownership of land, as here in the state of Israel, the political moves become more right-wing, and at the end of the day people will become more religious, extreme and nationalist – and this will bring destruction.
Think about Masada. The state of Israel turned the Masada Sicarii, who committed suicide, into heroes. I grew up on this story, in a secular school. The Sicarii were heroes.
When you read what happened, they were actually killers. The Sicarii had swords, and before they went up to Masada, they slaughtered 700 people, including men, women and children, in Ein Gedi. And then Israel decided to make them heroes. It shows which direction we are heading into.
Hanukkah is also a funny holiday in Israel. Hanukkah represents the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks, although they had so many losses. But basically, the Maccabees were religious people, and the Greeks represent us, so when we celebrate Hanukkah, we celebrate the victory over us. We are the only group, who celebrates our own defeat.
Everything is turned upside down, as in what George Orwell talked about: Peace is war, and war is peace. And that’s what happens in education here all the time. They don’t tell us what truly happened but only let us in on the myths. An ideology is created, but when you check what’s under it, you see that it’s all bad things.
My parents were affiliated with the Mapai [was a center-left political party until its merger into the modern-day Israeli Labor Party in 1968].
My father had served in the Haganah [Jewish paramilitary organization in the British Mandate of Palestine] and in the British army. The neighborhood that they moved to in Tel Aviv was a neighborhood inhabited by British officers from 1948. They had been given the possibility to live here. It was far from the beach, and there was only sand here at the time, so it was cheap, so my father bought the house with loans, but today it’s a good place to live.
Although my parents were affiliated with Mapai, the only political thing that was said at home, from what I remember, was: “We don’t hate Arabs. We fight them, but we don’t hate them.” That’s something that we had at home, and I appreciate that.
I would go with my parents to May 1st demonstrations in Haifa, as a girl, and my parents had a good value system in general I think.
My mother remained affiliated with Mapai and later Avodah [Israel’s Labor Party], but my father turned right and became a follower of Geula Cohen, who supported the idea of “Greater Israel.”
The more left I went, the more right my father became.
Basically a group within Mapai had broken off from Mapai. They were led by Shmuel Tamir I believe. They all turned right and began to believe in Greater Israel, because they believed that since they had conquered the territories [in West Bank, following Six Day War in 1967], those territories now belonged to Israel.
At some point I didn’t want for my father to get a heart attacked, so we stopped talking about politics. There was nothing to talk about. It was impossible and meaningless.
I had argued with him for years and with the whole world as well. For years no one was able to sit next to me without discussing politics.
Elephant And Giraffe
Today more or less all my friends belong to the left-wing, in varying degrees, so I don’t have to argue with anyone.
For years I had told all my friends however that things would be bad, and I was accused of being pessimistic, but I was being realistic, and I saw that things were going to be more fascist. It would become worse, and for many years I was alone with that feeling, and it was very difficult.
Today everyone sees that everything is shit, so it has become easier to be me now, as I don’t have to convince others anymore.
At the time of Oslo I remember that I had a brief moment with a fantasy of there finally being peace. Today I see how bad Oslo was, and how bad it screwed the Palestinians and so on. After feeling hopeful for a short time however, I remember seeing stickers saying: “Rabin doesn’t have the mandate to give back the [Palestinian] territories.”
This country is referred to as being Jewish democratic, and I began to understand that these two things are two value systems that are in competition with each other.
When Rabin decided on Oslo, he didn’t have a majority in the Knesset. The support he got for his decisions came from the Arab voices, and basically the right-wing argued that Rabin didn’t have a mandate to give back the territories, because he relied on Arab voices. He didn’t receive a majority of voices from the Jewish group.
At the time, the Zionist left complained about the stickers saying they were racist, but from a Jewish perspective, the sticker was right. Rabin didn’t have a mandate to give back the territories, because from a Jewish perspective, there was no Jewish majority. So the right-wing were right in their argument, and the moment that I understood this, I realized that I had to choose between “democratic” and “Jewish,” and my choice was “democratic” – all the way, and then I became a non-Zionist. I didn’t accept the notion of a Jewish democratic country.
It was a process. It’s not like my way of thinking changed from one day to another, but when everyone was calling the sticker racist, I realized that it was right and not racist, and if we can’t decide, whether we want to be democratic or Jewish, we will lose. There is no such animal that is an elephant and a giraffe at the same time. We have to choose. Either it’s an elephant or a giraffe.
I have a German citizenship, and so does my daughter. I also have an apartment in Berlin. It’s like when I was in Safed, where people would ask: “Until when are you here?” I think this question is relevant for everyone here now. The option of leaving is always there.
But my home is here. My language is here. My friends are here. My culture is here. Everything is here, and I don’t want to be a foreigner. It’s awful to be a foreigner. It’s awful to be an immigrant, but you need the option.
For now my daughter chooses to live here. She is a leftist artist, and she lives in Jaffa now. She doesn’t have a child, but her world here [in Israel] is important. She is very involved with different things here.
I think about moving to Germany as an option. If I need to run away from here, I won’t be left in the streets with a suitcase.
Once I had thought of running away because of my opinions.
Once we would say that when Ariel Sharon would become prime minister, we would move away from here. Ariel Sharon became the prime minister and then he died, and after him it became even worse, yet we are still here, because what would I do there [in Berlin]? But the option is there, if my daughter and I need to leave.
I have recently signed up to hide a refugee in my home. Many people have done that – it’s not only me.
I will hide a refugee if needed, and if I’m caught and it’s a matter of life and death, I will have to leave, but to this day I can still say what I want. I have a lot of freedom as an Israeli. For now I’m a free person. I’m not scared of anything anyway. I say what I think. I am proud of who I am, because I also don’t work under an employer, who could fire me. I am financially independent - a freelancer - which is important.
The occupation gave me something good after all.
When I stayed at the checkpoints [with Machsom Watch] I met a Palestinian man. He was selling olive oil, and we would bring his olive oil to sell in Israel. At the time he also worked in Tel Aviv, and we eventually became friends.
He is much younger than me. At the time he was 26 years old, and I was around 50 years old, and he began working in construction in Tel Aviv. He didn’t have anywhere to sleep, so he began to live in my daughter’s bedroom.
15 years have passed, so I have a Palestinian friend, who since then got married, had kids etc. The whole world thinks that we had a romance, but there never was. We just got a really good friendship.
He is a man with a high level of sensitive intelligence. We have gaps in gender, in education, culture and many other things, but he is amazing, and he is part of my life here.
He will be 40 years on Friday, and my friends will organize a small birthday party for him.
There were times, when he has stayed with me, when he wasn’t legal. Today he is legal [in Israel] most hours until 10pm, but sometimes he has been illegal. For example once, during my father’s last days, I needed a lot of help with him, and I asked him [Palestinian man] to help out during Passover. As a single child I didn’t have anyone else to help me, and he basically behaved as my brother. Then I brought a friend, and we both smuggled him back into the West Bank after Passover. I felt like those in the Holocaust, who smuggled people, because if we had been caught, it would have been bad. I would sit in prison or something like that – him and I.
He and I became really good friends. He is a half-brother, in spite of our 25 years of age difference and the differences in our cultures.
“I Want Peace”
Women Wage Peace [Israeli grassroots peace movement] don’t say anything else besides “we want peace.” Every beauty queen wants world peace, myself included.
The moment they [Women Wage Peace] will say something peace, they would get destroyed. They don’t have an existence besides this general thing about wanting peace, which covers the official statements of political parties all from Likud [center-right to right-wing political party in Israel] to Meretz [left-wing, social-democratic, and green, political party in Israel].
Women Wage Peace’s messages are not political, and I am a person with a political vision, and if I began speaking to most of the women there for a minute and a half, we would get into a political argument.
I’m Not An Activist
I don’t do anything. I’m very lazy.
The things I do are not out of choice. I only see bad things. I feel like running away all the time, but I don’t have where to.
And I’m not an activist. I take good care of myself.
I can’t say that I’m happy about the possibility of having a foreign man [a refugee] living in my place in the future, but I have to wake up in the morning and to look in the mirror. For now he’s still not here, and it’s very easy to sign up to take in a refugee, and if he comes, we’ll deal with it.
I like to disconnect from life sometimes though, and I really do do that, because I know that I always have to do something, which goes against the stream. I’m always anti-stream, but again, I was born like this. It’s not a choice. I’m always on the outside. On one hand I’m very mainstream, living in a very bourgeois area, and on the other hand, I’m always outside.
But I don’t experience it as a choice. That’s how I am. I need to do something, because otherwise what would I be? I would just be part of the awful stream here.
Interview conducted on May 14, 2018