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Second Birthday

If you were to come to Jaffa last night, your heart would be glad. A bit more relaxed, modestly hopeful. No, not hugely, stupidly, unrealistically hopeful – a normal kind of hope which normal people carry around with them when they live elsewhere, not in these raging streets.


So if you had been in Jaffa last night, you would simply be there, feeling that maybe things will turn out alright. Because last night Jaffa saw a pretty large group of people get together, much larger than it had expected. Even the surprise at the number of people was internalized by this group as something so obvious.



But nothing was obvious last night in front of the Jaffa Theatre. For good people came there from all around the country. I mean really good. Generous, self-sacrificing, good not in the sense that it’s uncertain whether what I do will have any kind of effect but I’ll keep on doing it. No, good in the sense that aspiring to do the moral thing is right even if I don’t get to see the results I wished for.


Most of the people coming were over forty, some – truth be told – have already marked their seventieth birthday. Lots of white hair was seen there, in Jaffa. But in their case, age was not present in their deeds. Not a limitation. For if we look at what they do, we learn that age had only consolidated a worthy worldview that makes them leave home at dawn or give up a quiet evening in order to give out banners at a noisy demonstration and offer stickers to faces that ignore them or are totally indifferent. Take risks in the heat, or from a colonist’s club, sleep on the ground in a Bedouin tent, hop around over rocks and thorns, forget to eat, forget to rest, and in general – lead an abnormal life. Totally abnormal.


You may have thought that these were eccentrics. But it was quite the opposite. These are sane, normative people, some of them holding high academic titles, others in high-tech and computers, former military men, retired government clerks, psychologists, and one incredible pastry chef, shiatsu healers, marketing consultants, mothers and grandmothers, one who loves taking pictures of the vast hills in the Occupied Territories, and the calm that the flocks bring to the slopes as they eat up every single dry weed remaining from this terrible summer. One of the group – hear this! – just had her daughter marry last week.



All the people gathering in Jaffa last night act against Israel’s occupation and in solidarity with the Palestinians. This is what brings them together. This is the platform they share. And it was the first time that they all came together because it had been two years since this group was formed.


So, an event was set. No drums, no zamburas, not even a megaphone. Just to meet. Realize that they are a group, recognize their existence. Therefore, it was a quiet event, free of any pathos, filled only with the joy of meeting. Excuse my emotions, yes? Perhaps it’s my age showing for last night, in Jaffa, I met only good people whose faces radiated peace. There were hugs, modest but not poor refreshments, especially rich in the pastries of that wonderful chef-woman. As with everything that unites them, and as an expression of this group, these good people watched Hanoch Levin’s “Bathtub Queen” performed by four actors, Palestinian citizens of Israel. This is a satirical review, bitter and biting, painfully relevant ever since the 1970s. A precise mirror image of nationalist, blind and insolent Jewishness, haughty and more and more putrid. We as the audience were weeping in our hearts, for this is where all the evil has grown and swallowed us.


There was a moment in this Jaffa evening, when I looked at the people gathering there, each and every one and everyone together, and thought things could really turn out to be alright. A warm humid wind rose from the sea, the muezzin called, blessings were heard from the nearby wedding hall that silenced our heart’s sorrow and anxiety. It was a whole moment when, had you been there, you would have asked all those good people to really watch out no matter what.


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