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Yes, looking!

On Saturday night I offer stickers saying “Only peace will bring security” to those streaming along Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street towards the Azrieli junction. Demonstrators pass me by, their faces an array of expressions, but desperate fatigue is common to them all. Many are focused on their weekly mission and do not notice me. The increasing summer heat adds to the pressure of the passing months of sterile struggle. Others notice the “Life” stickers and turn their gaze, as I sustain the slapping Blue-and-White Flag they carry with determination. Some do hold out their hand and smile, take a sticker and at times add an encouraging word.

Last week a boy and girl passed me by, holding hands. He asked for four stickers saying “Stop the War”. Not a rare request, wishing to share it with friends. This boy had a bolder wish, though. He let his hand go, picked up the stickers and in my face tore them sharply, accompanied with an evil smile.

The exceptions might weaken me for a moment, after which I peep at my friends standing there with the signs “Everyone loses this war” and the weakness goes away. The members of Looking Occupation in the Eye who man the post facing the Rabin gate (to Israel’s ‘pentagon’) fill my heart with gratitude. Meeting them reinforces my position that we must look occupation in the eye. Together with my comrades in this struggle, desperation is never comfortable, only another step on the moral voyage we have chosen. To see, not to lie to ourselves, to be exposed to the terrible truth of Hamas’ actions as well as the Israeli deeds. We act so that Israel will get stronger in spirit, enlightened, worthy of joining the family of nations, grow rather than blow itself out.

We must see those bloodied babies, carried among the ruins by family members crazed with terror, running towards a car that might pass by and take them to the hospital over there, in Gaza. Watch again and again those faces of the hostages that have been murdered as well as those who are still there, kidnapped. The innocent victims in Israel and Gaza and the West Bank. So many of them. Get to know the laughing faces of Gazan toddlers who were alive and are no longer. Watch the bleeding face of a Palestinian human rights activist who was beaten up with metal rods by settlers. Not turn our eyes away. Internalize. This is the crime and I have taken part in it simply by being an Israeli citizen.

Looking, seeing, watching, recognizing. This is my action. Thus, my world view expresses itself. “We must fight settler terror” says one of our struggle shirts.

Yesterday I watched two disgusting videos. In one, the Jerusalem police arrested a Palestinian girl standing in some roundabout. The policemen pushed her violently and one of them pulled her headcover off and took a photo of her in his private phone. A harassing abuse out in the open. Immediately they surrounded her, shackled her hands in the back, forcing her into a humiliating and hurtful posture, in which a policeman pulls her arms back and up while she leans forward and all these strong men, armed and in uniform, lengthen this cruel pose with obvious sadistic pleasure. These men, representative of the occupier, know their stuff, pointing their offense at the girl’s honor. No need to use firearms against her. This sexist abuse does a better job.

In the second video, a boy was released from custody, standing on the highway, dropped off a military vehicle. He is sent on his way, shackled hands and feet. Whoever released him this way wished to maximize his hurt, humiliate him in full view of all the passengers in the cars waiting at the checkpoint. May they too watch it, not dare to pick him up. This is how he is seen in the video - hopping on the dirt by the roadside, trying to escape to some hideout to conceal his shame.

I watched him until the video was stopped, to remember him well. To recognize my own shame as one who was born, grew up and got old in this country that thus erases the humanity of those living under its occupation.

And yes, I answer anyone attacking me with the usual question: Yes, I do not forget October 7th. And because of that date that does not end I take care to look occupation in the eye. Until this will all end. Until I could focus for a second on the garden birds bathing in a bucket of water, without feeling guilty.


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