April 7th – On my way home from Be’er Sheva today, I received a phone call from my daughter asking me where I was and informing me of the school bus that had been hit by some form of rocket or laser, she wasn’t sure which. She told me that buses from Tel Aviv were being prevented from entering the area which was still under fire. This is the news report on ynet.co.il. We were told to stay in our fortified rooms, but the warning has been taken down a notch – we only need be 15 seconds from shelter. Click the link to read the article.
Teen critically injured in attack on Negev bus – Israel News, Ynetnews.
Teen critically injured in attack on Negev bus
Initial report suggests anti-tank fired from Gaza Strip hit bus driving near Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council; 16-year-old boy critically injured, another man sustains leg wounds. IDF bombs target in Gaza, killing one, according to Palestinians
A 16-year boy was critically injured after a bus driving near the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council was hit, apparently by an anti-tank missile, fired from the Gaza Strip on Thursday. He is currenlty being treated for severe trauma to the head, after sustaining shrapnel injuries.
An hour later the fire from Gaza continued, with more than 15 mortar shells launched at Israel. One of the shells exploded inside a town in Eshkol Regional Council. No injuries or damage were reported.
Afterwards three rockets were fired towards Ashkelon, and witnesses reported seeing one of them explode in midair, apparently due to interception by the Iron Dome defense system.
The weather has been extraordinarily beautiful. Gardens are blooming. Calaniot (anemone) are cheering up the hearts of Negev dwellers.
I thought I’d take a photo of Amos’ famous qassam garden since I walk by it everyday. The qassams were brought to the garden, they didn’t happen to land in his garden.
The fields are newly ploughed after the carrot harvest and the crows are looking fat. The kids are alright. Some of us are still displaying some signs of anxiety, especially with a scurry of false alarms this week. It seems that manysettlements had their share of “Red Alerts” for no real reason. On the other hand, at least 30 rockets of various descriptions were aimed at the area this week. (Eshkol, Ashkelon, Sderot). This count was brought to my attention by the Sderot Media Center. In Sha’ar HaNegev, students were mid-History matriculation exam when they heard the “Red Alert”, evacuated to shelters and then were brought back to finish their exam.
What can I say? Is such an interruption merely part of the life rhythm these days? When kids reminisce to their own children agonizing over their Matriculation exams, will they be able to say:
“Oh, you think you’ve got it bad. Why, when I was your age, I had to dash out to protect myself from incoming missiles while I was being tested. Oh, yes, those were the days….”
And on we go.
Elections this week.
On Tuesday, the entire nation will be able to take a day off work in order to go to the polls and vote. Which party will win? If you want to know which party has the most similar stand to your own, you can go to the Israel Election Compass (with thanks to Michael Sepal for this)
Have a good weekend. If you’re where it’s freezing, jog in place, dance to Charlie Parker, wear a jacket and warm socks while stationary. If you’re where it’s warm, enjoy!
On Tuesday, June 10th, 2008, I interviewed Bar Gal-On, a member of Kibbutz Bror Hayil, a student at Sha’ar HaNegev High School and a participant in the unique JITLI programme.
Name: Bar Gal-On
Address: Kibbutz Bror-Hayil, Negev (kibbutz site in Hebrew)
Q: (Judih): Hi Bar, I’ve been wanting to ask you about a program you’re involved in called JITLI. Do you have time to talk?
A: (Bar): Sure, go ahead!
Q: Tell us something about JITLI – what is it?
A: It’s a program of co-existence with Jewish participants from the Sha’ar Hanegev community, San Diego, California communities and the Muslim communities of Segev Shalom Village and Lakiya village in Israel. It’s a program that teaches how to take leadership in your community while enabling you to get to know the other side, the other culture, the other religion.
From the site: jitli.org:
The original idea was to include these 4 different groups: American Jews, Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinians. The group would visit Spain, as a neutral ground with significantly peaceful historical relations between Jews and Arabs, and various parts of Israel, including the Israeli and Palestinian homes. Another characteristic of the program was that every group would consist of 5 girls and 5 boys, and they would be guided by young and adult, counselors from every region. Although not every year could incorporate all four groups, each year has been a success in its own way. The trip now includes a San Diego portion to start it off which lets the American groups also show their home.
Q: Who started the program?
A: Gary and Jerri-Ann Jacobs, a family from San Diego that wanted to start a project geared to children. It began with the Sha’ar haNegev community and a village in Gaza. At that time, there was far less restriction of movement and the Jitli group flew to Spain for one week and then spent a week in Israel . Things had to change in 2003 or 4, when kids were not allowed to fly freely from the Gaza Strip and Jitli partnered with the village of Lakiya, instead.
Then the JITLI journey became one week spent in San Diego, one week in Spain and one week in Israel.
Q: Who is involved?
A: Each community has 10 participants, 5 boys and 5 girls, selected after an interviewing process. They are chosen based on knowledge of English and on their seriousness in wanting to be ambassadors. They must have potential to take leadership and sincere desire to learn about the other side.
After 2 days of tests, our final 10 participants are chosen. Since November or December we’ve been having one meeting every 2 weeks in which we talk about issues in our immediate world or actively train for the upcoming journey.
In each community there are two counselors: one young and one adult. The young one is fresh from his or her own experience from the JITLI trip the previous year. I have been able to contribute a lot from my experience in order to be able to guide the kids, being more close to them and their problems.
The adult counselor is in charge of everything and responsible for the entire community.
Q: Where does it happen?
A: Meetings take place at Kibbutz Or Ha Ner, which has been relatively safe from qassam fire. We meet once a week, though recently we’ve had to miss meetings because of our Bagrut exams.
Q: Tell us about some of your projects.
A: After the JITLI journey, each participant can take on leadership responsibility in his/her own community or even in another community. There are people who take leadership to begin projects to contribute something or help in an ongoing project.
Q: Can you give specific examples?
A: I can tell you about one person who participated in 2003. After serving in the army, he called Gary and asked how he could help in Jitli. He told them he wanted to continue what he’d started and wanted to give back to the organization. Now, he’s in charge of coordinating all communities in this area. It’s nice to see him come back after the army.
Another project is happening in Hura. There is an open kitchen, serving food to Arab communities. There are kids from Sha’ar Hanegev who are involved in that projet..
We had a gathering of Jitli Alumni from 2000 – 2007. Everyone was excited to meet and share experiences. What was clear is that they all want to keep active and help.
Q: How has JITLI affected you?
A: Even though I experience qassams all the time, I’m in a position that few share. I get to know the other culture. We could never talk to Arabs or Muslims so freely before and how could I have the chance ever again without JITLI?
For me there’s been a switch in my mind – I’m more open. I am understanding. I really want to help contribute to the community.
I gained information from the journey about the West Bank and the way of life there and, also, I get to know the people, the inner person. They talk about their family, those who may be in jail, or even dead. We talk and listen to one another.
We’ve made a lot of friendships. I go to Lakiya and Segev Shalom and my friends there and their families welcome me. They really are friends of mine.
Q: How you think JITLI helps make a difference?
A: JITLI, itself, can’t make a difference. It works on a personal level. If each participant can take something to his or her community, then they, themselves, make the difference through personal contribution. JITLI gives tools. We need to do the work.
Q: And the future?
A: We, the participants from Sha’ar ha Negev are going into the Army. I don’t know what the future is going to bring, but each one is responsible for his own future, responsible for what they’ve learned.
Q: What about the Army? How is it going to be for you in the Army after having participated in JITLI?
A: It’s really hard. I don’t know what the Army’s going to teach me, or how it’s going to affect me. What I do know is that now I’m going to the army with knowledge that other people don’t have. It’s going to help me make decisions.
Another thing I learned is that a lot of JITLI Alumni are now commanders and hold important offices in the army.
Q: That has to be good. Any other comments?
A: Last year, at the end of the 2007 JITLI trip, kids came together and it was really nice for everyone. We were able to see with our own eyes that four years later, after JITLI participants had finished their Army service, they, the graduates kept talking with the Arab kids and were good friends. We saw that and it encourages me and all of us that we can do it, too. And that we don’t have to be enemies.
I guess that’s about all I can say.
Q: Thank you, Bar. You are inspiring. Good luck with everything.
A: You’re welcome.
Note from Judih:
For further information about JITLI, click onto www.jitli.org or for information regarding how to contact Bar Gal-On, make a request in your comments. Show your support for this project! Thank you.
I am going to tell the story that was related to me by a lovely, graceful student I’ll call “S”. I met her when she came to me to be tested for her Oral Matriculation exam at her high school, Sha’ar HaNegev.
S arrived, sat down and was clearly nervous as are most students who are facing a stranger in order to be evaluated for their fluency in English. I told her that I, too, was nervous (after listening to daily reports of qassam fire, who wouldn’t be, but I didn’t tell her that). I asked her if she’d like to talk about her family and from the beginning of our interview, she poured out the facts of her life.
Her older brothers had both moved away to safer territory in other cities. She and the rest of the family were still living in Sderot. She, herself, had been sleeping in their protected shelter for the past 4 months or so. There, she felt safe and no longer needed to dash out of bed when the Red Alert sounded at night. It was easier! She slept with her dog.
The move out of her bedroom took place, however, after a specific event. Her grandparents who had lived in the city decided to move away. Two days later, a qassam struck their house. S told me this and shook her head incredulously…”If they had stayed,” she said, “Who knows what might have happened.”
I had to agree. I also wondered how many times she’d gone over the possible scenerios in her mind.
I, then, asked her what she was planning to do after school. She told me that she was going to go to the Army but that she was sad about leaving the environment of school. She was loathe to leave the halls, the teachers and her good friends. Even the reality of almost daily runs to the school shelters, was comfortably familiar compared to the idea of what might be awaiting in the future.
I asked her what she was thinking about doing after the army and she quite happily announced that she planned to study to be a Veterinarian as she dearly loved animals. (I thought of her dog curling up at her side in bed at night).
When I asked her what advice she could give a young kid about to enter her school, she thought about it. Then, she looked me in the eye and said: “They should simply be themselves and not be afraid. That’s the best way to handle things.”
Thank you, S, I thought to myself. You, who’ve been through the horror of such a close call, continue to radiate hope and compassion.
I wish her and her family the best.
Judih Weinstein Haggai