As we, on our side of the border, enter a New Year, I would like to try to put things in perspective for myself, as well as for those of you following.
Despite the political instability with which our country is currently dealing, we still are a strong democracy, with freedom of speech that enables me to call out my government and criticize my leaders on any platform I choose (and I do it often, on Facebook, YouTube, TV, the media and the streets). Despite the rockets, tunnels, fireballoons and infiltration threats, thanks to the IDF, we on our side of the border live in comfort, prosperity, and relative safety most of the time (albeit — the tension of escalation is the “white noise” of our lives). We benefit from quality socialized health care, homes that have saferooms, food on our tables, bomb-proof schools to keep our children safe as they gain an education, and the love and strength of community.
I would like to juxtapose that, by opening a small window into the lives of some of the people on the other side of our border.
We Are Not Numbers is a website that posts writings by young Palestinians, mentored by adults from English speaking countries, to improve their writing. As we do in the Facebook Group Life on the Border, depicting our lives in the Western Negev, they write to depict their lives, in the Gaza Strip. Just as writing is for me, it is a tool for therapy for many of them. A tool to help them feel more empowered when powerlessness abounds.
I follow them. I do not agree with everything they write: they usually put sole blame for their situation on Israel and the West, without putting any of the blame on their leaders for their predicaments, without calling upon their leaders to take responsibility. Occasionally, I write my criticisms on their FB page, in my comments (not TOO frequently — because I do not want to get kicked out: hopefully, my comments get some people thinking, and I want to be able to continue reading).
When I read their pieces, I keep in mind that Gazans do not have freedom of speech. Publicly criticizing or denouncing the Hamas on a website, could physically endanger them and their families. Having said that, if it enables even some of them to take out their frustrations by writing, rather than joining the violent protests on the fence, then it has played an important role: dayeynu. Disturbingly, they often write about the “March of Return,” and those killed and maimed there, with admiration. That’s mostly when I write my criticisms.
In any case, for anyone who is truly interested in what life on the border is really like, this article needs to be read. We need to remember that there are two sides to this border, and what happens on the other side, directly affects our lives on this side. THIS is why I keep explaining that Gaza needs to be allowed to rehabilitate. So say generals in the IDF, as well: a rehabilitated Gaza will be a safer Western Negev. Because hungry neighbors are dangerous neighbors. And because nobody deserves to live this way. Regardless of who is to blame. (And there IS some inward finger-pointing regarding who keeps them in this poverty, in this piece, at least.)