Adele Raemer
Life on the Border with the Gaza Strip

Teaching Peace

Facebook is an alternate universe. It enables me to correspond with people across miles and borders — people I’d never get a chance to converse with, otherwise. One of the groups of which I am a member on Facebook is one where Palestinians and Israelis share their views, their thoughts. A wonderful group moderated by an inspiring woman who lives on the other side of the world with the hope for coexistence flowing in her veins, nourishing every cell in her body.

This morning I read an article there about Hanan Al-Haroub, a Palestinian teacher who teaches nonviolence in her school in Ramallah and subsequently has won the second annual $1 million Global Teacher of the Year Award, sponsored by the London-based Varkey Foundation

As a teacher, myself, it was heartening to read about ha-Haroub’s achievements. But as an Israeli teacher, who teaches non-violence and acceptance of the other, I am disappointed that her teachings of non-violence appear to be focused solely against one another, but NOT outside their immediate society. Maybe that’s because it would be dangerous for her to talk about encouraging coexistence. Maybe it’s just my mistaken impression. Maybe it is the last paragraph in the article which has left this bad taste in my mouth.

Or maybe my expectations are too high, to hope that teachers in the PA would take the personal risk necessary to try to teach their children that peace is made with your enemies, not with your friends. I am certainly glad and grateful that this woman seems to be making headway in teaching the Palestinian citizens of the future non-violence within their own society. This is a very important first step in a society where violence against women is way too common, and honor killing is still an acceptable punishment in the eyes of many, but I wonder if there might be a NEXT stage in her teaching non-violence, one that will raise these children as citizens who do believe they can coexist with those who are their enemies today;into Palestinian co-inhabitants of this region who do strive to reach the table of peace.

I write this a few days after our Independence Day ceremony, from my community by the border, where we set ablaze our commemorative firesign (and set off the dreaded fireworks… I REALLY hate them, since we get the real things all too often) against the backdrop of the twinkling lights of Gaza. And at the end of the ceremony,just before we sang our national anthem (one that is problematic for our non-Jewish citizens), we sang our community anthem, a song that was written in the 1950’s by people on Kibbutz Nirim, and sung here at every formal community occasion. It is a song that we all sing, despite the wars, and the years of rockets and fears of possible infiltration from undiscovered tunnels being dug under our feet, like the one discovered before the 2014 war, a mere jog away. We sing it even though the life-blood of two of our men spilled into this soil less than two years ago. Those men, fathers of 8 of the children present and signing along. We sing it in spite of the fact that those years when Gazans were able to trade with us agriculturally, educationally, in the workforce seem so long ago, and far away. But we believe such years could happen again. The residents here still teach their children that there are people on the other side of the border with whom we yearn to interact, non-violently, as good neighbors do.

The words we utter when we pray, or when we sing, are pregnant with significance, even though we don’t always ponder the meanings contained within them as they pass our lips. Sometimes, however, we DO stop and think about them, and when an entire community sings words like these, you know you are in a community that is praying for something that will improve everyone’s lives.

Please, Palestinians, tell me: are there any songs that you sing in which you hope for interaction, coexistence and dare I say it: peace? I especially need to hear this today, after another child with my genes in his pool has just joined us in our world. Meanwhile, I offer this song to you, in the hope that you will read the words and allow the music to fill your heart.

Illustration by Arnon Avni
Illustration by Arnon Avni

The Nirim Song of Peace
Lyrics and music: Tsiki (Yitshak Dinstein)
Written during the days of the Sinai Campaign (1956)

Listen up, folks! the day will come,
When this will be a more peaceful border.
And we go to Khan Younis to see a movie with Abdul and Wahab in spoken Arabic .

The day will come when we all travel to El Arish beach and swim in the sea there
And we’ll eat falafel there, we’ll drink some arak.
We’ll puff on a hookah, sip coffee, too.

We’ll move our guardtower to the shores of the sea.
And from the tower, a lifeguard will calmly watch over us.
He will blow into a whistle, and shout ” Sir, do not go out that far!”
And couples will play ball and everything will be calm and normal.

We’ll drive south in a blue caravan
Surrounded by a vast desert in a sea of sand.
We’ll carefully drive to the tops of the Pyramids.
We’ll tell all the others to move out of the way!

Then we’ll sit on the wall and slide down.
When we get up, we’ll be dizzy!
We’ll board the train and ask the conductor to get us home while it’s still light out.

Friday evening we’ll play on a basketball court,
A serious match with a referee, the secretariat and fans:
The Absan team against the Nirim team, of course.
They exchange flowers, speeches, greetings and such.

At night a farmer will till the fields
And he won’t have to take a machine gun or grenades.
When an Arab farmer wearing a Kaffiya
appears from the darkness with a herd of cattle,

They’ll sit opposite each other, cross-legged,
Put a napkin over a crate
And they will eat, discussing situation of the drought, the chicken coops and the barn and the price of women.
And instead of trenches on the border, and weapons at army posts
Homes will be built here, with red roofs and gardens .
You’ll see that someday
Peace will come to these fields
You’ll see, you’ll see!

If you wish to read more about what it is like living on the border with the Gaza Strip, you can follow me on Facebook, join the FB group I moderate: Life on the Border and “like” The Movement for the Future of the Western Negev

I am also happy to be in contact via Twitter @AdeleRaemer

About the Author
Born in the USA, Adele has lived in a Kibbutz on the border with the Gaza Strip since 1975. She is a mother and a grandmother living and raising her family on the usually paradisaical, sometimes hellishly volatile border. She moderates a FB group named "Life on the Border". Adele recently retired after 38 years as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language, as well as a teacher trainer and counselor for the Israeli MoE for EFL and a Tech Integration Coach. She blogs here about both Life on the Border, as well as about digital pedagogy, in "Digitally yours, @dele". She is a YouTuber, mostly on the topic of digital stuff. ( Her personal channel covers other issues close to her heart (medical clowning, Life on the Border, etc.) ( In addition, she is a trained medical clown and, although on COVID hiatus, until allowed back into hospitals, she clowns as often as she can in the pediatric ward in the hospital in Ashkelon. As a result of her activity as an advocate for her region, she was included among the Ha'aretz "Ten Jewish Faces who made Waves in 2018" In November 2018 she was invited to Geneva by an independent investigative committee for the UN to bear witness to the border situation, and in December 2019 addressed the UN Security Council at the request of the US ambassador to the UN.