ONTD Political

Israeli women sneaking Palestinian women to the beach

11:41 pm - 07/26/2011
TEL AVIV — Skittish at first, then wide-eyed with delight, the women and girls entered the sea, smiling, splashing and then joining hands, getting knocked over by the waves, throwing back their heads and ultimately laughing with joy.

Most had never seen the sea before.

The women were Palestinians from the southern part of the West Bank, which is landlocked, and Israel does not allow them in. They risked criminal prosecution, along with the dozen Israeli women who took them to the beach. And that, in fact, was part of the point: to protest what they and their hosts consider unjust laws.

In the grinding rut of Israeli-Palestinian relations — no negotiations, mutual recriminations, growing distance and dehumanization — the illicit trip was a rare event that joined the simplest of pleasures with the most complex of politics. It showed why coexistence here is hard, but also why there are, on both sides, people who refuse to give up on it.

“What we are doing here will not change the situation,” said Hanna Rubinstein, who traveled to Tel Aviv from Haifa to take part. “But it is one more activity to oppose the occupation. One day in the future, people will ask, like they did of the Germans: ‘Did you know?’ And I will be able to say, ‘I knew. And I acted.’ ”

Such visits began a year ago as the idea of one Israeli, and have blossomed into a small, determined movement of civil disobedience.

Ilana Hammerman, a writer, translator and editor, had been spending time in the West Bank learning Arabic when a girl there told her she was desperate to get out, even for a day. Ms. Hammerman, 66, a widow with a grown son, decided to smuggle her to the beach. The resulting trip, described in an article she wrote for the weekend magazine of the newspaper Haaretz, prompted other Israeli women to invite her to speak, and led to the creation of a group they call We Will Not Obey. It also led a right-wing organization to report her to the police, who summoned her for questioning.

In a newspaper advertisement, the group of women declared: “We cannot assent to the legality of the Law of Entry into Israel, which allows every Israeli and every Jew to move freely in all regions between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River while depriving Palestinians of this same right. They are not permitted free movement within the occupied territories nor are they allowed into the towns and cities across the green line, where their families, their nation, and their traditions are deeply rooted.

“They and we, all ordinary citizens, took this step with a clear and resolute mind. In this way we were privileged to experience one of the most beautiful and exciting days of our lives, to meet and befriend our brave Palestinian neighbors, and together with them, to be free women, if only for one day.”

The police have questioned 28 Israeli women; their cases are pending. So far, none of the Palestinian women and girls have been caught or questioned by the police.

The beach trip last week followed a pattern: the Palestinian women went in disguise, which meant removing clothes rather than covering up. They sat in the back seats of Israeli cars driven by middle-aged Jewish women and took off headscarves and long gowns. As the cars drove through an Israeli Army checkpoint, everyone just waved.

Earlier, the Israelis had dropped off toys and equipment at the home of one of the Palestinian women, who is setting up a kindergarten. The Israelis also help the Palestinian women with medical and legal troubles.

Israel’s military, which began limiting Palestinian movement into Israel two decades ago to prevent terrorism at a time of violent uprisings, is in charge of issuing permits for Palestinian visits to Israel. About 60,000 will be issued this year, twice the number for 2010 but still a token amount for a population of 2.5 million. Ms. Hammerman views the permits as the paperwork of colonialist bureaucrats — to be resisted, not indulged. Others have attacked her for picking and choosing which laws she will and will not obey.

The Palestinian visitors came with complicated histories. In most of their families the men have been locked up at some point. For example, Manal, who had never been to the sea before, is 36, the mother of three and pregnant; five of her brothers are in Israeli prisons, and another was killed when he entered a settler religious academy armed with a knife.

She brought with her an unsurprising stridency. “This is all ours,” she said in Tel Aviv. She did not go home a Zionist, but in the course of the day her views seemed to grow more textured — or less certain — as she found comfort in the company of Israeli women who said that they, too, had a home on this land.

Another visitor lives in a refugee camp with her husband and children. Her husband’s family does not approve of her visits (“ ‘How can you be with the Jews?’ they ask me. ‘Are you a collaborator?’ ”) but she did not hide the relief she felt at leaving her overcrowded camp for a day of friends and fun.

The beach trips — seven so far — have produced some tense moments. An effort to generate interest in a university library fell flat. An invitation to spend the night met with rejection by Palestinian husbands and fathers. Home-cooked Israeli food did not make a big impression. And at a predominantly Jewish beach, a policeman made everyone nervous.

So, on this latest visit, the selected beach was one in Jaffa that is frequented by Israeli Arabs. Nobody noticed the visitors.

Dinner was a surprise. Hagit Aharoni, a psychotherapist and the wife of the celebrity chef Yisrael Aharoni, is a member of the organizing group, so the beachgoers dined on the roof of the Aharonis’ home, five floors above stylish Rothschild Boulevard, where hundreds of tents are currently pitched by Israelis angry with the high cost of housing. The guests loved Mr. Aharoni’s cooking. They lighted cigarettes — something they cannot do in public at home — and put on joyous Palestinian music. As the pink sun set over the Mediterranean, they danced with their Israeli friends.

Ms. Aharoni was asked her thoughts. She replied: “For 44 years, we have occupied another country. I am 53, which means most of my life I have been an occupier. I don’t want to be an occupier. I am engaged in an illegal act of disobedience. I am not Rosa Parks, but I admire her, because she had the courage to break a law that was not right.”

ladypolitik 27th-Jul-2011 04:40 pm (UTC)
(Before lj died on me, cut request!)
firerosearien 27th-Jul-2011 06:19 pm (UTC)
Heeeey sorry I just woke up, will fix now
acmeeoy 27th-Jul-2011 11:43 pm (UTC)
OT but lj seems to be dying a lot today.
tresa_cho 29th-Jul-2011 03:39 am (UTC)
...You're kidding, right.
acmeeoy 29th-Jul-2011 07:14 am (UTC)
I shouldn't have posted this comment here, I guess.
thecityofdis 29th-Jul-2011 02:09 pm (UTC)
hahahaha, jfc I love you.
mephisto5 27th-Jul-2011 05:01 pm (UTC)
Stories like this make me feel ridiculously... not happy, but hopeful I suppose.
llivla 27th-Jul-2011 05:19 pm (UTC)
stormqueen280 27th-Jul-2011 05:11 pm (UTC)
There's hope for humankind, after all, hmm?
ladypolitik 27th-Jul-2011 05:13 pm (UTC)
thecityofdis 27th-Jul-2011 05:24 pm (UTC)
Side-eyeing the comparison to Nazi Germany like all hell. Without that, this would be fairly heartwarming.
(no subject) - Anonymous
thecityofdis 27th-Jul-2011 10:05 pm (UTC)
Your new icon confused me for a second.
liret 27th-Jul-2011 10:01 pm (UTC)
I feel like it's different coming from an Israeli woman, because it's a historical common frame of reference for pretty much the whole country. While in US political debates, Nazis generally only come up when someone is attempting to prove their opponent is pure Evil.
thecityofdis 27th-Jul-2011 10:04 pm (UTC)
a historical common frame of reference for pretty much the whole country

It's... not, actually, at least not the way you seem to be implying it is. Israel has its own problems with the fucked up attitude it had toward Shoah survivors in the past, and while the premise is sort of a fast-and-easy frame of reference, the experiences... isn't.

And additionally, I will never be comfortable with any metaphor that likens Jews to Nazis, regardless of who makes it. Sorry, that's instant bingo to me.
lozbabie 27th-Jul-2011 11:59 pm (UTC)
So an Isralei woman who lives there can't make the comparison? I think she's a hello of a lot more informed than you are.

thecityofdis 28th-Jul-2011 12:11 am (UTC)
Do I think that, simply by virtue of being Israeli, it is somehow more appropriate for her to make the comparison? Absolutely not, no.

There are lots of Jews - and lots of Israelis, for a variety of reasons - who did not have direct interaction with the Holocaust, or have survivors in their family. To take the experience of those who do and make such a thoughtless parallel for the sake of convenience is still gross, sorry to say. Being Israeli does not necessarily give one first-hand knowledge of or insight to the Holocaust.

And simply being Jewish does not make it more appropriate or less disturbing, either. We are not a monolith.

I don't know the specific history or family story of the woman in question, but it's an iffy statement on the tact scale at best, and given only the material that's provided in the article, it's highly disconcerting and makes the whole piece a bit less 'feel-good' and a bit more squick.

But nice try with the 'tude.
quizblorg 29th-Jul-2011 03:29 am (UTC)
Well said.
jwaneeta 27th-Jul-2011 05:42 pm (UTC)
This is wonderful.
supermishelle 27th-Jul-2011 10:45 pm (UTC)
I always love to see people fight for justice. Rock on, women.
kangofu 28th-Jul-2011 01:05 am (UTC)
smirk_dog 28th-Jul-2011 01:20 am (UTC)
Well, fuckin' a. I'll take it.
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