It was 1969 and as a mother and wife of a young family, I was looking for a handyman to do some work for us. Malka, owner of the neighborhood grocery in Beer Sheva said to me: “Take an Arabush from the Territories, he’ll do your work for you for nearly nothing.”
To me these words felt like a punch in the stomach. After a while, I grew accustomed to hearing this sort of thing. But the memory of how I felt the first time I heard it remained. Along with Yeshayahu Leibowitz’s cry: “Get out of there!”
I met Michal a few years ago, by chance, at some friends’ house, not far from the ‘fence’, the one separating Israel from the place we stopped going to many years ago. When we said that we, like many other friends of ours, sooth our conscience by ‘not going to the Occupied Territories,’ Michal told me about a bi-weekly vigil she takes part in at the South Hebron Hills with MachsomWatch. She explained that she did this ‘in order to tell what’s really going on there,’ and she described the human ties with Palestinians that are formed there.
That’s how I joined MachsomWatch too. And the old punch in the stomach now appeared in my heart too.
The shifts added to my awareness of the thousand faces of human suffering taking place inside the West Bank’s beautiful landscape - whether it is the inhuman crowding and physical hardship that the large checkpoints impose on those crossing them to work inside Israel, or the fact that any Palestinian - at his own home, in his own village, with his family – faces a life centered around the bureaucratic graces of the Israeli Civil Administration: the permits that control most aspects of their life including access to medical care, to family and friends and to decent employment. I also learned of the arbitrary arrests; minors dragged by the Israeli army at night to some unknown destination.
The humiliation, the uncertainty, the hopelessness – of the people in general and of the individual are the destiny of the Palestinians – ‘The Others’.
They live between settlements and outposts with constant erosion of their property and livelihood. Settlers often invade their fields and attack the Palestinians, while the army most often cooperates with the settlers and uses ‘security’ reasons as a hollow excuse for purposefully restricting the movement of Palestinian civilians.
I joined MachsomWatch because I felt it was important to give voice to the Palestinian story. The insecurity of the actual roof over your head, the uncertainty whether the road you travelled yesterday would be open to you tomorrow. I also worry about the generations of young soldiers who within a single month of their enlistment become ‘rulers’, often frightened ones, who need to face unfair moral deliberations – for this is what occupation means.
There are tens of thousands of reports from our shifts – some are eventless, and many are shocking – they tell the story.
We give these stories a voice.
Is anyone listening?
Aviva (Vivi) Konforty, was born in 1948 in Romania and raised in Tel Aviv. Following her marriage, moved to Beer Sheva and Lehavim, where she raised her two children and completed her MSc in Biology while working in medical research. Later, she spent a few years, in intervals, in the US, Brazil, Haifa and Switzerland. In 2008 in she established Shirasol, one of the first Israeli companies for solar energy (Photo Voltaic) the only one that tried to introduce BIPV (Building Integrated Photo voltaic) into Israel. She joined MachsomWatch in 2015 and has been the lead in the running and managing of the MW Website.