Rutie Atsmon
    Peace Education
    quote
    "I think that one day history will judge the role of media in our time of war, and what an important role it plays in making wars happen. The media lets people believe that wars are possible— leads them to believe that it is the right solution, and the only solution. People don't know enough about other solutions. But then it will be too late for a lot of people."

    BACKGROUND INFORMATION

    Lives in: Tel Aviv Was born in: Moshav Avigdor Year of birth: 1957 Identity: Israeli, Jewish Type of work: Arts and Media Coexistence/Dialogue/Reconciliation Education Website: Windows Works at Windows Interviewer Nahanni Rous, Leora Gal and Joline Makhlouf Date of Interview 2003

    Rutie Atsmon is the founder and director of Windows, a joint Israeli-Palestinians organization. Its goal is to promote understanding and reconciliation through educational and cultural programming. One of the organization's primary projects is a youth magazine in Arabic and Hebrew produced by Israeli and Palestinian children. Windows also distributes clothing and provides humanitarian aid to people in villages in the Tulkarm area. Rutie Atsmon is featured in Just Vision's documentary film, Encounter Point; a scene about Windows' work is available here.

    • Please tell us a little about yourself.

      My name is Rutie Atsmon. I was part of the group that established Windows - Channels for Communication in 1991, and I have been the director ever since. I am 48 years old, the single parent of a son and a daughter. I was born and grew up in a village in the south of Israel, with the regular Zionist education in the background but with more socialist/human rights values in the front. My grandparents, as well as more relatives from my fathers' family, were murdered by the Nazis. The older I grow, the more I understand how much this family history affected my way of feeling and thinking, both regarding the sense of personal security and regarding the need to take responsibility for making the world a better place.
      Growing up in a small village and learning about what is going on only through the media, I grew up without any awareness to the existence of occupation. I knew a little about discrimination of the Israeli Arabs. At eighteen, I joined the Israeli army with a deep conviction that I was going to defend my country from our Arab enemies who wish to throw us into the sea. I was lucky to be sent to the military government of Sinai1 and become part of the occupation forces - lucky, because it was an eye-opening experience. This experience changed my life forever. As a child I visited the Old City of Jerusalem or Bethlehem or other places, but I didn't see the Occupation. This is very typical of many Israelis. We look but we don't see; we don't know what things mean. As a soldier in the civilian department I could see it clearly. I saw inequality, I saw how people were being humiliated under occupation and the extent of their suffering and lack of rights, especially the freedom to move or speak up. I began to ask myself how my society, that I had been so proud of, could allow all that to happen. It did not take me long to realize that education plays a big role, and that one day I would do something to change the way we are educated in Israel. I left the army and life carries you to different places, but it was always there. I continued asking questions and thinking about it and I went to an endless number of demonstrations against the Occupation. My good friend Nina and me were sitting in my kitchen talking; this was the summer of 1990 and Nina, who grew up in South Africa, told me about "Molo Shongololo", a magazine for children published there in three languages. We said, "It's a pity we don't have something like that here," and then we looked at each other. "Let's do it!" I come from the field of informal education, and she is a talented graphic designer. We felt this was something we could do, but If we had known how difficult it was going to be, we probably would have not dared. We were so naive and thought we'd do it for a couple of years and then move on to other things... but it took over my life. It is not just a work place, this is a total commitment and it becomes a way of life. Personally, I do it and I keep doing it because I'm very angry. I'm a very angry person and I express my anger through my work; anger gives me the energy to continue in spite of all the difficulties. I'm very angry about the world in general, and being born here and living here all my life, I am especially angry about the Middle East. I was brought up to take responsibility and not to ask what society can do for you but what you can do for society, and society always meant in the broader sense.
      • 1. Israel's occupation of the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, which included a military government, civilian administration, and settlements, lasted from its capture in the War of 1967 until its return to Egypt in exchange for peace in 1982 as a result of the Camp David Accords of 1978.

    • Who is involved in Windows?

      Nina and I began to meet people in order to learn more about joint activities, to see how people felt about our ideas and to look for people who might join us. One thing was clear from the beginning-- the only way to make it right would be as an equally joint organization of Jews and Arabs. (Only later did I begin to understand the "Arab - Palestinian" questions of identity) Most people we talked with thought we were crazy, ranging from "it won't work" to "it isn't necessary" to "it's dangerous." The more negative the responses were, the more determined we became to continue. Slowly people began to join in and we began to take action. It was then the first intifada and we had no connections with Palestinians from the Territories. As a joint group of Jews and Palestinian citizens of Israel, it took us over a year to get recognition as an NGO because the assumption was at the time that any joint group was a security risk. Only then were we able to begin fundraising. It took a couple of more years to actually raise some funds because only when the Oslo process began did the atmosphere change and there was more funding for people-to-people activities. Until then, even the foundations we approached reacted with "What are you talking about - a joint magazine?! Why?" So, only people with real commitment had the strength to keep working when it seemed so impossible to make it happen. And this has not changed. In this kind of activity you need to be an optimist, to have a lot of patience and not get discouraged by anything. Fortunately, there were always enough people around who deeply believed in our ideas to help us move on, develop and achieve more. From the beginning it was clear to us that the magazine we wanted to produce would be written mostly by children. Kids would be the center of our organization. In 1994, we organized a group of kids from Tel Aviv-Jaffa-- Muslim, Jewish and Christian kids-- to work together to create the first issue. We wanted it to be a forum for kids to express themselves and communicate with the least possible interference from adults. When the first issue of the magazine came out in January 1995 it was sold in newsstands and Palestinian workers from Gaza and the West Bank bought copies to take home. We received letters from Gaza that we happily published in the following issues, and soon enough we had kids coming from Gaza to join the young editors board. The kids from both sides of the Green Line were followed by friends and family members who wanted to be active too, and Windows became a volunteer-organization with hundreds of activists and volunteers, first from Israel and then also from the Occupied Territories, ranging from little kids to adults, even over 80 years old.

    • Can you tell me about Windows?

      There is so much to tell about Windows that it will be impossible to talk about the whole range of activities and the full meaning of what we are. More than anything it is a place where Palestinians and Israelis can feel comfortable together. When we talk about Palestinians, we mean both Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. It is a "safe place" where people can feel secure to go through a process of learning about themselves, each other and the conflict; discover the complexity of the situation and learn how to cope with our reality in a way that will eventually lead to better understanding of the situation and hopefully later on also to reconciliation, which is what we're aiming for here. We have an open and dynamic framework with lots of different people that feel part of the place. The organization helps us be attentive to the needs and interests of our members and guests and to new ideas that are raised all the time. So, besides the structured programs for youth, many of the activities are not even "projects" with budgets and time tables but are initiatives developed and carried out by the members. We have an on-going collection of clothes, toys and household items that volunteers sort and pack in the Tel Aviv center, other volunteers deliver to meeting points in checkpoints or villages and volunteers from the Territories distribute to those who need. In a similar way, we now organize three dialogue groups for adults, women and students. The facilitators are volunteers from Windows and so will be most of the participants. We invite new people to join us and we hope to enlarge the circle of people involved. When the second intifada began most of the people that were involved before in people-to-people activities turned their backs on each other. At Windows we became even closer to each other than ever before and we felt that it was our responsibility to respond to the confusion in the Israeli street. At the end of October 2000 we started a program that included lectures, films, debates, and tours that spanned almost all aspects of the conflict. Again, those activities were based mostly on volunteers. Those days were a test to our ability as an organization to survive days of crisis, and I am very proud to say that we survived it "big time." I think it is mostly because since the beginning the main thing at Windows was honesty. Not to sweep anything "under the carpet" but to bravely deal with every aspect of the conflict.

    • How do you work together, as an organization?

      I have been the director of Windows from the start. I always wanted to share the responsibility with a co-director but it has been a constant struggle-- first to establish the organization and then to keep it going. It is an ongoing struggle in many aspects but the hardest is the financial one. Many years I have worked for a minimum wage salary and some years for nothing at all. Many committed and wonderful people have taken part in Windows throughout the years but I never found anyone who could dedicate the kind of time I do in these conditions. So we have decided that the board will have a majority of Palestinians to make sure that the fact that the director is an Israeli will not influence the balance in the decision-making. The board members take active part not only as decision-makers but through volunteering in different roles and participating in programs. When we develop new programs we set up committees with people from each of the three communities so that developing and implementing activities is always done together, and we keep an equal representation of all sides in every activity and in everything we do. It is very, very hard to work this way, because very often the joint teams cannot meet each other: Palestinian from the OPT do not get permits to enter Israel and the Israelis cannot always enter the Territories. Some of the times that we tried to meet in the Territories ended with the Israelis being detained by the army or interrogated by the police. Many times we were simply stopped by regular or "flying" checkpoints and most of the day was used looking for alternative roads. Another difficulty we face is the language barrier. Many of us, adults and youth, do not speak English or find it hard to hold meetings in English, so usually we hold the meetings in Arabic and Hebrew with someone translating. With the kids we do it also on principle-- because we believe the kids should express themselves in the langauge they feel most comfortable with. The Jews in Windows are secular in general, but many of the Palestinians are religious Muslims. So the barriers we need to cope with are not only political or national but also cultural. Very often the Muslim girls are limited and cannot participate in workshops abroad; when we plan workshops on Fridays we take into consideration the Muslims' prayer time. It all reflects the spirit of Windows to make space for everyone to be what he or she is and to continue in spite of all difficulties. I'm also very proud of the difficulties because it means we aren't hiding anything, we don't push questions aside. Everything can be discussed. It isn't about how beautifully we play together but how we honestly deal with the hardest issues, and the difficult issues aren't only between the Jews and the Palestinians in the Territories. They also exist between Jews and Palestinians living in Israel, and there are issues to resolve between Palestinians in Israel and Palestinians in the Territories. In the triangle of relations there are problems and tensions to solve, in every direction.

    • What are your main activities now?

      At the beginning the Hebrew-Arabic magazine for children received positive responses and we managed to publish 5 issues a year; starting from the first issue that reached the Territories. We didn't even try, it just happened because it was sold in shops in Tel Aviv and other parts of the country and workers [from the Territories] bought it. We got phone calls from kids in Gaza and places in the West Bank, so we had kids joining as readers and young journalists. Since the first issue came out in 1995, every summer we have had joint journalism workshops. We used to meet in the park here in the center of Tel Aviv; we had no money but we would bring 30-40 kids and sit in the park all day. They would have sleepovers at each others' houses and we would get donations to feed the kids. The parents helped with food and travel and for 1,000-2,000 NIS forty kids were active together for four days. In spite, or maybe even because, of the conditions, they went through a very meaningful process. Recently, while marking the 10th anniversary of Windows' first issue, we went back to some of the kids and most of them said that those workshops were one of the most meaningful experiences of their lives. We currently have 4 groups. As always, we have a group of young journalists that go through a dialogue process and learn journalism; it's a new group that just opened a few weeks ago and they're going to write for the upcoming editions of the Hebrew-Arabic youth magazine. These kids are 12-13 years old and they work in single-identity subgroups: a group from Jaffa of Israeli Palestinians, a group from Tel Aviv of Jewish Israelis and a group of West Bank Palestinians from Tulkarm. We have 2 other groups that are a continuation of previous programs. We have a group that is currently working on a video magazine. We're just about to finish the pilot edition and the idea is to publish a 25 minute video magazine twice or maybe even four times a year. The video magazine follows the same concept as our printed magazine, where youths from both sides can express themselves, show their lives, ask questions, debate and discuss different issues. The kids who work on the video magazine are from Tulkarm and the Nablus area, from Tel Aviv-Jaffa, from the Galilee and from other places in Israel. It takes time to overcome the fears and the suspicions and to build the kind of trust, friendship and group dynamics that enable them to work together. In the beginning we use the media studies and journalism work to help them understand themselves and the other, begin to communicate, and establish a team. As the program continues through the media work-- writing the printed magazine or making the video magazine-- they cope together with the issues they wish to bring to the group, when each brings to the articles or items their side of the story and they document the discussions. The 4th group is what we call Young Leadership or the advanced process group. It comprises of about 16 youngsters; they're 16-18 years old. They began participating in Windows' activities 3 or 4 years ago and they wanted to delve deeper into dialogue, learn more, keep in touch with each other, and continue doing things together. On the one hand, they've known each other for a long time so there are some friendships; they do care about each other and they all feel they are a part of Windows; Windows is like a second home for them. Because they have been together for so long there is now a great deal of trust between them and they are now ready to deal with issues they were not prepared to deal with when they were younger. I'm referring to the hard-core issues of the conflict, questions that are more political maybe, which are on a more general level. For example, to what extent do Palestinians accept the right of Israel to exist or the Jews' right to live here, or questions of to what extent are Israelis willing to accept the Palestinians' rights here. Other issues involve criticism of each other's society, things the Jews [Israelis] don't like about Palestinian society and vice versa, as well as how both sides refer to the killings on both sides. Some of the Israeli teenagers expect the Palestinians whom they know for a long time to totally condemn any act of violence against Israeli civilians. The Israelis may call it "terrorism" whereas the Palestinian kids don't refer to it as "terrorism" and would maybe justify or understand the reasons for it. These are issues that are very difficult for them to understand each other on and to accept about each other, so even after years of talking to each other, there's still lots to discuss, lots to talk and learn about each other. We have also a new group of high school kids from East and West Jerusalem. It's the first time in years that we've had a group in Jerusalem.

    • How does the Young Leadership deal with the Israeli kids' upcoming army service?

      This is another very important issue because usually the Palestinians expect the Israelis not to serve in the army. On the other hand, some Palestinians say, "You should go and be different from what we normally encounter at the checkpoints." Some of the Israelis consider not serving in the army, but for others it is very important to do it, often because they feel it is important to bring their values to the army. As an organization, of course, we don't have a say about it; we don't try to tell the kids whether they should or shouldn't serve in the army or whether they should refuse. We try to educate them with our values, so whatever decision they make they will have values such as being humane and having respect for human rights and regarding other people as equal. We hope that wherever they will go in life they will take these values with them and act accordingly. Often, people ask me whether I think they should refuse or not and sometimes young people consult me about that. I always say I cannot tell anyone what decision they should make, it's up to every person and their own conscience. I think it is very important that people refuse to serve in the army altogether because it's a voice that should be heard: it says, we do not want to serve in such an army. I think it's also very important that people who do go to the army refuse to serve in the Territories; it's another voice that should be heard and it resonates more because it's easier for the Israeli public to accept refusal to serve from someone who is in the army. I think it's also very important for people serving in the Territories to refuse to obey certain orders; this voice resonates even louder because they are from there. I think it's important that people be everywhere. I think that if all the people who feel bad about what the army is doing refuse to perform military service, the army will be left in the hands of more militaristic people who believe that the army needs to fight and that there is no alternative, and this is very dangerous. I think that for a democratic society, it's important that people who don't believe in a military solution serve in the army so as to give this voice in the decision-making process. I think it's important that people be everywhere and that people with a conscience use it in different instances. Do you know Shovrim Shtika? I think this is one of the most important organizations because they served in the Territories; they did all these terrible things and now they can come forward and talk about it. I think that there are moments where you witness a shift in public opinion; people becoming more open. When Shovrim Shtika spoke out, there was a shift and suddenly more people became aware of what was happening, people who wouldn't previously listen to any left wing organization. Yesh Gvul, Courage to Refuse and such organizations, who also do important work, can talk and talk and talk, but many people will not listen to them because people think, "You don't serve in the army so I don't want to listen to you!" But if someone who served in Hebron for 2 years talks, more people will listen to him. I know other people who told me this was a turning point, when they heard those things. So it [refusal] has to be everywhere.

    • What kind of relations are there between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians from the Territories?

      I think that for many of the Jews living in Israel, the Territories are very far away, even if it's only a five minute ride or half an hour away. You can live in Tel Aviv for all your life and never visit the Territories. Most Israeli Jews don't visit the Territories if they don't have family in settlements, and most secular Jewish Israelis don't have relatives in settlements; if you don't do reserves duty or army duty there then you don't go to the Territories. You may cross the Green Line on the way from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem if you take Highway 443 but you don't notice what lies behind the hills or the very picturesque villages on the mountainside; you say, "Oh what a beautiful view" but you don't see the people living there. This is true for most Israelis. If you live in Jerusalem, there is East Jerusalem but even then you can ignore it. Usually the only time people don't ignore the Territories is when there is a suicide bombing; then it gets your attention. People don't see the wall; people don't see the checkpoints, people hear about those things but they have no idea what they mean to the lives of the Palestinians. Israelis can ignore the Territories and you really have to step out of your way to get interested in Palestinians as individuals or as a people or in what's really happening in the Territories. But for Palestinians living daily under occupation, the need or curiosity to meet the enemy or occupier, or the need to find a solution is stronger. Israelis can go on for a long time, I mean you go on with your life, a basically normal life, and of course Palestinians need a solution now. So if they feel that part of the solution is to talk to Israelis, then they want to take an active step and do it. Often when we go to schools in Israel and offer kids to meet Palestinians they say, why? What would I gain from meeting a Palestinian? Why would I want to meet a Palestinian? What would I have to tell him? What would I have to hear from him? For the Palestinian kids it's often the case that they really want to meet Israeli kids because they want to tell them about what's happening. They cleverly understand that the Israelis don't really know what's going on and they want to tell them. The Palestinian kids are sometimes under the illusion that if they tell Israelis what is happening it will create a change, maybe even an immediate change; they will suffer less, the Occupation will change or end. It can be very disappointing: the Palestinians can speak for hours on end and tell so many stories and the Israelis hear and even express sympathy and understanding but the next day the Palestinians go home and nothing has changed. That's hard. We try to show them that even if it doesn't take effect now, everything we do, every person that meets someone from the other side, every person that hears more stories and knows more about the other, it all has a long term effect. It takes time but there is an impact. Unfortunately, until there is a real change, people suffer. This is the frustrating side of our work, because we all would want it to end now and have peace tomorrow morning.

    • How does the political situation affect your work?

      It does not affect the work in the sense that whatever happens on the political arena we continue with work. But it does affect the openness of the public - I talked before how hard it was for us to establish Windows in the days of the first intifada. We began to receive funding only after the Oslo agreement was signed. There was an atmosphere of hope that enabled us to reach out to both societies. When the second intifada began, it was really hard and people were not open to our work, schools weren't open to listening to what we had to say. But at the same time, the second intifada brought many new people to Windows because very few organizations remained active and we were there to give people a framework to be part of. Also the fact that we were there during the hardest times helped to gain people's trust that we are good and serious. Definitely when the Occupation is harder than it usually is some [Palestinian] families say, "Why should we talk to the Israelis?" When there is no money there is a limit to what we can do, but being what we are, Windows as an organization, usually the more difficult the political situation is, the stronger we become. We get angrier so we work harder. When the second intifada began at the end of 2000, most organizations just stopped working and withdrew, while for Windows it was the best thing that ever happened to the organization - if you can say something like that -- in the sense that not only did we continue with our work, but we expanded. One of the first things was the humanitarian aid project, there was a growing need-- the Palestinians said, we need help-- so we got organized to collect whatever we could, and until now many tons of aid passed through our center to thousands of people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In October, the first month of the intifada, we started a lecture series in Windows; twice or three times a week for a couple of years we invited people to watch a film, join discussions, debates, listen to testimonies and lectures about the situation, the conflict from every aspect of it. At the time it was the only place in Tel Aviv or in the entire country that offered that on a regular basis. To be a board member in Windows is not to sit in a room in a suit and discuss finances and policy issues. You go to the Territories and hold meetings on the ground at checkpoints near the soldiers; you play cat and mouse with the soldiers to reach villages under closure, you wait many hours at checkpoints.... of course this is routine for the Palestinians but most Israelis do not experience all that. Going to Irtah was an upgrade from what we had a year and two years before. Before that, in 2001 we had an assembly meeting at Tulkarm checkpoint. It wasn't as big as it is now. It was just a gate and a few soldiers; Aziz came and others came from Nablus and we brought chairs and blankets and food. We put down blankets next to the soldiers and had an assembly meeting right there! It takes commitment. I think what was missing from the film Encounter Point is that it wasn't clear, or not stated at all, that Israelis aren't allowed to enter Tulkarm by law. It isn't only the fear that you will get hurt by Palestinians who may not appreciate our presence there (things like that do happen); you are breaking the law and can be brought to trial. You don't want a police record and you have to think twice-- at least-- before you're willing to have a police record. Maybe knowing all that can help people understand that it's a very hard decision to make and it explains why we were standing around like idiots and quarreling about whether we should go through the town or not. [to view the scene Rutie is referring to from Encounter Point, click to follow link ]

    • What are your relations with the Israeli mainstream?

      Well, we don't have relations with the mainstream. The Israeli mainstream, in general, has never heard about us. The Israeli media isn't interested in what we're doing. We published a magazine out in 2003; it was a beautiful magazine entitled "The courage to listen." We consulted PR experts (supportive volunteers, of course) who built a whole campaign with us, and we put together beautiful press releases, PR folders with descriptions and pictures and quotes. Really, it was the best you could do. We had really wonderful people and held an event in Tzavta, a left wing club in the center of Tel Aviv. Everything, from the cover of the magazine to the event to the name we gave it, was all part of a carefully planned campaign that we though would interest the Israeli media. 2003 was in the middle of the intifada and we brought 40-50 Palestinians to the event. There were kids and their mothers-- none of the fathers received permits-- who came to the center of Tel Aviv for the event so the kids could present the magazine and for the families to meet. It was the only instance since the intifada began that such a group of Palestinians entered Tel Aviv. News?! Interesting? We sent it to all the television and radio stations and newspapers; we followed up and we know they got our release. The only one that came to cover the event was [Israeli] Army Radio.

    • Why do you think the Israeli media isn't interested in your work?

      That same week, the one and only Richard Gere came to the country to mediate between the Israeli Prime Minister and the Palestinian Prime Minister in order to promote peace. We worked so hard to try and reach him and to invite him to our event but we couldn't reach him. All the connections we thought we had with the people who had invited him failed. They obviously weren't interested in him meeting us. We managed to get an answer from Yedioth Ahronoth,1 which is a very big newspaper and an item there means good exposure. They put it very clearly: if you bring a picture of your kids with Richard Gere, we'll put it in the newspaper. Without him, we aren't interested. We often hear from media people about our work that "It isn't news," "good news isn't news," "why should people be interested in Palestinians wanting peace or coming to Israel?" We try to reach mainstream society through schools now. Obviously the schools interested are either more left-wing oriented or located in elite centers in the traditionally Left areas. I'm sure it'll be easier to do in Tel Aviv than in places more right wing- inclined, but we are trying. The reason we do it through schools is because this way we can reach tens of thousands of readers and bring them the information and messages of the magazine. But it is also because we believe that if you don't have the proper environment or the right atmosphere to support you, it's very difficult to cope with what you read in the magazines. The workshops we hold in the classes help us cope with prejudices and other negative feelings in a more intense way that just reading the magazine can do. Many of the readers we reached through the schools would have never opened the magazine out of their own accord. This way, after we get their attention, many do read at least some of it. Often, the school students who participate more passionately in the class discussions are those from mainstream to right wing families.
      • 1. One of Israel's most widely-circulated newspapers, published daily in Hebrew.

    • What language do the kids write in? How can they understand what the other side writes?

      They always speak, read and write in their own language and then we translate it, which also makes everything complicated and expensive. Another thing is that unlike other organizations that work in English—Seeds of Peace for example—because they work in English the choice of kids is usually very specific. English speaking kids are usually found in more elite levels of society, so very often you find that the kids who go to these programs are from rich families or kids that studied abroad or kids who live in the Ramallah or the Bethlehem areas, rather than in the rural areas or refugee camps.

    • What do you think the roots of the conflict are?

      There is no single root. I think that for different people there are different roots; you could say that there are religious roots to the conflict and obviously if Jews feel that we have to be here because God Promised us the Land, and Muslims feel that the Koran forbids them to give up any part of the land then that's a religious factor. Many on both sides are not religious and yet they feel that the land belongs to them because of historical connections. The difficulty to share the land between the two nations comes also from the need to have a national state that will help preserve the nation. There is a struggle over sources of water.... so this is basically also a territorial conflict.

    • What about for you?

      I say that I don't have a conflict because I think that both nations belong here. This land doesn't belong to us, we belong to this land; so there is a place for all of us to live here. I would feel comfortable living in a joint, secular democratic state where each nation or religion can practice their faiths. I don't think we need to divide anything, I think we can live happily ever after, but that's just me and no one knows if that can really happen. I perfectly understand why most Jews would not give up the concept of a Jewish state with a Jewish majority. I don't think that anyone can swear that the Jewish nation will survive if there would be here a state with a Muslim majority. Even if we sign agreements now, who knows if the new generation of leaders (on both sides) will keep them.

    • What is your vision for the future here?

      Seeing the difference between how people felt and talked thirty years ago and the way they talk now on both sides, we've come a long way towards reaching agreement and reconciliation. Over the past 30 years, we've come a very long way, it's a different generation. Discourse is so different now. We've gone a long way and we can continue, and move towards each other. I think that even if some, or most Israelis still feel that we deserve a greater Israel because of history or a divine promise or for security reasons, and many Palestinians believe or feel for similar reasons that they should have a larger Palestine, on both sides most people realize that this isn't realistic. People from both sides are ready to compromise, so now it's basically the matter of when and how exactly. This is really the end, but it can take a long time.

    • What is the role of international audiences in this conflict?

      I think there are a few roles. First of all, I think the world should maintain an interest in what is happening here. I think the international community should pressure the Israeli government more to end the Occupation and to refrain from violating so many of the Palestinians' rights and international conventions. I think it is the international community's duty, not only their right, to do so. However, I think that the international community should understand Israeli society's fears of being a small defenseless county. Palestinians never can understand why the Israelis are afraid; "It's such a big country and you have such a huge army, how can you be afraid?!" But we are very fearful people; this needs to be understood. The Israelis have to be assured that this is understood and it has to be clear that there is a commitment to the security of the Israelis. Israelis don't feel that if something were to happen now the world would stand by us; maybe the United States would if it was in their interest. This is very important and I think this needs to be done at the same time as telling us to behave. Definitely there is a role for the international community. Part of it is giving a push to the Palestinian economy, to make it less dependent on Israel. Oh, yes, and giving us-- organizations that work to promote peace-- money, a lot of money! But seriously, I think that many countries pay a great deal of money for arms and ammunition, not just here but all around the world. I think it's Gershon Baskin from IPCRI

    • What are the changes you want to see happening generally in the conflict?

      The more you're involved in this kind of work, the more you understand the psychological aspect. I used to think that if only people knew enough they would understand; a few years later I understood that knowing isn't enough. We tend to claim that the media doesn't show things, that we don't know what's happening and that we don't go there [the Territories]. It's true that the media doesn't show a lot, but even the little they do show should have made people change their minds about the situation. The main focus needs to be not on knowledge but on the reasons that make us understand what we see the way we do. I told you earlier that I didn't see occupation until I did my army service in Sinai. I hear from many people about standing at checkpoints and not grasping the wrong of it. People see the wall and don't understand its meaning. You have to regress and ask why people don't see this, and that's what needs changing—the mechanisms that make us interpret what we see. On the Israeli side, this mechanism is mostly based on the profound fear I mentioned, "The whole world is against us," "we have 6,000 years of history of being destroyed by so many different countries and nations," "the Palestinians are here to destroy us. The Holocaust will not happen again." Many Israelis see the wall, the checkpoints, the nightly raids on Palestinian homes as protection, measures of security to ensure the safety of the Israelis. They lay the responsibility for all that on the Palestinians with their "terrorism who wish to destroy Israel and force us to do all that." If you come with that attitude it's hard for you to see that a lot of those actions have nothing to do with security but are pure harassment. To be able to create this change, we need to work with the fear and make people understand that fear both motivates us and blinds us and this goes together with information, because you need information to see each other as human beings and not as a dark frightening entity. It's part of a vicious circle; people won't overcome fears and prejudices until they meet each other, but many aren't willing to meet until they overcome their fear. The change usually comes from the leadership, although we do bottom-up work. I think for many people it's something that has to come from the leadership and if leaders can grant a sense of confidence and say, "Yes, I know what I'm talking about; yes we can trust the Palestinians, they are our partner," people will follow. I think one of the most amazing examples was the disengagement. One day people claimed that the settlements in Gaza were the essence of our existence in the region and two days later said we should give Gaza back because in the middle Sharon said this is what we should do. This is what leadership is about, making people feel confident you know what you're taking about, but unfortunately, what most of our leaders do is the opposite. Take Barak, again; he failed in Camp David and didn't return saying, "I made a mistake, let's try again and again and again because this is the only way." He came back and said, "There is no partner," and this is what people believed because he is a leader. I think there is more bottom-up work to be done and with more positive messages from the leaders and the media we can make a positive change.

    • What gives you hope today?

      What gives me hope is knowing there is no choice. We are here, both nations, and we want to live here. We have the right to live here - both of us - and people will not be able to accept the status quo much longer, because a lot of people are fed up with violence. People want to live in peace on both sides. More and more people understand that violence is not the answer. I think that one day history will judge the role of media in our time of war, and what an important role the media is playing in making wars happen. The media lets people believe that wars are possible, and leads them to believe that this is the right solution, and the only solution. People don't know enough about other solutions. But then it will be too late for a lot of people.

    • What are some common misconceptions you've encountered about what is happening here?

      It's shocking how little people know about what is going on. People don't know even very simple things. A lot of Israelis don't know that in the Territories the currency is Israeli,1 for example. The Palestinians don't have their own currency; they use the Israeli currency. People don't know it. Or take house demolitions.2 Tell a random Israeli about house demolitions. He will say, "Yes, they built without a permit, so they destroyed his house." or "That's a terrorist's house, so he deserves it." They don't know how many houses have been demolished because of the subject of no permits, and they don't know that there's no such thing as building permits, that if they want to get permission, no one will give it to them. They don't have the kinds of facts that will create consciousness. When you learn those facts, you understand that something is not right. If they destroy a person's house when he built without a permit because no one would give him one for years, and he doesn't have a choice because a person needs a home, then you begin to understand, why this boy whose house they destroyed grows up and is raised with the desire to revenge and kill. Otherwise people don't understand those things.
      The same thing with the checkpoints. People will tell you, "We need checkpoints so that terrorists won't get into Israel." What people don't know is that the checkpoint is on the road, but ten meters to this side, and ten meters to that side, no one is guarding. And whoever wants to come in and do an attack, he can go over the hill or the wadi,3 not by the road. That is, the checkpoint doesn't really stop people. In most cases, the checkpoints only hurt people who are not suspected of coming to do an explosion.
      Both people don't know enough about what happens at a checkpoint, and they also don't know the extent to which those checkpoints are not the answer. So again, people don't understand, because they don't see, they don't know, they don't visit. They receive only partial information about those things. For years already I had told people, "It can't be. It can't be like that. It's not right, because it doesn't make sense. Why put a checkpoint in a place where it's possible to go around it? So why put a checkpoint?" and people will answer "It must be important, it must be correct, if the army decided so." It is hard for people to accept that we as a group, as a people, as a country, are doing things that are not right or correct, or without reason…. The most comfortable thing is to think that apparently there is something that we don't know. Whoever is in charge knows. We are just common, simple people and we don't understand, but the people who make decision know the real reason. There is a sacred issue at stake: security. Even in the High Court of Justice, when human rights organizations try to approach these issues, if the army lawyers claim what is at stake is related to security, they don't even have to prove it, it just gets overruled.
      Two weeks ago we were on the way to a village next to Nablus, where a board member lives. We had a managers meeting there. They stopped us at the checkpoint, and we waited for an hour or so until we could continue. We were allowed to pass the Palestinians in the line, but on principle we don't do this. We wait in line like everyone else. There were two members of Windows for whom it was their first visit in the Territories. One of them said, "I don't understand why the soldiers aren't letting them past. Why are the soldiers behaving this way, why are they doing this? It doesn't make sense." And for him, it was his first opportunity to see how many illogical and excessive and damaging things happen there that shouldn't happen. For him it was a shock. But he took the step to come and see. Most Israelis do not, so they continue to think that there is something sensible and right and justified. That man is around 35. He isn't a kid. He reads newspapers, watches the news, meets people-- he's a very regular person, a regular Israeli. He's an intelligent person that is interested, and those people don't know. So then you start to think, how can we make a change so that those kinds of people will know? How do we help other people to know?
      • 1. (NIS) Israeli currency, and the predominant form of currency used in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, however, the Jordanian Dinar (JD) (in the West Bank) and the Egyptian Pound (in the Gaza Strip) are also used, albeit less frequently.
      • 2. According to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), approximately 5,740 Palestinian homes have been demolished from 1993 until October of 2004. According to the Israeli army, housing demolitions are undertaken for military and security purposes or because a house's occupants lack the legal building permits or papers. For more information on the practice of housing demolitions see the ICAHD website at http://www.icahd.org/eng/.
      • 3. Arabic for valley. Refers to a stream bed in a valley that is usually dry except during the rainy season.

    • What role do you think fear plays in the conflict?

      There is a lot of manipulation around fears. I think of a few examples. Yesterday I heard in the news that in Colombia or someplace, a bus carrying something like 60 people fell off a bridge, and 60 people drowned. Sixty people-- drowned because someplace in Colombia the bridge over a river was not good because not enough money probably was put so the poor people on the mountain would have a proper bridge. It's terrible. It was something in the news, not headlined around the world, but something you heard in the news. It was terrible, but things like that happen all the time.
      An hour later, I heard in the news that there was a bomb, a suicide bomb, near Tel Aviv. Three people got killed, about 15 wounded, and it was like a very important thing. Now of course it's more important because it happens here in the country to our people. Of course I feel terrible about the death of anyone. The people here, the five people or more that were killed in Gaza an hour before the bomb exploded, and the 60 people in Colombia that got killed because there is not enough money there. For me personally, it's all the same. People should not be killed because there is not enough money to build a good bridge, and people should not be killed because of an unnecessary war here, where people feel the only way they can solve it is by killing each other.
      More people get killed in car accidents in Israel than in wars. If you put together all the people that got killed in car accidents, the number of people that got killed in wars, attacks, anything that has to do with the conflict, more people got killed in accidents. There is a much higher chance for me to get killed in Tel Aviv in the street by a car than by a bomb. Yet I'm not afraid to go out.
      People are so afraid to go on buses, but there are more chances that a bus will flip over because of an accident than that it will be exploded. So what are we afraid of, why are we afraid of things? Who makes us afraid? What information is being pushed to our brain all the time that makes us afraid of one thing and not the other?

    • Are there any things that you don't let your children do for the same reasons?

      My children? Yeah, I will tell my children to be careful, especially around holidays when there are gatherings of a lot of people, I will tell them, "You know maybe you better not go." Because of course there is always a chance that there will be an explosion or a suicide bombing or something. So I will definitely tell my kids to be careful. I live here, things can happen. But it will not stop me from doing anything myself, but especially when it comes to my children, it's more emotional than rational. Because I know that probably nothing will happen, or that there are more chances that something else will happen. But it's okay, I'm a mother, I'm not rational, I'm not a rational mother. But when I think about myself, I don't stop walking around just because a car can hit me. So I look around and I try to avoid it, but it doesn't always help. I think that a lot of the fears come because someone wants us to be afraid. And it works.

    • Is there anything you want to add?

      Just an anecdote. I took a taxi a few weeks ago and the driver saw our sign and realized it was an organization that works with Palestinians. He said, "I must tell you—if you don't mind—that I'm totally opposed to you and what you do." I thought, okay, we have a twenty minute ride, why not talk? He began telling me how he hates Palestinians and there is no way we can have peace; that we should never trust them, that they want to kill us. He went on to say, "It's not that I don't understand them, I'm completely against the settlers." Before that he said, "I support Kahane, I'm totally right wing… I'm a very right wing person." But then he said, "I oppose the settlements; I don't think there should be any settlements in the West Bank or Gaza. Checkpoints? Believe me, I served in the border police and I know we are doing terrible things and they [the checkpoints] aren't in justified places: they shouldn't be in the Territories, only along the Green Line." He went on and on like this and finally I said gently, "You know, these are Meretz's views, you're left wing." I didn't want to insult him by naming any party farther to the left than Meretz… But he said, "No way! I'm right wing! Yes, I believe the Palestinians should get a state of their own, they should let them have the West Bank for themselves, but you know, I don't want to live with them. I hate them and I will always hate them. I served in the border police and there they taught us to hate the Palestinians. I never hated them before, but after four years in border police I learnt to hate them so much! I will never overcome this hatred." I find this a very optimistic story. The following part of the interview was filmed during the production of Encounter Point in December 2003.

    • You had planned to hold your annual meeting for Windows members today. What happened?

      We are a joint organization, not only members from both sides of the conflict, but also in terms of the management board. It's very important for us that the process of decision-making, of developing the programs, of making Windows what it is, be done by all members. It's not easy to meet. We not only have the psychological barriers, the fears and the suspicion. We also have the fence, the limitation that the army sets on crossing the green line. And we cannot always meet to sit together in the same room to discuss things.
      This year we have decided that we are going to do everything we can to have the yearly assembly meeting of the organization together. We planned to do it in a village near Tulkarm, close to the checkpoint, so Israelis who are afraid to enter the Territories would not have to walk more than two minutes to get to the place, and Palestinians from different places could come-- unfortunately not from Gaza, but from most places in the West Bank. And we prepared everything, and worked very hard, and we arranged for people to come from different places. And as has happened sometimes before when we organized such meetings, the night before something happened, and in this case there was a pigua,1 an attack, in Israel not far from Tel Aviv. Following that, the army immediately announced a full closure on the Territories. So we checked and we found out that there is no way Israelis would be able to enter the Palestinian village, and also Palestinians from different places in the West Bank would not be able to reach Tulkarm. We talked to friends in different villages and they said that some of the villages were already full of soldiers and tanks which meant that they will probably not be able to leave the villages, so we just decided to postpone it to next week, hoping that next week we will be able to do it, and if not, a few days later. This meeting will take place; we will do it together. We will make the decisions we need to make, we will elect a new board. It may take time, but we will find a way to do it.
      • 1. Hebrew for attack. Generally used to refer to a suicide bombing attack.

    • How do you feel after all that planning, and then the bombing and having to cancel?

      Of course there is a disappointment, but it's not the first time, so we are used to it. We are used to working very hard and then at the last minute something happens and you cannot do it. About a year and half ago we were planning a huge meeting-- we were planning to bring about 100 people from the Tulkarm area to a 3 day meeting with about 100 Israelis. You can imagine how hard we worked to make this happen.
      The day before, there was a targeted assassination in Tulkarm. It happened just in front of the house in Tulkarm where we held a summer camp for Windows kids. There was some fighting, shooting, and tear gas, and some of the kids had to be taken to hospital. Some people were killed-- none of our kids, but among them were their friends and their neighbors. In Tulkarm they made the decision not to come to see us the next day. After that it was hard to get permission once more to arrange something like that. A couple months later we held a meeting, but a small one with about 30 kids from Tulkarm, not as many as we planned to.
      So whatever we do here, we always know that there is a big chance that it will not happen. If we try to invite people when we hold a lecture here, will the lecturer be able to cross the green line and come? You never know. Uncertainty is built into our work. So we are disappointed, and we are sorry, and of course after you work day and night to make something like this happen, you have this feeling of… you know, we're angry. But the feeling, and this was also true for those we phoned both here and there to talk, is "it's not going to stop us, whatever happens, we will continue. This is what is important for us, to keep working together." This is the main thing. Whatever happens, we will keep working together.

    • What does it take to plan a meeting like this between Israelis and Palestinians?

      Of course, there are always the things you have to do anyway, in any meeting, organizing the program and making sure the content of the meeting is ready. In this case it means having everything in Hebrew and Arabic, so all the paperwork, whatever you need to decide on, is written in two languages. Then we have to get the people from different places, and arrange it so people can come, and we don't have any budget for such events, so how you can bring people from so many places without any budget to help do it. It's a lot of phone calls to coordinate, and part of it is to convince people, because many of the Israeli members are afraid to go into Palestinian villages. They want to be in touch with Palestinians, they want to do it together, but to cross the green line, to enter a Palestinian village, for many of the Israelis, is still very intimidating.
      Many of our members will tell you, "Yeah I trust the Palestinian members [of the organization], but what about the neighbors, what if someone we don't know does something?" And it's very hard to discuss it, what are the options, how to do it, what can happen, to make people feel comfortable enough to do it. And of course, I cannot take the responsibility to tell anyone nothing is going to happen, because I don't know. So the question is, are we willing to take the risk? Do we trust our hosts, Windows members, that they will do all they can to protect us and to make sure that nothing will happen. And you can never know.

    • What was the last time you were in Tulkarm?

      A few weeks ago. I passed inside the city between one place and the other; we visited a village nearby. Now we try to bring people more and more. It's part of a process, where more of our members that were hesitant to go now feel more secure.
      It's not a question of just crossing the physical boundary. It's also a question of overcoming the suspicion and the fear, not only the fear of Palestinians that some people feel, but also the fear of seeing the truth. I think that the biggest boundary between our nations is the fear of seeing the reality as it is, and coping with it as it is. It says a lot about what we are, what we do, what we are responsible for. It's on both sides; it's in every situation. When we look in the mirror, how many of us as human beings are able to tell ourselves the truth about what we are and who we are and what we do. It's so easy to find excuses. If I do something wrong, then it's not my fault. I do it because I have no other choice, I have a good excuse, something bad was done to me and this was the only way I could react. We always find ways to give ourselves a break. It's not our fault; we're not responsible. Especially in a situation like this where so many terrible things are happening.
      We grew up in Israel, for many good reasons believing that we are a good society, a compassionate society. If there is an earthquake in Turkey, Israelis will be the first there to help. If there is starvation in Africa or someplace, Israelis will collect food to bring there. Basically we are a very warm, compassionate, caring people. Then you ask yourself, so how come we are like that regarding the Palestinians. You look for the reasons. Why can't we see them as human beings, why can't we, as a society, see their suffering? Of course, because they are the enemy. Because they are so close, because we are part of it, because we are so afraid of the situation, and this is something that both sides need to understand. In general, at Windows, our approach is not to judge anybody. You can come with whatever opinions, thoughts, feelings that you have, you are welcome to join us. Let's deal here with what you feel and what you think.
      We don't judge people if they support the army or if they support attacks. What we try to do is work with them to see why they feel that way, why they support this way or that way. We try to lead people to believe that the best way is to talk to each other, that the best way to solve the problems is without violence. But in order to bring people to feel this way, we have to understand why people support, if they do, acts of violence, on any side of the conflict. And part of it will be to understand the fears, the anger, the frustration that people on both sides feel that leads them to support violence.
      We try to help people understand not only how we feel as individuals, but also how our societies feel. There's not much difference between the psychology of an individual and the psychology of a society. One of the things that we try to explain to the Palestinians is the very deep built-in fear Israelis, or Jews in general, have because of our history. We help Israelis feel the fears, and frustrations, and anger of the Palestinians because of their history, which is connected to us, because we are part of it. Dealing with the fears, understanding the fears helps people a lot to understand each other. To overcome the fear is part of healing, is part of working towards reconciliation.
      We invite people to come to Palestinian villages with us to overcome the fear that something may happen to them. Some people are afraid they can get shot by Palestinians, others are afraid they can get shot by soldiers, it is to overcome the fear of coping with what you see there, what we do as Israelis to the Palestinians, and overcoming the fear, the very basic fear that we have to do those things because otherwise Israel will not survive. This is the main fear that we try to help people overcome. Israel can survive without doing all these things.

    • Is there something that your contact with Palestinians has enabled them to understand about you? Can you remember a moment?

      Oh yes, definitely. And it happens a lot because many Palestinians meet Israeli soldiers or Israeli settlers. They don't meet the other part of the society, the regular people, especially not people that respect Palestinian rights and want to live in peace with them. For many Palestinians, there is some kind of a shock to find out that there are such Israelis.
      We saw it a lot with the magazine when we distributed it to refugee camps, where nobody goes. We got responses from people that were so surprised, "We didn't know that there are such Israelis, we didn't know that there are people in Israel who feel that way." They were very happy to find out. When I meet people and talk to them about what we do, and about other peace organizations, and they don't know about it, they say, "How come we never heard about it, how come we don't know that there is a peace camp in Israel." It's so hard to explain that the Israeli media is not interested in showing these activities. So most people on both sides don't realize that there is such a scale of joint activities between Israelis and Palestinians and in so many fields.
      So the Israelis are not aware of a Palestinian peace camp, and Palestinian society is hardly aware of an Israeli peace camp, and this is part of what keeps the cycle of violence going, because people on both sides don't have hope, people are desperate and they think that there is no one to talk to on the other side. Well there is, and we know, and it is so hard for us to deliver the message that there is. So whenever we can, we meet people. We try to go to more and more villages where we can visit and talk and help, and to make people see that there is someone to talk to on our side, that there is part of Israeli society that can live, and wants to live, with the Palestinians. There are so many reactions of surprise, and "how come we never knew, and we are so happy to find out." This is the most important part of our work, that we give people hope and we show people that things can be different.

    • When you go into a Palestinian village, how do you feel people react to you… to your presence, before they talk to you?

      It's very different from place to place or from people to people. Basically when we come to visit, people know that we are coming because people in the village invite us, we don't just appear in a place. So it's organized, and usually people remember us from before, either through the magazine, or through humanitarian aid that we deliver to the villages and camps. Or they hear from Windows members in the village about our activities and who we are and what we do, so they are not surprised to see us, and they look forward to it and have a lot of questions.
      A lot of the questions are, "How come you don't stop the occupation, how come you cannot? Why don't you go out into the streets and make a change?" Part of what we try to do is to explain that we are so limited. The rules of the games are different, there are so many reasons why the situation is like that, and we do raise a voice and we do demonstrate, and we do all kinds of things, but it's not like we can stop the occupation tomorrow morning. So there are always questions, from the Israeli side too, about the violent attacks, about the support for that, whether people really support the violent attacks on Israelis and why, and can't they see that it's not helpful. People try to understand why people do support these kinds of things.

    • What is it like to have a staff, and a branch in the West Bank, specifically in Tulkarm? What are the challenges?

      First of all I think that the greatest achievement of our organization is that we have these groups in different places. In spite of the war that is going on, in spite of all the terrible things that are happening around us, we have growing groups of people in different places that want to do things together. Basically it can happen because we are a small group of people that began doing it here and there. People like Aziz-- it's his work to talk to people one by one, family by family, and to bring them into this circle of Windows, and the joint work. It's so hard, you will hear from him more about the difficulties, how to overcome the suspicion, the anger, the technical problems of curfews and closures, of movement from one place to another. There is always a problem of money, money to travel from place to place, for phone bills, for everything. One thing Windows is very bad at is fundraising. We just don't have the talent for it. We are so eager to do the work that we just continue to do it without any.

    • What is your objective?

      Basically it is to bring people to see that there is someone to talk to. The moment they feel that someone on the other side is willing to listen to them, that there is someone they can talk to, they will slowly open up.

    • Are you talking about the staff in Windows or participants?

      I am talking about everybody, because the staff members are people that were in a different place before, and now they have become staff. Aziz has his own story about how he became involved and why he wants to be involved. From here, the Windows Tel Aviv office, we try to give them all the support that we can, which is more than anything an understanding of the situation, and a feeling of solidarity with their situation, and to try to help them specifically with anything that we can do in the situation, to try to meet, and whenever there is a problem, to put it on the table, and to talk about it, and we keep each other strong. Sometimes when one of us is saying, "It's so depressing," the other will say, "We are not going to give up, we are going to do things." So we get a lot of strength from each other, because we are together.

    • When did you first meet Aziz?

      I met Aziz for the first time a few months before the intifada began, I think. One of our members knew him from the Peace College where they were studying together, and she suggested we meet him. We invited him to Tel Aviv, we heard about his work with youth in Tulkarm, and we got to like each other immediately. We didn't so much keep in touch at that time. We said, "Okay we will think about what we can do together." There wasn't a "We've got to do something now." But the moment the intifada began, I called him. We were talking every day at first. Actually, we still talk every day. We were worried about what was going on. It was a very confusing time when nobody knew what was going to happen. Very quickly we felt that we had to work together to do whatever we could and to get more people involved in this circle. That's how things began to develop.

    • In terms of support, what's the most important thing that you are able to give to Aziz and to the work he's doing there?

      Maybe you will hear something different from Aziz about the kind of support he needs from us. I feel that the main thing is to know that we care, that we really care about what's going on there, that they're not alone. I think that under a situation of daily violence of shooting and tanks, soldiers and closure, most of all you need to know that somebody out there, around the world, nearby but outside of your chaos, cares about you. And we really care. We really are worried; we really want to help. We really want to stop the situation, more than anything, just to end it. But as long as we cannot end it immediately, we like to believe that our general work is helping in the long term to create a change that will end the occupation.
      As long as we care, and we phone, "are you okay, what can we do," this feeling gives a lot of strength to people. We hear it from a lot of people after we phone, especially after a certain attack or something. "Are you okay, we heard that in your village or camp something happened, are you okay?" It gives people a lot of strength. They tell us that it changes everything. Also here, after every bomb, every explosion in Tel Aviv, I get phone calls from Palestinian friends asking if I'm okay. "We know that your kids like to hang around in this area, are they okay?" That's what it's all about. We really care about each other. Because we care, we can continue, and we will create a change.
      In spite of there being hardly any mention in the media about what we do, when people discover these activities in Windows and other organizations, they come and say we're looking for a place where people care about each other, and are together, and they want to join us. Every single day people join us here and in Tulkarm and in other places. They want to be part of a group of people that care about each other, and work together to create a change. I think that this is the biggest support that we can give them. Everything else helps of course, but most important is that they are not alone.

    • Is there a kind of support that Aziz is able to give to you?

      That's what it is, you know, the support that we get from Aziz, from Palestinian friends. Very often I watch the news or talk to people or something happens, and I think, "How long can we go on?" It's so bad and it seems like there's no solution, especially in times when there is more violence around, and people get killed all the time. When we talk, we get this feeling that there can be a change, that the situation can be different, that peace is possible, and good peace, just peace is possible, if only more people will join us, if only more people will understand that we can talk to each other. Whenever we feel down and tired, it's talking to each other. We continue. We're doing it.

    • What is happening with Aziz and the others now that you have cancelled today's meeting?

      [I have just spoken with him on the telephone.] Those conversations are so hard for me. Hearing the stories again each time about what people are going through. What can I say? He told me that the village has been under curfew since yesterday, so trucks tried to get food in this morning. They succeeded in getting vegetables in, but then they started shooting at them, because it's not allowed for trucks to go into the town. You know, what for? This is for our security? This is what will save us here?
      This is what so many people don't understand. The occupation only continues violence, creates violence. Maybe what happened this morning is that they stopped someone from coming out of that town to do a bombing. But because of what happened there will be ten people who get up to go and do an attack. It never ends. More and more people are getting into the cycle of desperation. That is the hardest thing to explain to people. But maybe more people are starting to understand that this system doesn't work, that if we do give the Palestinians hope, it can be better, instead of reinforcing the despair. Maybe there will be less violence, because they will have something to lose. Because now they have nothing to lose. The fact that the situation for them is worse and worse doesn't solve anything. It doesn't help anyone. People don't understand this.