Saturday, September 14, 2013

My first war

Every Israeli and Palestinian has had their first war. My first war was the Yom Kippur War, in October 1973. David and I were married in August, 1973, 15 months after my aliya. I wasn’t even 21 when we got married. I wasn’t even 21 when the war began.

            Joe, a fellow kibbutz member, who had been in the army with David, convinced him that they should go to their unit soon after the war began. Even though they hadn’t been called up, Joe was insistent that it was the right thing to do, that they were needed. I don’t remember exactly when they took off for their unit; it was a few days into the war, after many young men from my kibbutz had been called up, and after it turns out, some of them had already been killed. The guys went north to their unit that was stationed in Haifa, came back after awhile, and then went to the Sinai desert, near the Suez Canal.

All in all, during my first war, and during my first year of married life, David was gone for 6 months, rarely coming home for short leaves.

            I was new on the kibbutz, and had begun making friends – mostly former Americans who had made aliya around the time that I had, preceding that war. But I pretty much felt alone and terribly out of my depths. I was scared to death. After all, it was my first war.

            In October 1973, there was only one public telephone on the kibbutz, and it was located in the dining room. But that was okay since David rarely had access to a telephone when he was in Haifa or when he was stationed in the Sinai. There was, of course, no email, no cell phones, no Skype. There was one public television in the kibbutz moadon (club house) that showed a little bit of news (there was only one station, and that was the government station, and it was only on for about 4 hours during the day). I also remember going to Naomi and Haim’s (both senior kibbutz members who passed away a number of years ago) with friends – mostly other young women whose husbands who had also marched off to war – and watching television at their house in the early evenings to see the news about the war. My Hebrew wasn’t so great at that time, so I am sure that I missed a lot of what was being said. Most of the people who sat with me in that living room have either died or moved away from the kibbutz. Truth be told, most of that period is a blank for me, and I don’t think it’s only because it happened 40 years ago.

Communication between my husband and me was extremely rare. I think I sent him some ‘care packages’ during those months (that was the time when women from the kibbutz got together and put together care packages – paid for by the collective – to soldiers once every two weeks or so), but can’t remember if he got them. I think we put in sunflower seeds, chocolate, socks (?). Maybe we added some canned goods as well.

I remember having no clear idea what was going on, and how scared I should really be. We had a few air raid sirens and had to run to the bomb shelters a few times and remain there for awhile. That was the first time in my life that I had been in a bomb shelter. I remember thinking that I did not know what ‘bomb shelter etiquette’ was. I hoped I wasn’t making any faux pas. And even though, since that war, I have lived through two Intifadas, the First and Second Lebanese war, two Gulf Wars (gas masks and all), Summer Rain, the Gaza War and Pillars of Defense, and many, many rounds of Kassam rocket attacks from Gaza, I still really don’t know how one is supposed to act, or what one is supposed to do in a bomb shelter. I have come to understand that this one skill I refuse to learn. My children have lived through most/all of these wars. David served in reserve duty for 22 years, also sometimes during these wars.

We were your ‘typical’ Israeli kibbutz family from the Negev – enjoying lawns and gardens, a swimming pool, communal dining room, children’s houses, wars, gas masks, air raid sirens and fear.

Yom Kippur was my first war. A first war is sort of like a first child. You have no clue what you are doing, but just hope that you aren’t making too big a mess out of it. You are scared to death that you will make the wrong decision, not take enough care, not follow closely enough the instructions that you have been given by the war/baby experts, and plod along like everyone else. You wonder why you put yourself in this position, and if wasn’t really a terrible mistake. You feel responsible for other’s lives, scared for your own, but try to go on, as if everything is cool. And somehow one war turns into many wars, and you have more children, and even grandchildren, and it becomes a way of life.
Like your children, in some ways, you become addicted to the wars. I can’t explain how it happens, but know that it happens slowly, and you find that you somehow ‘need’ the adrenaline rush of the war, and wonder when it will come, even though you hate the feeling. But you can’t help it, because most/all of your life has been tied to one war, or another. You can’t imagine your life without them (children and wars).

The Yom Kippur War was my first war. I so much wanted it to be my last. I was wrong about that… Even though I have lived through all of the wars and terror attacks since 1973, I am a novice compared to many other Israelis. I sometimes wonder – when will enough be enough? When will we give up our ‘need’ for our ‘war fix.’

The Yom Kippur War was my first war. In many ways, it shaped my perception of my kibbutz, my region, my country, and my fellow countrymen and women. For my 40th wedding anniversary, I wish to give myself and all Israelis and Palestinians/Arabs a meaningful gift - the gift of no more war, no more bloodshed.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

STAY THE PATH - An open letter to the Palestinian and Israeli Negotiation Teams

English follows Hebrew.
היום - יום רביעי 14.8.13 - יפגשו צוותי המשא ומתן של ישראל והרשות הפלסטינית
בצדדים השונים, יש אנשים/קבוצות המנסים להכשיל את התהליך - אם בבניה והרחבת התנחלויות בשטח
 הפלסטיני הכבוש ואם בירי ושליחת טילים על אזרחים ישראלים.
עליכם להיות מעל כל אלו ולהתמיד בתהליך שהתחלתם בו.
אני, ג'וליה צ'ייטין, תושבת קיבוץ אורים, במועצה אזורית אשכול, ומרצה במכללה האקדמית ספיר, שנמצאת 2 קילומטר מהגבול עם רצועת עזה, פונה בזאת ומחזקת את ידיכם לבל תוותר
אנו, ישראלים ופלסטינאים דורשים –אל תרימו ידיים. לדבר, לדבר עוד, ולהמשיך לדבר, עד שתגיעו לתוצאות.
הדרך לא תהיה קלה, יהיו בה מהמורות, יהיו עליות וירידות, יהיו דברים שתגיעו עליהם להבנה ויהיו כאלה שלא. אבל אל תוותרו – תמשיכו הלאה.
תעשו את הכל למצוא עוד ועוד סוגיות שעליהן תצליחו להגיע להסכמה. על כולנו יהיה לעשות וויתורים ואני סומכת עליכם, שני הצוותים, שתשכילו לוותר באותם מקומות שעימהם נוכל להמשיך ולחיות בביטחון, עם זכויות אדם שוות ועם כבוד הדדי.
כל כולי צועק: ניתן להגיע להסכם מכבד ולחיות צד לצד זה בשלום וכבוד הדדי. רק צריך למצוא את הנוסחא שתהיה קבילה על כולם.
זה אפשרי.
צריך רק לרצות בכך ולפעול למען כך.
עלו והצליחו ואל תיכנעו!!!
החיים שלנו בידיים שלכם
Today, the 14th of August 2013 the Palestinian and Israeli negotiating teams will meet
In the different sides there are people/groups who are trying to sabotage the process - either by expanding or building new settlements in the occupied territories or by shooting rockets unto Israeli civilians
I, Julia Chaitin, a resident of Kibbutz Urim in the Eshkol region, and a faculty member at the Sapir College, located 2 kilometers from the border with the Gaza Strip, am turning to you and supporting your efforts. DO NOT GIVE UP
We, Israelis and Palestinians, demand - STAY THE COURSE. Do not give up. Talk, talk some more, and then some more, until you reach results
 The road will not be an easy one. There will be ups and downs and there will be topics that will be more easily resolved and topics that will be extremely challenging. But, do not give up - continue onward
Do all that you can to find another topic and yet another topic that can be resolved. We will all need to make sacrifices and compromises. I trust you, both teams, to find the ways to reach these comprises and to move forward to lives of true safety and security, human rights and mutual respect
Every fiber and bone in my body cries out: It is possible to reach an honorable peace agreement and to live side by side in peace and mutual respect.
You only need to find the formulas that will be accepted by both peoples
It is possible
You just need to want it enough, and work toward that end
Our lives depend on it

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

If you will it, it will come - Give the peace process a chance

Everyone is writing why the peace process won't work. People from the right-wing are writing this and people from the left-wing are writing this. Experts and political analysts from different political leanings are saying that the process is doomed to failure, that Abu Mazen/Netanyahu (depending on whether you are Palestinian or Israeli) are betraying their people, that those who believe something can finally move are either naive or delusional.

I say - you all may be right, but how about if we give it a chance?
How about if we all put our efforts into demanding a just peace agreement and tell our leaders (yes, even though we voted for the other guy) that we demand peace and an end to the Occupation and endless wars and violence and we will do everything we can as ordinary citizens to support such a process

 How about if we stop criticizing every move that Kerry or Abu Mazen or Netanyahu makes to make something finally happen and say - We support your efforts to end this once and for all.
How about if we say to the myriad of political analysts and experts - from the left and from the right - from the Palestinians and from the Israelis -  who continue to say that the process is doomed - that we need you to draw upon your expertise to offer solid ideas that can make it happen. I do not doubt your expertise, but I am troubled and saddened that you have no hope that a true change can happen.
Share your professional wisdom, but do not allow your fears to 'prove' that we should bury the peace process before it takes its first baby steps.

How about if we make our voices clear:
We demand a just peace and know that it can happen.
We demand rights for all Palestinians and Israelis and know that there is a way to ensure that both peoples can live lives of dignity.
We demand an end to this endless war.

You - Abu Mazen and Netanyahu - are our leaders and we support your efforts to make this happen.
Kerry - you got us to this point, don't stop now.
And while you are working on making this happen - remember that it also has to happen between Gaza-Israel as well!