Tamar Haviv

 

Tamar Chaviv, born 1964, lives in Herzliya

Childhood  under "Eichmann"

I was born in the Tel Nof airbase, where my father served as fighter pilot, squadron commander and deputy base commander.  It was a wonderful childhood.  Growing up on a military base seemed the most natural thing in the world, and was not associated with war in any way.  We could identify the different types of planes by sound, and our favorite pastime was watching "Eichmann" - the tall jumping tower from which soldiers would jump during their parachuting course.  Although I was very young, I still remember the euphoria that prevailed after The Six Day War.  All in all, we had the feeling of belonging to the elite; being the daughter of a pilot was an honor. 

When I was 7, Daddy became an El Al pilot and we moved to Ramat Hasharon.  All the neighbors around had once been air-force pilots, and so were all my parents' friends.  Among the children, a topic of interest was how many enemy planes each Dad had hit.  Ramat Hasharon is a northern suburb bubble.  There are no Arabs to be seen there, nor other weak population groups. 

When I was 16, my sister, who was nine at the time, fell ill with cancer.  With us in the ward was a family from the village of Jath.  It was the first time I met Arabs, and very warm ties developed between the two families.  My sister passed away at age 11. 

 

I had forgotten we have neighbors

I was a teacher-soldier in the IDF, and upon my release went to study in the Beit Berl College.  One day we went on a seminar to Eilat.  There were two Arab students with us.  I discovered that nobody wanted to share a room with them, and so I convinced my good friend - a rightist in her views - that we would both be with them.  They were Israeli Arabs, wearing veils, and quite quickly we started talking about our common human denominator: all four of us were young mothers. 

I finished my studies, and for years I forgot we even had neighbors... I was busy with my own life.  I gave birth to four children, I was a homeroom teacher and at quite a young age I became the principal of the Anthroposophical school in HaKfar HaYarok (lit. "The Green Village".)   During the time of the Oslo Accords, there was a feeling that something good was about to happen.  In Israel, we are always swaying between waves of hope and waves of disappointment and anger, and sometimes there are only numbered days between them. 

When the big terror attacks took place, I felt great pain and anger.  I didn't quite care what the Palestinians were thinking or feeling.  I just wanted those attacks to end, and that is why I supported the erection of a security fence and barriers.  At the time of the Disengagement I was once again optimistic.  It was clear to me that we should leave Gaza, although now can I see it didn't help any. 

During the Second Lebanon War, my eldest son, Raz, went into Lebanon as a member of a tank crew.  I felt terrible; I had sent him there; I had encouraged him to become a combat soldier.  That is how I was brought up - that one has to serve in the army, better yet as a combat soldier, in order to defend one's country.  I suddenly said to myself:  "What if something happens to him?  What, am I crazy?  Sacrifice my own son?" 

During the war we hosted in our home youths from Nahariya, which was under fire.  It helped me cope - I was busy cooking huge pots of food.  The fear of what might happen to Ran merged with a sense of national pride at seeing an entire nation stand together firm, with mutual responsibility, openness and concern one for the other.  On the day of the ceasefire, Ran left Lebanon straight for a round of funerals:  his commander and his friends had been killed in the war. 

Last year I walked The Israel National Trail with my friend - yes, the one who wasn't too happy to be sleeping next to Arabs during the seminar.  She is afraid of Arabs and I am afraid of heights.  Once every two weeks we would walk for three days, and every time we walked near an Arab village she would be afraid.  One cannot claim that her fear was irrational.  A few months later a Jewish tourist was murdered by Arabs in one of the spots we had passed, near Moshav Mata, for nationalistic reasons. 

My second son Guy, a 17-year-old high school student, has recently become an activist and has started going to demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah.  He came back with pictures which triggered off discussions at home.  I was suddenly perked.  I felt I must go out there and do something; felt that I hardly knew my neighbors at all.  And then I heard about the narratives project.

 

Ballad for the naïve

My father was a Labor Party man for many a year, until at some point - I think it was sometime during the First Intifada - he turned into a rightist.  He was disillusioned, he said, and neither believed in Arabs nor in the attempt to reach a peace agreement with them.   I was naïve, he claimed, and he was not interested in hearing about my experiences from the narratives project. 

My husband Nir takes no interest either, and has expressed no enthusiasm at my joining the project.  In fact, he believes it is both dangerous to go to Judea and Samaria and will not achieve peace with the Palestinians.  NIr's father was killed in The Six Day War in the Golan Heights. 

I do not know what the solution is.  I joined because I felt that the politicians were not quite successful in doing much, and that we, the people, must build the bridges.  The narratives project was a turning point for me, and it felt as though I was awakened from a long slumber.  People have a mechanism through which they can put their hearts to sleep, because they are unable to contain the injustice and the pain out there. 

Sincere discourse took place at the workshop, and I felt that both sides wanted the relationship.  But I was disturbed by the Israeli side.  When the Palestinians talk about the check points, I think we should answer thus:  "True, they are awful, and yet the check points were erected because there were so many terror attacks."  However, some of the people on the Israeli side are self-effacing leftists who express guilt and apologize most of the time.  They see the other side more than they see our side.

One evening when we were in Bet Jala, the son of one of the Palestinians called his father and asked him whether he was okay and wanted to make sure the Israelis had done nothing to him.  I said:  "What is the meaning of this Muhammad?  Are you afraid of us?  We are afraid of you!"   He asked:  "Why are you afraid of us?"  To which I replied: "What do you mean?!  There are terrorists, there are suicide-bombers; it's not so hard to remember..."

The visit to the Yad Vashem museum as part of the narratives workshop was a crisis.  After touring the museum, we took part in an exercise in which each side had to talk as if he were the other side.  We talked as if we were the Palestinians - about check points etc, and really tried being in their shoes. But when they talked on our behalf, they talked with cynicism and bitterness.  This was an unpleasant experience for me. 

The next meeting took place in Lifta, where I truly understood the meaning of the narratives.  As a child, I grew up knowing that in 1948 there were convoys that drove up to Jerusalem, which was under siege at the time, and that these convoys were shot at by snipers.  And suddenly we are taken into homes in Lifta, right at the entrance of Jerusalem, and we are told of the people who had once lived there.  And suddenly a new picture is formed - the Lechi underground movement (Fighter for the Freedom of Israel) was shooting at people in that area, and the people of the village - out of sheer fright that they would be massacred - packed their belongings and fled. 

This picture - families fleeing this little Eden to the unknown - was one I had not been familiar with.  Till that point we were told only a part of the history, that part which would help us feel justified and give legitimization to the fact that we were ruling over another nation.  The Palestinians, on the other hand, only see the images of people fleeing their village, and not the snipers shooting at convoys. 

 

 

And now to the kids

The project is already over, but I did make friends on the other side and now we initiate our own meetings.  We sent the Palestinians a bus and brought them over for a joint picnic on the Sidna Ali beach in Herzliya.  There were some Palestinian children who got close to the sea with great caution, literally on all fours, because they had never seen the sea before.  There was one girl who kept looking at me and saying "Israeli...".   She simply couldn't believe it.

My eldest daughter got friendly with a young woman of 22, her age.  They walked together on the beach, one wearing a veil, the other - with her hair loose.  They walked for hours and talked.  We played ball together, ate together and then the Palestinians went to pray in the mosque (the Sidna Ali mosque is a remnant of the Al-Haram village, which existed in the area until 1948).  I told my parents of this meeting which so moved me.  They pulled a face. 

We suddenly realized that throughout the project we did not talk of education.  We therefore decided to organize a workshop for tolerance in education, in which we, as educators, would convey the message of "being aware of the other" to our children and students.   

 

 

 

 * Tamar Haviv participated in the educators group.

* Upper photo by Uri Leshem

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