Saturday, October 18, 2014

the children, the pain and the piano.. from Jaffa to Gaza.

   Late last night i wrote a FB post abut a beautiful concert by the amazing pianist Liz Magnes at her home in Jaffa, where the aim was to raise money for the children of Gaza. 

This morning at 8am my friend Michel called and urged me to remove it as it had, in his words, offended many people, and that it might start a new wave of hatred against me. He claimed there were those who felt it was wrong to support the children of Gaza without at the same time supporting the children of Sderot or other cities in Israel which had been hurt by the war, and that I was “crazy” for waking up the dragon. He was worried about me,   

When Michel called I was reading a book with my daughter in bed, enjoying the soft morning sunshine and savoring the last hours with her  before leaving for two weeks of concerts in Italy, a difficult and emotional moment for me. I was much too preoccupied and exhausted (I had packed till 2 am) to argue with him and I knew he meant well (Michel is a real friend) so I removed the post, but I felt very bad about doing so and the feeling has been gnawing at me all day, as my heart and conscience will not allow me to simply “let it be”.  

This feeling has lead me to write the following lines.

Over the 25 years of my career i have volunteered endlessly for children everywhere, and for the children of Israel more than any. I have sung for cancer associations, hospitals, special homes for battered women and their children, for blind children, deaf children, mentally disabled youth , I have helped raise money, I have visited, done workshops, taken photos, shaken hands, hugged, kissed and what not. And I have sung for soldiers, sung in bomb shelters, sung for bereaved parents, on and on the list goes.  Believe me, I am not exaggerating. I practice what I preach…”love your brother as you love yourself”. I do not flaunt these things or boast of them (and it annoys me that I am doing so now), and I do not document myself obsessively, I simply do the job.

When Liz Magnes wrote and said she was organizing this small get together at her home , I was thrilled. I have long wanted to hear Liz play live (she is amaaaazing!), and  thought, how wonderful to be able to help children  while I’m at it, even if the help is modest and symbolic.

Had I been approached by Liz or anyone for that matter, to do the same for the children of Sderot, I would act in exactly the same way. But none such opportunity presented itself last week. So, what should I have done? Refused to come to Liz’s little concert because there was no “balancing event” to give it legitimacy?? Or, attended but kept it to myself, because it might offend someone?? My whole career has been a long series of offensive events, from singing for the Pope to singing for peace to singing with Arabs to singing in general (if you’re an ultra orthodox male) …is that reason to shut up??
 I find the whole issue mind boggling.

I am asking myself why it is so difficult for some people here in Israel to support a simple act of charity and compassion towards children who are suffering, our neighbors’ children?  If for example, I would be raising money for the children of Africa, would that be ok? Or orphans in Russia or neonates in Naples? (I have raised money and volunteered extensively for all three…as good will ambassador of th UN organization FAO, Amnesty International Special Ambassador , Cavalliera de la Republica Italian , etc). I imagine nobody would find it offensive, on the contrary.

But the children of Gaza?? “Shame on you!” I am told, “they are the enemy!! How dare you show compassion towards them!? Do you think they’d show compassion towards you?? they'll slit your throat! You fool! Stick with your own kind! Israel Hater!! And anyway, the money goes to Hamas who build tunnels to kill your children” (some add, “I hope Hamas kills you and your children, Arab Lover”. Nice people.)

I feel truly sorry for people who think that way. I understand their hearts and minds are crippled by fear (some justified), tainted with prejudice and cynicism, and handicapped by short shortsightedness. Further, I suppose, they think that helping the children of Gaza means admitting in some way that we are responsible for their ill fate.

So here is a step by step analysis of the situation as I see it, and an explanation for why I choose not to delete the children of Gaza from my volunteering and raising money list:

1.   1.  People from Gaza are treated in Israeli hospitals every day. Why? Because we can. Because we have the know-how, the infrastructure, the manpower. Because despite what governments think and do, people exhibit humanity! I am proud if that. I heard that Abu Mazen’s wife was treated in an Israeli hospital not long ago! I am proud of those hospitals, those doctors (like my husband!), those nurses, who help save lives for the sake of humanity. I don’t think they say to themselves: “hmmm well, I haven’t helped a Jewish Israeli today, so I can’t help a Gazan. Sorry”. That would be ridiculous. And the hospitals are just the beginning! There are endless Israeli initiatives to help rebuild Gaza! From humanitarian aid to building products to technology, etc. I am asking all my critics: why are you not PROUD of this fact?? You should be! the same goes for raising money for the children of Gaza! I am proud to be part of a society that can and will do something like that!

2.    2. The 500 children who were killed in the Gaza offensive, and the 3000 that were wounded, were most likely not armed terrorists or serial killers. They were caught in the cross fire, just like any of us could have been. They are not the enemy. The enemy, as I have stated many times before is anyone who chooses death over life, anyone poisoned by extremism and fanaticism, anyone unable to speak any language but violence, both verbal and physical, and that goes for Arabs, Jews or whomever. A child is a child; I have three of my own and feel deeply for every single one on the planet. Every child is born pure of heart; hatred is not natural to the human species. I have always, and will always, do everything I can to secure a better future for ANYONE’s children.

3.   3.  Recognizing the pain of another does not eliminate your own pain. Recognizing the other’s tragedy does not erase or diminish your OWN tragedy. Recognizing the Palestinians struggle for independence and their right to self-definition within their own territory does not cancel your own right to all of those things. And admitting you are to blame for the loss of human life does not mean the other side does not share this blame. Self-righteousness and defensiveness, without the courage to reach out, will lead us nowhere.

4.    4. Yes, it is true that for the moment, no Palestinian organization will jump up and help the children of Sderot on the border with Gaza. On the other hand, if a Palestinian state existed, if we were two equal entities entangled in battle, I am sure citizens from the other side would feel confident and strong enough to reach out beyond the fence, just as I do. For the moment, sadly that is not (yet) the case. 

5.   5.  For whomever the purely humanitarian, compassionate and human-empathy considerations are not enough, consider that our well being (including the children of Sderot!) depends on the well being of our neighbors, whether we like it or not. Healthy children with a roof over their heads, with a chance for an education and a future, are less likely to grow into blood thirsty terrorists. It’s simple really.

6.    6. Anyone who has ever been involved in fundraising knows that you ALWAYS take a risk putting your money into the hands of strangers that you HOPE will get it to the needy. Unfortunately, there is often corruption, as a result which money falls into the wrong hands, and no country is free of this illness, including Israel. So yes, there is a chance some of the money might being kidnapped by Hamas. But is that a reason not to try and raise it? No. Is the fact that Africa is full of corrupt tyrants reason not to help the children of Africa? No.

I will end with something beautiful that Gil Dor once told me.

The Hebrew word for responsibility, “Achrayut”, has at its core the word “acher”, which means “the other, the different one”.  Responsibility is intrinsically linked to our relationship with “the  other”, the one that is different from us, it is he/she we must be looking out for, whether or not that sentiment is reciprocated.

I believe only if we create a positive dynamic, only if we give a personal example that will set the butterfly wings in motion, as tiny as the first little flap may be, can we hope for an eruption of positive change… somewhere, someday.

Noa, Oct 2014

(Liz Magnes at the piano at her home in Jaffa, my daughter Yum staring out into the ocean...)


  1. שתיים בלילה ואני קוראת את הפוסט שלך כמה שעות אחרי הטקס הרפורמי של בר המצווה של יותם בני. בסוף הברכה שלי אליו, כתבתי לו. שמה שחשוב לי הוא שהוא יעשה טוב יבקש שלום וירדפהו. ואני קוראת את המילים שלך וגאה שאת יוצרת שיוצאת מתוך עמי שלי. שאינך פוחדת לדבר אמת שפיך השר וליבך שווים. את נאמנה לעקרונות ההומניים ולכן שירתך מרגשת אותי כל פעם מחדש. הייתי רוצה שתכתבי את הפוסט גם בעברית.אני חושבת שהוא חשוב עבור הקהל הישראלי, דווקא מכיוון שהוא מאתגר כל כך (הקהל אני מתכוונת) וגם מכיוון שהפוסט מבטא את קולם של רודפי השלום בכלל והישראלים בפרט.שיהיה קל באיטליה, חזרי בשלום.

  2. Noa, your courage and good work are examples that all should follow.

  3. You do not need to apologize for anything you have done. Listen to your inner compass it is true, and pure and good and right. I live less than 2 kms away from the border. My house was hit by shrapnel. My kibbutz (nirim) was a battlefield for 60 days (not 50 like the rest of the country) I lost two of my friends who live here with me. Two other were seriously wounded - all by Hamas projectiles. And yet, I agree with you 100% - the children, the innocents, are not to blame, They need to know that we do not hate them, that they are not our enemy. I love you.

  4. L'odio non porta mai del bene a nessuno, tutti dobbiamo impegnarci affinchè i conflitti cessino e la PACE torni a vivere nel cuore degli uomini. Vi ammiro molto, parlare di PACE di questi tempi non è facile!

  5. Dear Noa thank you. I am sure that the eruption of positive change is already a reality. You, David Broza, Mira, Prof M. Dajani, and many others are making the positive change. I hope there will be eruption of journalists, writers, media specialists who will spread the news and let the whole world know that there are positive events and coragous people in this LAND. One day everybody will now it and from this Land the example of true human relations will depart. Good luck for your trip to Italy.

  6. אין צורך להתנצל. אני כן רוצה לחזק את ידיך להמשיך בדרך העקבית שעשית כל השנים הארוכות האלו. שיזור הנתינה בתוך העשייה היא, לדעתי, דרך בריאה ונותנת השראה. לכולנו יש שגרה. ככל שניתן לכלול בו מעשים נותנים לכולם, אבל במיוחד לפגועים הקרובים ביותר אלינו גאוגרפית - "עניי עירך, עניי ארצך" הכוללים גם יהודים וגם לא יהודים, יש בזה ברכה מיוחדת - ולא רק למי שמקבל.

    אני רק מצטערת שהורדת את מה שכתבת על הקונצרט בפייסבוק. חבל.

    מלבד האומרים דברי שטנה ואיום בארץ, יש גם שוחרי טוב, והרבה מהם לא משתייכים לאף אירגון פוליטי או חברתי, פשוט חיים את חייהם בשקט, נמנעים מלהתגרות, מתפללים על כל הילדים באשר הם. אני מוקירה את כל אלו גם, שכמו שאת מתארת שאת עשית וממשיכה לעשות, מוצאים דרכים לתמוך גם בשכניהם היהודים וגם בשכניהם הלא יהודים בצנעה, בשקידה, בשקט ובשגרה, אם זה בנתינה ואם זה במניעת דיבור לא הולם.

    בהצלחה בהמשך הדרך - זו דרך משותפת לכולנו, בעצם. ג'ודי

  7. I would like to contribute to give an impetus to the butterfly of tolerance, recognition, respect, sharing and coexistence. How? In subscribing to this blog.
    I think it’s legitimate to worry about our own children first and before all and it’s not to blame. Also, it’s legitimate to wonder what is our share of responsibility in these current circumstances. We can’t live well in knowing our neighbor don’t live with dignity. We can’t appreciate the coolness of the Mediterranean Sea when over there, where the blue touches blue, we know it’s not a place for peace and the Sea cannot comfort everyone (“Mother nature cannot comfort nor the coolness of the sea” if I remember well the song…). So, what to do? Can I accept this situation and do nothing? No, I don’t think so. So how to do? Simply in doing what I can do with my own way such as participate to an act of solidarity for example or other. Everyone can do something even if its action is infinitesimal and judged naïve by someone. I believe these actions could create something good someday, somewhere…somehow…this is a song of Tom Waits:
    There's a place for us
    Somewhere a place for us
    Peace and quiet and open air
    Wait for us
    There's a time for us
    Someday there'll be a time for us
    Time together with time to spare
    Time to learn
    Time to care
    Someday, somewhere
    We'll find a new way of living
    We'll find there's a way of forgiving
    There's a place for us
    A time and a place for us
    Hold my hand and we're half way there
    Hold my hand
    And I'll take you there
    Someday, somewhere

  8. Noa , thank you for your courage and for your clear vision . You are on the right side of history .

  9. Noa, a few weeks ago, I watched a report about you and a german actress in your city in Israel. It was on the French tv channel called "Arte". In this programm, I remember that a man in the street shout at you saying you was betraying Israel. You quickly reacted by approaching this guy to have a debate with him. And finally you manage to explain yourself and calm the guy down. I was very impressed by your reaction : instead of escaping with fear, you jumped at the problem before it grows wider and wider. You was like a firewan watering a fire. Do you remember this event ? I conclude that you are the best lawyer of yourself but the only problem is that people listen to rumors and medias instead of your deep and personnals words. Keep your inspiring energy !