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Genesis of Gush Shalom


The inhabitants of tent city
Uri Avnery Social activist
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מי היה שם? בצד הערבי האישיות הבולטת היה אדם שהכרתי אותו בפעם הראשונה, בלי שום ספק מהרגע הראשון הוא היה האיש הבולט. זה חברנו מאום אל פאחם, מנהיג "התנועה האיסלאמית הצפונית", ראאד סלאח. אדם נהדר. התיידדנו אתו מהרגע הראשון טוטאלית. רחל אהבה אותו ממש והוא אהב את רחל, למרות שהוא לא יכול לתת לה יד. וישב הוא וראש עיריית טירה ומנהיג אחד מהבדואים וכו’. ותמיד היו עשרה-עשרים ערבים באוהל. ומהצד שלנו רחל ואני וכמה אנשים צפוניים. ותמיד היו בערך 10 יהודים, ו-10 ערבים. וישבנו ביום, וישנו בלילה באוהלים הקטנים, והיו גם כמה נשים אז היה אוהל לנשים ורחל ישנה שם ואני ישנתי באוהל הגדול והיינו יחד ממש 24 שעות יום אחרי יום אחרי יום. ראאד הוא אדם יוצא מן הכלל. בשש בבוקר הוא קם וניקה את השטח, לבד. היו רואים אותו וגם אחרים היו יוצאים לעזור לו, אבל הוא לא ביקש מאף אחד. הוא ממש טיפוס של מנהיג. אני מדבר על ראאד של אז. ראאד של היום זה לא בדיוק אותו הדבר. ראאד היה איש כלבבי, גם מבחינה זאת שתכננו הפגנות יוצאות דופן. נורא נמאס מההפגנות האלה, הקומוניסטיות בעיקר, שהולכים המון וצועקים "טה טה טה", המנהיגים בשורה הראשונה. די דוחה. למרות שהייתי בכמה עשרות כאלה, אולי מאות. אנחנו תכננו דברים לתפארת. עשינו הפגנה של כהני דת ליד האוהל, רבנים, כמרים ושייח'ים, עשינו הפגנה של ילדים, רק ילדים. נתנו להם צבעים וניירות והם ציירו איך הם מתארים לעצמם את הגולים בגבול הלבנון. ועשינו הפגנה על הגבול, ליד נהריה שם, ושחררנו יונים כדי שיעופו לשמה, אבל היונים לא שיתפו פעולה ועפו בכיוון ההפוך ולא עזר לנו כלום. עשינו כנס לפני האוהל, כנס של משפטנים משני העמים, כולם באו בגלימות. עשינו כמה דברים מאוד יפים. והייתה הבנה. באמצע הוא אמר שהוא מוכרח לסוע למכה לחאג’. נסע למכה וחזר, כן הלאה. ישבנו שם יום ולילה, זה היה באמצע החורף, ינואר, עם שלג, עם האוהלים. באמצע גם אני הייתי צריך, הייתה לי הזמנה לגרמניה לאיזה כנס חשוב. לא, כשאני קיבלתי פרס איזשהו, והשארתי את רחל לבד. רחל הייתה "מלכת" האוהלים. השייח' מאוד אהב אותה. נתנו לה אוהל לחוד. אח"כ כשאני הייתי, אז גם לי נתנו להיכנס לאותו אוהל, היה לנו אוהל משפחתי כאילו.‏


Who was there? On the Arab side the most dominant personality was a person whom I met then for the first time who without any doubt, from the first moment, was the most prominent. It was our friend from Umm al-Fahm, the leader of the Northern Islamic Movement.

[Q]  Raed Salah.

Say again?

[Q]  Raed Salah.

Raed Salah. A great man. We became friends from the very first moment, totally. Rachel really loved him and he loved Rachel, although he could shake her hand. He sat with the Mayor of Tira and one of the Bedouin leaders. There were always between 10 and 20 Arabs in the tent and from our side, Rachel and I and a few people from the left. There were always about 10 Jews and 10 Arabs. We sat there during the day, and at night we slept in the smaller tents. There were also a few women so they had a tent to themselves and Rachel slept there while I slept in the big tent and we were all together for 24 hours a day, day after day after day. Raed was a remarkable man. At 06:00 am, he got up and cleaned the area, alone. People would see him and would also go out to help him, but he did not ask anyone. That is the real character of a leader. I'm talking about the Raed I knew at that time; the Raed of today is not the same as he was then. Raed was a man after my own heart, especially from this aspect of planning extraordinary demonstrations. I get so tired of these demonstrations, particularly by communists, walking a lot and shouting 'Ta! Ta! Ta!' with the leaders in the first line. Pretty obnoxious, although I was in several dozen maybe hundreds of those sorts of demonstrations.

We planned things wonderfully. The priests, rabbis and sheiks had their own demonstration in the tent, then we organized a demonstration for the children, just children. We gave them paints and paper and had them draw how they imagined the life of the exiles at the Lebanese border. We conducted a demonstration on the border, near Nahariya, and we released pigeons to fly there, but the pigeons didn't cooperate and flew off in the opposite direction, so that didn't help us. We held a conference in front of the tent, a conference of lawyers from both sides and they all came in their robes. We did some very nice things and we had an understanding between us. In the middle of the sit-in, he said he had to travel to Mecca, to do the Hajj. He travelled to Mecca and then came back and so on. We sat there day and night; it was the middle of winter, January, with snow, and we were in tents. I also had to leave halfway through − I had an invitation to go to Germany to some important conference − no, I had been awarded some prize or other, and I left Rachel alone. Rachel was the queen of the tents. The Sheikh really loved her. They gave her a tent all to herself. Then, when I was there, I was also allowed to enter this tent – it was like a family tent.

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Raed Salah, Rachel Avnery

Duration: 5 minutes, 20 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 26 June 2017