We Live Near The Border With Gaza, And We Want The Violence To End (Other Voice)

An Open Letter to Israeli Leadership

Dear Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman,

We, members of Other Voice — residents of the Western Negev who live close to the border with the Gaza Strip — are writing to you, yet again, in our call for a long-term political program to end the hostilities with Gaza.

Pnina and Micha Ben Hillel live in kibbutz Nir Am

The situation in our region and in the Gaza Strip is unthinkable, unbearable and unacceptable. The deep hostility, the never-ending rounds of violence, the mortar and rocket attacks, the tunnels, the kites — all of these have made our lives a living hell. And on the other side of the border, the people live with 3-4 hours of electricity a day; they have no potable water; the sewage runs in the streets and into the sea; their health system is collapsing and they have soaring numbers of unemployment. Two million people are living without hope that they will have a sustainable future.

The government is trying to persuade us — the Israeli public, and mainly the residents of the region surrounding Gaza — that the Gazans are our enemies. We see them, however, not as our enemies, but as our neighbors.

The Hamas regime is tyrannical and has caused great harm, mainly to its own people. We neither justify nor legitimate its behaviors and its decisions. Nevertheless, it is the authority in Gaza — whether we like it or not — and so we have to find a way to speak to its members.

We call upon you to change direction. Instead of more rounds of violence, instead of another war, we need to reach a long-term ceasefire. We need to put into place a political program that will promise the people in Gaza electricity for 24 hours a day, potable water, employment, freedom of movement, air to breathe and removal of the blockade.

Israel is the strong side in this equation. We have the power and the ability to reverse this unacceptable and unbearable situation, and to create a situation in which life and hope blossom on both sides of the border. The disaster that has been going on for too long is not a natural — it is human-made. We created it and we can change it. We want to live in peace with our neighbors in Gaza. We need to live in peace with them.

Sincerely,

Members of Other Voice

An Open Letter to Hamas’ Leadership

Dear Yahya Sanwar and Ismail Haniyeh,

We are your neighbors to the east; we live in Israeli communities that share the border with the Gaza Strip. Our peoples have been at war for decades, and as the years go by, the hostilities and hatred have deepened — on both sides. This state is toxic both for your people and for ours.

Ye’ela Raanan on her bike in kibbtuz Kissufim, her home

We have been, and remain, enemies. But this can, and must, change. We are also neighbors — we live just a few kilometers away from one another. This tragedy that has befallen both of our peoples is not a natural disaster — it is a human-made one. We created it and we can change it.

Enough hatred. Enough revenge. Enough showing strength through rockets, mortars, tunnels and arson kites.

We have written Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin – the leaders on the Israeli side. We have written them what we have written you. Our message to them is that it is time to reach a long-term ceasefire, make and implement a political plan, end the blockade, help rehabilitate the Gaza Strip, help make sure that every person in Gaza has full access to electricity, clean water, enough medicine, air to breath and freedom of movement and rights.

We do not know if you will read this letter, or toss it into the waste basket. We are writing in hopes that you will read it and think about what an opportunity this is — to completely change what has been, and to bring hope to your people. Hope and a good life for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip also means hope and a good life for Israelis, on our side of the border.

We are not your enemies. We are your neighbors. We want to live as neighbors, at the very least, in co-existence.

We know that we can do this. We can make this happen. You have the power to make a huge difference on your side. We have also demanded from our leaders to do the same here.

We are not your enemies. We are your neighbors, and we want a life of dignity and peace for all people – in the Gaza Strip and in the Western Negev.

Sincerely,

Members of Other Voice

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Photographs by Skip Schiel

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