Alternative Spring Break participant Sarah Graham-Helwig shares her perspective on a visit to Moshav Netiv Ha'asarah on the Gaza Border.
There, her group met with Adi, a long-time resident of the Moshav, who took them to a lookout point and gave them an overview of the area. From the lookout point the group could see major towns in Gaza as well as the rubble from three former settlements in the Gaza Strip. They then met with Tzameret, a local artist who has started a project which expresses her desire for long lasting peace. She created a mural on the border wall which says, path to peace, and was filled in by many different groups who share her dream of a peaceful end to the conflict. Following the visit to the wall, the group traveled to her studio and helped her create more mosaic pieces so she could grow her project beyond her current capacity. They were amazed that the peaceful Moshav was right on the border and that, although Tzameret had endured years of rockets, she was still optimistic and hopeful.
While approaching the large cement panels I couldn't take my eyes away as I wondered if this was the border with Gaza. It seemed so out of place and I couldn't stop thinking that this beautiful neighborhood was constantly struck with horror. Watching the news from my house in California, Israel seems so far away and often the news depiction of events seems so unreal. However passing these houses with unique touches of window chimes blowing by the front doors, it was unbelievable to think that this peaceful area was right on the border of Gaza. Pulling up to the cement fence, I immediately noticed the large dove on the wall with the words, Path to Peace. I remember the chatter in the bus questioning if we were really at the border, if behind this beautiful articulate neighborhood lay one of the number one news topics of the world. The dove and writing made me reflect on the spirit and resilience of the people of Israel. When I was listening to Tzameret's speech regarding the history between Israel and the Gaza Strip, I kept thinking about the people we saw sitting on their porches half a mile away. Talking to Tzameret allowed me to capture the spirit and essence of the people of Netiv Ha'asarah and of the entire region. I know that this experience has changed my perception and I will absolutely take what I now know back to my friends and family so that they can understand what these wonderful people have to endure.
Sarah Graham-Helwig, ASB participant