On Friday 11-4-08, we met for the third session. We were a small, intimate group of 10 women. The session opened with a bonfire and orange slips of paper. Each participant was asked to write down a word symbolizing something she would like to throw into the fire. On a separate slip of paper, each one wrote down another word – symbolizing something one hoped to protect from fire. The words thrown into the fire included: blood; sadness; tears; occupation; distress; sorrow; despair and desire.
Each participant chose another participant to hold the words to be protected. These words included: a child’s smile; family; peace; love; children and desire. In my home I now hold an orange slip of paper with the words peace and love.
Fire proved to be the element arousing the most negative connotations. Fire reminds us of people we’ve lost; memories; life under the occupation; shooting; blood. A discussion started between the Palestinians about Israeli soldiers at the roadblocks and entering their homes in the dark of night. Thoughts were raised regarding the question of whether soldiers are a uniform group of cruel people – those who follow orders, or rather human beings, with some more humane in behavior while others acting as cruel or heartless occupiers. An animated discussion developed during which various examples were given of soldiers’ responses at roadblocks. One example was that of a soldier who permitted entry to one of the participants even though she had forgotten her teaching permit at home – because he believed that she was indeed on her way to work at a school. Another example was that of a soldier who smiled and told a participant that she had matched her book and documents to her clothes. And there were other stories of soldiers going into homes and aiming their weapons directly at people’s faces; about the soldier who killed the husband of one participant while he was working as a TV news photographer – as he photographed a demonstration without participating in it; about the sniper who shot a young boy in the street – the innocent brother of another participant. The Israeli bereaved mothers described their feelings when they light memorial candles for their sons who fell while serving in the army. Throughout the entire discussion there was full attention, openness, as the participants took part, everyone speaking, listening and examining together the complex reality.
The openness and acceptance gradually enabled positive memories about fire to surface. One participant remembered a bonfire at the "Sulhita" which connected everyone and served as a source of warmth, light and mutual gathering. Another participant recalled the days following the death of her brother during which she sat at a bonfire which had been lit in an empty lot, as she watched the fire for hours, while trying to gather strength to go back home. And one of the mothers told of the special moment, once a week, when she lights a memorial candle for her son, being transported to another place for a moment.
The workshop ended with the preparation of a collage of photos representing all the positive things which we wish to protect from fire, as well as those things we wish to burn and destroy – the bad things concealed in fire.
Sharon Kalimi Misheiker