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Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Notes on Once She Was A Child

Instead of introduction, a few personal notes...

When my children were little we were standing one day at the bus stop. It was very hot, August.

Suddenly, across from us, two children, suddenly one of them cried to his friend: "You Arab!" I looked at my children startled. The younger was then three, the same age I was when I came out of kindergarten and they threw stones at us and cried, 'Jidans, go away to Palestine!' Children I'd played with the day before. I wanted my children to know that 'Arab' was the name of a people, not a curse. I made contact through friends of some friends with members of the Arab intelligentsia who lived in a village in the Galilee and we visited them, they visited us, a contact was made. Mahmud and Lutfia Diab, from Tamra, two hours from Tel Aviv.

That was in 1970.

Three years later Lutfia's younger sister, Amal, married her teacher, Munir Diab. And Munir began in those years to manage there the first Arabic community center. So in 1975 the idea occurred to me to arrange a meeting between educated youths from Tamra and from a neighboring Jewish town with Jewish and Arabic artists.

Munir loved the idea and thanks to him it really happened. We had meetings and conversations with Aharon Meged, Anton Shamas, A. B. Yehoshua. Once every two weeks. One time in Tamra and one time in Shlomi.

Finally we had an evening of theater improvisation with the late Peter Fry. He came several times and prepared them. From the start I'd limited my involvement in that for only half a year. I would come there every two weeks.

Shlomi is located eight hundred meters, half a mile, from the Lebanese border. At that time terrorists murdered at night a mother and her two year old daughter, in Dovev. And still people came to the meetings and participated. Very willingly. But in one of the meetings, in Shlomi, someone said,

'Fine. Only you are returning to Tel Aviv and we are staying here not knowing what terrorist will roll upon us at night from the mountain.'

In my apartment in Tel Aviv we lived at the time five people in a space of four hundred and twenty square feet. No room of my own, there wasn't even a bedroom.

Then I thought, if there was a place to which artists would come for a stay of some weeks or months so they can be free to create, then both the artists and the community would benefit. It would answer to the needs.

I returned to Tel Aviv and began telling all kinds of people and organizations, that that was what they had to do.

Some said, How come, and some would say, "Why not, do it."

In those days the world was divided for me into dreamers, and doers. Two separate groups. Me, do? I come up with ideas, and they should do.

But all the time it still bothered, burned in my bones.

In 1984 I got up and said, "I am acting to found such a place."

Now I understand that in that moment I turned from a child citizen into an adult citizen.

Very difficult. You need to go to the world, and bow down.

It's impossible without money.

Within all these hardships, in Europe as well as in the United States, I would go into bookstores, to find solace. And I would think, So many books, So many woman writers! Who are they?


(c) Translated from the Hebrew by Michal Sapir

read this in Polish;in Hungarian; in Russian;

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