There are many Gazans that believe and know that we must live side by side”

Roni Keidar – “Back in the 80’s, we were 66 families that recreated Nativ Haasara, a village originally situated in northern Sinai, which was returned to Egypt as part of the Israel-Egypt peace agreement. Today we are 230 families and about to start our second expansion, in which 71 more families will be joining us. And there is already talk of the third expansion.

Our first years here were calm. We were mainly busy with building our new lives and homes and had a normal neighborly relationship with Gaza’s residents. The security situation deteriorated over the years and nowadays we are occasionally attacked by missiles, having only 15 seconds to get into a shelter.

This has been our routine for the last 14-15 years. So how can one explain the sharp increase of families moving in here? The answer lies in the support and the strength of our wonderful community. It is enough to see one holiday celebrated here to realize that we are one big family. And yet we wonder wherein the solution for our complicated reality lies?

The four years that my family and I spent in Cairo made me understand that every story has two sides. Aside from Zionism, which is my side of the story, there is the Arab story that can’t be ignored. In Egypt I’ve also learned the power of dialogue. People refused to talk with us because we were Israelis. If I managed to find the right atmosphere we could start talking, and started not necessarily to agree but to understand where each of us is coming from.

Each war we have here is worse than the other, one retaliation after the next – where are we? Still at square one, talking about the next round that is about to happen.

The last war really shook me, and I decided that I am going to act for preventing the next one. What I’ve been doing since the cease fire is to speak wherever people are willing to hear me. Both here in Israel and abroad. I love Israel and it is out of that love and commitment that I am saying what I am saying. Because I know that as long as my neighbors will be cut off from the world and don’t have a reason to live – the hatred will go on. That is what I want to change. We need neighbors that are strong and happy in order for us to have a life. We have to learn to live side by side and both sides have to learn how to compromise. That is the only way.

During the last war I was interviewed by a journalist, following a SMS I got from one of my many friends in Gaza strip. She wrote, “Roni are you and your family ok? I heard a rocket fell near your village”. He interviewed us both, and she said to him: “I know you are there and I know you are always going to be there, but please remember that I’m here too and I’m not going anywhere either”. Like her, there are many Gazans that believe and know that we must live side by side and that we are here to stay. Like her, there are many other voices that think alike that want to be heard.

Many people call me a dreamer. I am not a dreamer. The dreamers are those Palestinians that still say they want to throw us into the sea, the dreamers are those Israelis that think they can bomb Gaza again and again and eventually the Palestinians will come begging on their knees for peace. For me, the solution can be found only in dialogue and peace. That’s the only possible solution.”