This week, in the wake of the murders of four teenagers, a hundred Gazans have been killed by Israeli forces and Israeli civilians have been wounded and homes destroyed by Hamas missiles.
Tal Nitzan, author of the poetry collection At the End of Sleep, published by Restless in June, lives in Tel Aviv. Long active in the anti-occupation movement, Tal corresponds with the Palestinian poet Basem Al-Nabriss. Once a Director General of the Ministry of Culture for the Palestinian Authority, he was ousted from his post after Hamas took control in 2007. Tal and Basem have exchanged messages again this week, and Tal has shared her latest reply with Restless.
It is the fourth day of the war between my country and yours—if the tormented Gaza strip could even be called a country. My government and Hamas are carrying it out, our peoples pay the price, and the end is not in sight. You write that you pray for the peace and safety of both peoples. You never forget to pray for us, even when your family is under Israeli fire. I don't know how to pray, and no words can express now my pain and rage and anxiety.
I think about your lone voice, ceaselessly and bravely advocating peace and non-violence in the face of a regime that wouldn't tolerate such opinions, and about the price you paid. I think about your absurd fate, persecuted and bombed alternately by Hamas and by the IDF, about the cruel choice you were forced to make, remaining with your family or saving your own life. I can't think of you as belonging to another people. For me, you are my people, beyond any doubt, and this is not a mere phrase: you are my brother in the most obvious, natural way. You share my most essential beliefs, you speak my deepest language.
You wrote to me today: "We need the voices of Israeli intellectuals, those voices that did not lose the essence of human values and nobility. We need the voice of reason on both sides, the words that would abolish the barrier between our two peoples."
I promise you that these words are spoken here, and written and published, and shouted in parades, by the same voices that have been speaking against the ongoing occupation of Palestine and against the Israeli government's policy of war and aggression rather than striving for peace. Voices very much like yours, trying to break this vicious circle of suffering and hopelessness. It's hard to be heard now under the explosions and cries of incitement, and tragically, hate, fear, and vengeance spread much faster, like fire.
Hamas missiles have reached my town, for three days now I've been woken up by the sounds of alarm and explosions and shaking windows, but it's your family who is in immediate mortal danger every day and every hour. Gaza is threatened by a power cut, but I feel as if I'm writing to you from a bottomless darkness. Yet I don't renounce my hope that you and I and my children and yours and your little granddaughter Tal* will emerge from these sick, dark times and live the lives we deserve. It's your unyielding optimism that gives me hope.
I hold on to this light.
All my thoughts are with you,
*Note: Al-Nabriss named his first granddaughter after Nitzán.