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Between 2004 and 2010, Just Vision interviewed more than 80 Palestinian and Israeli grassroots leaders. The interviews in this archive represent a fraction of the civic leaders working in the field at a particular moment in time, and aim to provide audiences access to a range of perspectives and approaches.

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Adi Dagan

As spokeswoman for Machsom Watch, Adi Dagan's role was to focus Israeli and international attention on the issue of Israeli-controlled checkpoints in the West Bank. Machsom [Checkpoint] Watch is a group of Israeli women who monitor activity at checkpoints. Adi spent two years as a volunteer, stationed once a week at Kalandia, the main checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem. She was also the media coordinator for the Coalition of Women for Peace, and is now Director of Consultancy and Training at Agenda, the Israeli Center for Strategic Communications - a not-for-profit dedicated to reprioritize and reframe social change issues within the Israeli public and the media.

  • Can you tell me about your background, how you became active?

    I grew up in a fairly left-wing home. As a child I always went to demonstrations with my parents and we always talked about current events at home. It always interested me. But I think that I became really active in the past three or four years.

  • What made you want to be involved?

    Three years ago I lived in Jerusalem. I was living in the city center then, when the intifada began, and there were many bombings close to my house. It was really scary. I was fed up with sitting at home and watching television and getting mad. I wanted to do something active to change the situation.

  • Had you been active in any organization before then?

    A little bit, but not regularly. I would go to demonstrations or try to join groups here and there - at the university (my BA is in psychology and my Masters is in History) - but nothing regular, only sporadically.

  • What do you do now?

    Currently I am the Coalition of Women for Peace's media coordinator. In addition to that, I'm very active in Machsom Watch, and I am their spokeswoman. Can you tell me about both, how did you come to join them? Chronologically speaking, three years ago I realized that I wanted to become active, so I joined Machsom Watch in Jerusalem. I started going to Kalandia checkpoint1 every week. After about a year of this activity, the women - we were a smaller group at the time - asked me to be the group's spokesperson. We wanted to reach the public with all the materials we were gathering and with our documentation of what was happening at the checkpoints. This is Machsom Watch's goal, and one of the main methods of accomplishing that is using the media. So I started to do that. I also increasingly felt this was where I wanted to spend all my time working and not to have to work in one place and volunteer someplace else. That's how I came to work at Coalition of Women for Peace. My job has two components: the first is performing spokesperson duties for the joint body. The Coalition has nine organizations but there's the joint body of the Coalition's activities, its projects, messages, and campaigns. The second is supporting each of the nine organizations' communications work.

    • 1(also transliterated as Qalandia) is located south of the West Bank city of Ramallah and north of Jerusalem. The Kalandia checkpoint, operated by the Israeli army, serves as a major crossing point for Palestinians between much of the northern West Bank and Jerusalem.

  • What do you do in Machsom Watch, at Kalandia checkpoint for instance?

    Our main aim is to document the checkpoints and what happens there and the breach of human rights. We see their presence as a breach of human rights because they prevent Palestinians from traveling in the regions where they live - I'm referring to the internal checkpoints and not the few lone checkpoints between Israel and the Territories. Our main objective is to document and bring material to the Israeli public and the world and to say: here's what the Occupation looks like and these are the checkpoints. We have other aims besides the main objective; we believe that when we stand at checkpoints our presence there scales down the abuse or human rights' violations to a certain extent. It doesn't transform the reality into something completely different, but it has some impact. Another aim is to meet the Palestinians at the checkpoints. For Palestinians it means encountering a different Israeli - meaning not the settlers and soldiers they are familiar with - but people who really aspire to achieve peace. That's the kind of activity we do. Kalandia is a very large checkpoint between Palestinian North Jerusalem and Ramallah. It's on the main road, in the middle of an urban sequence of neighborhoods, such as Beit Hanina, A-Ram, merging into Kalandia, Samira Mis,1 Ramallah; in the middle of it runs a main road and the checkpoint. Everything there is changing now as a result of the reality of the wall. When we arrived there four years ago it was a major junction between Jerusalem and Ramallah and in the middle of it stood the checkpoint. People from all over the southern West Bank, Bethlehem and Hebron traveled to Ramallah, passing through Kalandia, or traveling from Ramallah to Jerusalem through Kalandia. It's a very central throughway. The reality of the wall is very complicated because it is constructed on the municipal borders of Jerusalem that were defined in '67,2 annexing East Jerusalem. It cuts off A-Ram from Ramallah and severs Ramallah from Jerusalem. So it isn't all that clear, an underground passage and a huge terminal might be built to replace the checkpoint, but it isn't clear. The current situation - the checkpoint - is far better than what is going to happen with the wall.

    • 1Beit Hanina and Samira Mis are Palestinian neighborhoods in the north of Jerusalem within the city's municipal boundary. A-Ram and Kalandia Refugee Camp fall partly inside the municipal boundary and partly outside.
    • 2East Jerusalem was captured and then annexed by Israel following the Six-Day/June War of 1967. For further information on East Jerusalem see B'tselem (The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) http://www.btselem.org/English/Jerusalem/.

  • What is the current situation at the checkpoint?

    What we witness in general at the checkpoints, at Kalandia checkpoint specifically, is that fewer and fewer people are able to pass, and fewer and fewer people are even trying. Carving the West Bank into very small cantons and restricting travel between them is a trend that is only getting stronger, so in Machsom Watch we don't focus on the issue of checkpoints but rather on the larger issue of travel restrictions, along with the closure and travel permit policies. Part of that issue is also the wall.

  • Can you talk about your experience monitoring checkpoints?

    I just want to say that I stopped going to checkpoints because I just couldn't take it anymore. I did it for two years and it became unbearable. It was mainly a feeling of being crushed, as though someone were stepping on you. It was a sense of a lack of control over life, of someone taking your life away from you, just taking it away, a very bad feeling of helplessness and identifying with the people who need to cross the checkpoint then. Young soldiers stand there and they decide who passes and who doesn't. It feels very bad. After two years of seeing that I think that rather than improving, the situation is only getting worse. I couldn't bear it any longer, now I'm dedicating my experience in the field to the issue of the media because I hope maybe that will be successful.

  • Can you tell me about a certain event that affected you personally?

    Certainly. At the end of March 2003 I arrived at Kalandia checkpoint with another woman from Machsom Watch and a child was shot there. The soldiers shot a child, killing him; we were there when it happened.1 That was very, very, very traumatic and it was very difficult for me to return there afterwards. I kept imagining it happening all over again. Every soldier seemed potentially capable of killing a child. The tension was horrible. There was also the feeling that we hadn't managed to prevent it. That was difficult to deal with.

    • 115-year-old Omar Musa Matar was shot by Israeli soldiers at Kalandia checkpoint on March 28, 2003. He died from his wounds five days later. See "The 144th Child," Haaretz Magazine, April 11 2003 by Gidon Levy: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=282462&contrassID=2&subContrassID=14&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y and a response published in Haaretz by Dagan, an eyewitness to the shooting: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=291269&contrassID=2&subContrassID=14&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y

  • How do you think your work with Machsom Watch promotes peace?

    My standing at checkpoints doesn't directly further peace, but there are different stages involved in the process. Currently the groups I'm involved with and the kind of work I do oppose the Occupation. We haven't yet reached the stage of working towards peace. Working towards peace is a crucial stage which I believe must take place. Our standing at checkpoints and documenting is meant to convince the Israeli public that it's in an undesirable situation that is only leading us farther away from a solution, that we shouldn't be there, and that maybe later on there will be an agreement. There's the matter of meeting Palestinian people there and that is a very intense encounter that draws us closer and that is significant. One of the reasons that I went to checkpoints for two years was my desire to stop referring to the Palestinians as "the other" and to build relationships with individual people. In today's state of affairs it's so easy to turn people into the collective "they" and to believe that all this is taking place somewhere else when actually everything is very close by. We have to continuously keep in mind that it's not something that's taking place far away from here. It's happening to people like us. We can't think about it in abstract terms.

  • Did any relationships develop between you and Palestinian people at the checkpoints?

    Sure, there are women [Israeli activists] who have been going to the same checkpoints for the past four years. They get to know lots of people who live there and pass through there, exchanging phone numbers. People call to tell them about a problem and they try to help them from home. There are also just plain friendships. If somebody doesn't show up then people ask about her.

  • What kind of relationships, if any, develop with the soldiers?

    We get to know them or recognize them, too, and that's also a matter of personal preference. As an organization, our approach towards soldiers is very businesslike; it is neither embracing nor hostile. Dialogue with them concerns what happened during that day, what the [army's] procedures are. We're a third element at the checkpoint so we don't identify ourselves with the army. We walk a thin line with the soldiers and with the army in general because there are all sort of different interests stemming from different concerns that need to be balanced. That's very problematic.

  • Can you say more about Machsom Watch's relationship with the Israeli army?

    From the army's perspective our presence isn't so comfortable for them because we publish stories that maybe they would prefer people not know about.1 On the other hand, they use us. They claim that because they allow us to be there that shows they support our work. That's a little like us being their fig leaf, and they can then claim that there's a human rights organization basically saying that things are alright. We don't want to cooperate [with the army] because we oppose the policies that the army is implementing, yet we do turn to them and submit complaints. There is ongoing dialogue with them and we have to be careful not to venture to places where, politically speaking, we don't want to find ourselves. There are many forces involved in the matter and it isn't simple. We also have many arguments in Machsom Watch regarding how the relations should be.

    • 1For example, see one of Machsom Watch's monthly summaries, which includes Palestinian testimonials of checkpoint experiences for that month http://www.machsomwatch.org/eng/summariesEng.asp?link=summariesEng&lang=eng

  • How do you think you are perceived by the soldiers at the checkpoint?

    In general it's not that pleasant for them, just like it wouldn't be pleasant for anybody in a situation where people stand observing their actions, writing everything down and also approaching them, asking questions and occasionally making comments. In general, that's not exactly what they would like from us! It varies, it varies in that our presence is occasionally actually pleasant for them and they even say things like, "Good thing you're here." They like to tell us what's on their minds and they tell us about how hard it is for them. There are those who hate us, often they are settlers - civilians - but also some in uniform, and we simply drive them mad. They can't tolerate the presence of Israelis who have a stance so opposed to theirs. And there's the majority, which is indifferent. They aren't interested in anything because of the numb state they are in; they just aren't interested. The army officially permits our presence at checkpoints-- I mean the high ranks do. The soldiers in the field continuously try to get rid of us. They say, "[This is] a closed military zone, you can't be here, move away, move over there, don't speak to them." But we have permission from the high ranks. Sometimes they allow our presence there because even they understand that they won't be able to get rid of us and that if they do, there will be a heave price to pay in terms of publicity that won't serve them well.

  • How do you relate to the question in general of security and the checkpoints?

    For instance, if at checkpoints people were checked for bombs or whatever and then allowed to continue like here at the entrance to a mall, then it would be less of a problem, and maybe we [Machsom Watch] wouldn't have to come to the checkpoints at all. But after you come there you understand that that's not what takes place at all. There is a very minimal and arbitrary physical inspection, which at some checkpoints doesn't even take place. A person's ID card is inspected and if they come from a certain place and aren't supposed to be outside their allotted living area, they can't pass.1 That's how it is. Men between the age of sixteen and twenty-five need a permit to pass through the checkpoint, for example. I'm talking about scores of checkpoints, and the meaning is that they can't really leave their houses to go to the city nearby or anywhere. It paralyzes their lives. That's what brought us to the conclusion that checkpoints mostly don't serve security needs. Again, I'm referring to the internal checkpoints. Now even if the checkpoints do fulfill security needs in some way, as the army claims, there are things known to all of us, including the fact that Palestinians who go to apply for a permit at the DCO [liaison office] are often pressured to become collaborators. It's a widely known fact; it's really not something that we discovered. "Come help us out and in return you'll get a permit for your child to go to the hospital." So there are many ways in which the checkpoints are used indirectly for security needs. The matter of "proportionality" came up in the appeal to the High Court of Justice in the case of the wall; let me explain. It means we compare how much the population is harmed to the security benefit. For instance, the High Court of Justice ruled that [some parts] of the wall must be moved because its harm is too extensive [to the Palestinian population]. In relation to the checkpoints, you could claim Palestinian men shouldn't leave their homes at all, and that will contribute to Israelis' security. Maybe it will, but there are things that cannot be done according to international law, and the checkpoints are a violation of international law. I think we all have our red lines for what we are prepared to let the army do for the sake of security. We could also bomb the cities and be done with it! So the issue is that it seems to be a total imbalance, and to a certain extent, a lie. I say a lie because there aren't physical searches at the checkpoints; rather, the checkpoints pen people into all sorts of areas. Why is this done? That's what a military occupation looks like, that's what control looks like. It states who's in charge; the Israeli army is in charge and that's the situation and "you" must accept that, "you" must let go of your aspirations, we're the strong side and that's the story.

    • 1For information on ID checks at checkpoints see the BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/middle_east/03/w_bank_checkpoints/html/id_checks.stm

  • Did the situation at the checkpoints come as a surprise to you?

    Yes, I mean I really understand it now but at first I kept learning something new about the Occupation and how the system works, and also about the large bureaucracy with the matter of permits. It's complicated on purpose and there are many types of permits; orders are changed on a daily basis regarding who is allowed to pass and who isn't. At first I was amazed at the discovery of these mechanisms. I don't think that I ever thought that the checkpoints were a security measure, because as I said this was at a time when all the bombings in Jerusalem were taking place five minutes away from my house, and the last thing I felt was secure. I truly believe that the issue of security is symptomatic, meaning that it's superficial and that one must take a profound look in order to view the deeper issues. I think that if we remain at the level of security we won't ever resolve this conflict.

  • How did you feel the first time you went to a checkpoint with Machsom Watch?

    The first time I went to a checkpoint was during Passover.1 During the Jewish holidays, there is always a closure imposed and nobody passes through checkpoints. We went to Kalandia and it was empty; there was nobody there. On one hand, in terms of it being my first time, maybe it was a more gradual introduction, but I did see the physical environment. I felt as though I'd arrived in India, in the third world. It looked so bad-- so dirty, so neglected-- with barbed wire fences and mud. I remember that shocked me even without the presence of people there. When I came back a week later it was full of people and it was overwhelming-- lots of people, children, women and men and taxis and stalls with vendors and it was, wow! It flooded me and for the first months I went to the checkpoint when I came home I couldn't stop thinking about it for hours, I kept recalling the images. I couldn't fall asleep. It was emotionally flooding, the visual images. It is initially very overwhelming. You get accustomed to it. It's amazing how you get used to anything! That's just the way it is, when something is new it is visible and when you get used to it you start to pay attention to different impressions than from that first day. At first it was as though a spaceship transported me to a completely different world that is located fifteen minutes away from my house. This place follows different rules and has a different language, but the encounter with Palestinians was amazing. I had so many conversations with people; I learned so much about what happens there. It's really amazing.

    • 1Jewish holiday commemorating the exodus of Jews from slavery in Egypt.

  • Do you think Israelis are aware of the situation at the checkpoints?

    No. Maybe more today, in part thanks to Machsom Watch, I think. But no, in general, we say that you have to be there in order to comprehend. We explain what's going on to people who are distanced from it all. We try to bring people along because when people go there I think they grasp that there is a problem and that the checkpoints aren't a 100% solution. People generally didn't understand what the problem is, where things are taking place or why; I think that today when you mention checkpoints in Israel people know something about it and they aren't comfortable with it, they know it's problematic. The average Israeli still doesn't understand it in full, but whoever is frequently there, sees it.

  • Why are there only women in Machsom Watch?

    There was an understanding that the presence of a male third party at a checkpoint could achieve the opposite of what we wanted to, meaning adding tension to our encounter, which is also complex, as I described. Also, because [Israeli] men also get called for reserve service, meaning that there's a chance they were also involved in this type of reserves service as soliders, they may identify with the soldiers. I'm certain that if there were men in Machsom Watch [our work] would have ended long ago. I'm sure the army wouldn't allow it because of the tension and violence. I'm sure that if I were a man I would have been beaten up by soldiers at the checkpoints by now because there is a lot of stress and anger. Those are the practicalities, but I think that besides that we like being part of an organization that belongs only to women. It gives us more power and allows us to do the things we want to. I think that in mixed organizations men are often the ones who become the decision makers and determine things and women are pushed aside. I feel that I have a better sense of partnership and equality.

  • What is your approach as women? I know there are women who come as mothers of soldiers and as maternal figures. How did you approach it? How do others?

    We adopt a businesslike approach in order to understand the situation and to receive information. As an organization we don't have a common approach to the issue of military service in the Occupied Territories. Obviously every woman has her own personal style, but the organization continuously attempts to manage the manner of activity so as not to become aggressive towards the soldiers, but not embrace them either - a kind of neutrality. We don't call upon them to refuse to serve, nor do we strengthen them in their "national mission." Personally, it's hard for me -- standing at checkpoints I got very irritated at the soldiers! I know it doesn't serve the purpose; it doesn't serve anything, but we are human beings and it's difficult because of the frustration that there is a person who tells people not to pass or to wait, detaining them or worse things than I've described. Again, I have nothing personal against the soldiers but that's the situation. It's also our claim that in such a situation you and I would become very inhumane and immoral. I don't think there's anything wrong with the soldiers as soldiers but rather that the situation is wrong.

  • Can you tell me about a confrontation you had with a soldier?

    I've had many, though I don't know whether confrontation is the right term - we argue over people being detained for long periods at the checkpoints. There was one time when one soldier wanted all the people who were standing and waiting at the checkpoint to move, I don't know, maybe two hundred meters back, and wait there. The people didn't really feel like moving back. They couldn't really understand what he wanted and ultimately they wanted to stay close by in order to hear the soldier who would call to them that it was their turn. So then he decided to punish them and closed the checkpoint completely until they moved. I found myself not quite attempting to convince him, but maybe more yelling at him, "What are you doing, why are you punishing these people? Stop it immediately." It got to the point where he fired his gun in the air. That was very stressful. Of course he couldn't close the checkpoint, and his commander came and reopened it. It's hard to watch when a person has a personal ambition like that.

  • What are your goals as media coordinator?

    As spokeswoman - I'm talking about Machsom Watch still - that's really a difficult question. I think that initially it was very clear to me that I wanted the international audiences and the Israeli public to know that that the checkpoints aren't a security measure but rather a form of collective punishment, an infringement of human rights. Today I'm more skeptical regarding the public, especially the Israeli public. I think that we succeeded very nicely in reaching the international audiences and received a lot of coverage, but in general I see that making the Israeli public take an interest in what happens on the Palestinian side isn't working that well...I'm debating the matter. There's another approach that's gaining momentum: showing the effects of the checkpoints and the Occupation on soldiers and on the army, showing the extent of its harm to our side. Perhaps this is an effective approach but it doesn't really appeal to me; however I see that it's something the press is always interested in. The press is always interested if I bring them a story involving a soldier at a checkpoint, a soldier who fired [his gun], injured, or abused [Palestinians]. If there is a soldier involved they are interested. If I tell them that there's been a closure in Nablus for a month, or something general like that, because closure is so arbitrary, they are less interested in that. Frankly I'm indecisive; I'm not sure what our objectives are. There is an approach that says we should try to change the [Israeli] concept that we have no choice but to [continue the Occupation], but what the objectives are is a question that hasn't really got an answer currently.

  • Do you have a specific strategy concerning the Israeli audience?

    Not really. We've tried all different approaches; some are pushing for discussing the harm to Israeli society and some want us to present the damage to the Palestinians. We're a large organization and there are many women and many different voices. It's like a choir that sings in many parts, it isn't that focused.

  • What successes do you see regarding international audiences?

    Again, I am usually in touch with the press and ever since I've been in this position, foreign journalists join us at least twice a week at the checkpoints. My estimate is that the checkpoint story has coverage all over Europe, the United States, and I recall journalists from places such as Australia, South Africa, and Brazil. We're told that people hear and know about it and that it receives a lot of coverage.

  • What do you hope will happen in the future?

    Well, the optimal situation would be that it would bring countries to apply pressure on Israel to enter negotiations, to withdraw from the Territories, and to do what it takes to make these things happen. After four years I'm pretty skeptical. I'm not sure it'll happen, but we do what we can.

  • I'd like to talk about the Coalition of Women for Peace; how does the connection between the organizations' work in the Coalition?

    A coalition is more intricate because there are many voices, many approaches, and many directions. All in all, I think it's working nicely and that the common denominator is very large. A joint organization strengthens the individual organizations, especially the smaller and perhaps more active ones, and that strengthens joint activities. What we also try to do in the Coalition is to strengthen the groups - the organizations - and also to use all the organizations' resources for the joint work.

  • What are the drawbacks to the way you currently operate?

    The issue of strategy, what the goals are. I think you were there on the day when we talked about the media campaign, I really didn't think that up myself; I was at a media workshop and that was raised. They really stressed the issue of strategy, of naming your objectives and choosing activities accordingly, and not doing scattered activities hoping that they will have some impact. It's even more difficult at the Coalition because every organization has a different emphasis. Sometimes there are issues that are important for women from Machsom Watch that women from New Profile aren't interested in, and vice versa. So there needs to be a shared, yet focused statement. It's also difficult finding a statement the Israeli public will be able to relate to. There is constantly tension between what we really think - our most profound truths - and what the public is able to grasp and digest. I think what we lack is strategy, as well as a better connection with the Israeli public. That's a difficult matter because we're a radical organization that is very distant from the consensus. The million dollar question is how to relate - how to influence people and not alienate ourselves - without deterring people. There is the sense of being perceived as an out-of-touch minority. Israeli society is so diverse. The question of which connections and links can be made to bring people to relate to the issues is a very difficult one.

  • Which specific roles can women play in a peace process?

    I think that women, drawing on feminist approaches - not necessarily every woman by default - contribute to solutions that aren't based on force, where the strong side imposes its will, but rather with a more equality-based approach. addressing the other side's needs. [This approach] doesn't just focus on how I can convince the other side to relinquish those needs. It's an approach that views a range of aspects and not just security, territory, things like that; it asks rather what the implications [of a solution] would be on other aspects of life.

  • You have been active in the project of tours of the Separation Barrier. Can you tell me about that?

    It's a project run by the Coalition of Women for Peace that invites the public to meet the wall. We have a very special, successful approach, and also a very unusual one for left-wing organizations. It is that we provide people with information - information we deem important, and our position is being opposed to the wall and we don't hide anything. We also give people a chance to discuss what they think and to cope, process what they previously thought vis-à-vis having visited the wall - how it contrasts or doesn't. The approach is true dialogue; you know, when you say dialogue everyone imagines harmony, hearing the same views and emerging alike, and that's not the way it is. In my opinion it's a fantastic opportunity. I stand in front of a group and I can tell them what I think, I can listen to what they think, and when they leave maybe something inside them will change but thanks to the respect and understanding. They won't leave the tour thinking as I do, but maybe in some slight way I'll succeed in influencing them or undermining what they thought prior to that, and make them think more critically and differently. I really love this project. I think it's very successful and has proven to be successful because people are very pleased with the tours and they are also people who aren't convinced, who don't share our opinions. People come from all over. They are pleased with the information they receive, from the reality they don't know and didn't recognize earlier, and from the chance to discuss things.

  • Who comes to the tours?

    People hear about it from other people and groups come. We've had high school classes -of course they don't come through the Ministry of Education or the principal. Some teacher heard about it and decided that in the course of a three-day seminar in Jerusalem, studying the Holocaust, she'd get in a tour of the wall. That's a true story. Those poor kids came straight from Yad Vashem to the wall. But there were youth movements, such as Beitar, a right-wing youth movement with kids from Hebron [Jewish settler children], we've had groups from kibbutzes. Now we're beginning a series of tours for students in Jerusalem, together with Hacampus lo Shotek [The Campus Will not Stay Silent] and Ta'ayush to take tours from the university to a neighborhood in Jerusalem where there's a wall, such as A-Ram or Abu Dis.1 There are people who sign up on their own, and we gather a group of people and take them.

    • 1A-Ram and Abu Dis are Palestinian neighborhoods within the municipal boundary of Jerusalem.

  • Why would groups like Beitar bring kids to the tour of the Separation Barrier?

    An interesting question. The tour with Beitar was in Lod. We give tours in Lod and Ramle because there are separation walls there too. I don't know, there must have been a very open counselor there. I don't think that morality belongs only to the left-wing. There are thoughtful and moral people on the other side too [the right-wing]. I think it's nice that people from all over seek information that they aren't receiving any other way. The atmosphere during the tours is that every person will do whatever they want with the information and take it where they want to and not be brainwashed or anything. I think that people think it contributes to their thinking regardless of their opinions. There were youths that said they wanted to volunteer in Lod and assist in Arab neighborhoods! It goes to show that anything is possible, that this is really the right approach. It wasn't easy. We had a Palestinian guide from Lod and he had a difficult encounter with the children, but there's much to be gained.

  • Who do you most want to take on a tour of the Separation Barrier in Jerusalem?

    Actually, from the Israelis - anybody. We had a preliminary tour, just us tour guides in Jerusalem and my immediate response after was that I wanted my family to see it, or my friends, meaning people who mean a lot to me, so that they could understand what I was talking about. But I'm glad to see any group from the Israeli public. We've discovered that people's political opinions don't predict how they will behave during a tour or what will come up, because it raises very profound issues of identity, separation and security, and all sorts of issues that aren't only relevant for the Center or the right-wing, but for all Israelis. That's why the tours I guide with Israelis are fascinating, interesting, and important. It's important for me that people from abroad know about the wall but it's less urgent for me.

  • Can you give an example of a group you presumed would react a certain way and that surprised you?

    The kid from Beitar who said, "I want to volunteer here and help." That was something we never expected to happen. There are people from the left-wing who suddenly say, "Yes, but we need a wall against suicide bombings" or such things. We've learned there's no way to predict certain responses and that there's a wide range of responses. My approach is not to argue. My approach is to challenge [people's previous perceptions]. I talk about the misery it causes the Palestinians; on the political level I ask them where they think [building the wall] is leading, what kind of reality is being created here for us all, which is very important I think. Also on the level of security and the solutions, is this really a good or effective solution? I try to examine all these questions and hope that part of that will reach people. The last hour of the tour is a discussion group. Often this type of reaction will come up during the group's discussion and then the group responds. People talk amongst themselves and I'm merely a facilitatorI enabling the process, but at this point I don't participate. People don't yell but rather they articulate very painful and intense experiences and really talk to one another. In mixed groups, say a group of Jewish Israelis and Palestinians, the dialogue is very powerful.

  • What challenges does the project pose to you as a spokesperson? In what ways do you think the project needs to be developed?

    Advertising the project in the media is what I'm working on now. My goal is focused and clear: I want people to come to the tours. That's also the indication of success. If I've given a television interview two weeks ago I check how many people came following that with Orit, the project coordinator. I have a very specific goal and I'm not trying to convince the media to discuss the issue of the wall but rather to encourage people to come to the tours.

  • What would you like to see happen after people go home from the tours?

    As I said, we believe that people can shift their opinions a little. A person who's completely opposed to the wall may become active after the tour. Somebody who didn't know a thing about the wall knows a little bit more, and when they see it on television they will be able to analyze things according to the frame of knowledge they received. We've had groups of right-wing people and during the tour they face the wall's price that simply cannot be ignored. We aim to make people think beyond, within the frameworks of their opinions, and undermine the banal concepts of brainwashing and what people hear from the media concerning these issues.

  • Who are you trying to reach through the media?

    Everybody really. We intended the project for the Israeli public and we stress that it's appropriate for anyone. It's not intended for people that we want to mobilize or people who share our beliefs, but to anyone who wishes to learn about the wall. Lots of people haven't seen it, aren't familiar with its route or why its construction has been halted in certain places. People are very curious and they don't usually get an opportunity to satisfy it, so it's a chance.

  • Do you have any doubts regarding the things you do?

    My main doubts concern how effective all this is; how much of a chance this has of being influential, whether it's pointless-maybe what we're doing is nothing more than a drop in the sea. What do you say to yourself when you think about that? I tell myself that as long as I live here, this is my way of living here. This is my way of coping with the situation and influencing it. I can't stand on the sidelines or ignore what's happening. There are occasional moments of hope, but not many!

  • How does your family react to what you do?

    They support me and are very proud of what I do. They don't necessarily agree with all the things I say, but they are very much in favor of my being involved and active. They view it as a positive thing.

  • How does the conflict affect your life?

    It generally affects it for the worse because I find myself telling myself that I can't believe that this is the state of our lives, that these are the things we must occupy ourselves with. Enough! I want to live in a normal place where people can busy themselves with more positive tasks, like creative initiatives and things that feed the soul and mind. I feel like we are involved in such a primitive - I hate the term - conflict, a blood feud over land. I don't share those sentiments; that's so remote from the way I want to live. Sometimes I just can't believe that this is how I'm spending my time; I truly believe that this won't occupy me for the rest of my life. But who knows; I know many women who work with me who are fifty or sixty years-old and they've been doing this for thirty years. On the other hand I see the positive aspects the conflict has on me. I think it forces me to make a huge effort and stimulates creativity and other things, and that's also important to me. We are truly dealing with life and death situations - human rights and vastly important issues. I feel that I'm lucky to be able to take part in it and that I'm not completely helpless. We call it empowerment in our field. I'm discovering things about myself that maybe I wouldn't have in other circumstances.

  • How do you view peace?

    That's a very difficult question. I think that the first stage is ending the Occupation in the Territories and then some sort of self-determination and liberation for the Palestinians in the Territories. But I don't think that can be the end of the process. I view peace as being a confederation or cooperation so that neither side exploits the other, and to avoid us resuming control in an indirect way. This is so that all people will be able to live here and feel secure and be free and enjoy equality. I think that these elements are indispensable; without them we will remain at the level of empty slogans. That's why I feel that we're light years away from peace.

  • What will the region look like when there is peace?

    According to my vision of what peace is, it gets very complicated to even define [Israel]. If there is genuine peace with the Palestinians and with the neighboring countries then it will resemble Europe, and people from all over will immigrate to the region. It's a known fact that after the peace accords were signed with Jordan, Jordanians crossed over at the Dead Sea, it drew illegal workers here because they can earn more here. I can imagine that if there are more or less open borders, people will be able to pass freely and come here from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan. That of course undermines what [Israel] claims it wants to be - Jewish and democratic. This is why I'm skeptical about us ever achieving this kind of peace, skeptical about there being a mass aspiration here for this kind of peace. I think that the result would be that this country would lose the character it's trying to protect. Unfortunately, what preserves the state's character is the conflict; it is the conflict that enables people to use excuses and become entrenched in a collective identity that would be likely to melt away and diverge in a state of peace. Currently there isn't much of a collective identity; there are specific groups and sectors - Russian speakers, Arab citizens, Mizrachis, Ashkenazis - but the sense of besiegement and risk is something that unites these people. At checkpoints you can see a soldier who just arrived from the Ukraine; he isn't even Jewish and barely speaks a word of Hebrew yet he is yelling 'don't pass' at a Palestinian. This is a form of socialization that keeps people together here. I think that once the conflict is resolved we will have to face all the internal conflicts, and that includes such intense conflicts that who knows what will happen.

  • What do you view as the roots of the conflict?

    I think the root of the conflict is Zionism. I'm very interested in this subject now, far more than the Occupation.

  • Are Zionism and a Jewish state important to you?

    I think that before the state's establishment the goal was to create a normal state for the Jews. From that aspect Zionism served its purpose, it did create a state where Jews live as equal citizens. I think that after a certain point, after Zionism achieved the state's establishment and aliyah, the immigration that brought so many Jews here, and greatly reduced security risks by making peace with some of the neighboring countries, it became an obstacle for normal life here. To me living in a normal country can't include adopting apartheid and racist and religious discrimination. I think Zionism is an obstacle to normal life here and that's why I'm not in favor of retaining the definition of a Jewish state. I assume there can be a state with a Jewish majority; I'm not opposed to that. I'm not saying we need to get rid of the Jewish majority at any cost. I think that my aspirations have changed, and that I want this to be a normal country where equality isn't sanctioned by religion and for there not to be an ever present census - how many of them and how many of us. I feel I'm always being reminded I'm Jewish; if it isn't in the religious sense then it's in the ethnic sense and I'm very uncomfortable living this way. I want to live somewhere where nobody will care about my religion. That was also Zionism's aspiration: a normal life, people not being conscious which group they belong to, that's what really went on in the Diaspora. That's a problem. There isn't a significant difference between what is being done to Palestinians in the Territories under the Occupation to what's being done to Palestinians in Lod in terms of inequality and viewing them as people who deserve less, excluding them from "us." I don't think we can keep going on like this.

  • What do you think needs to change in order to change the situation?

    What needs to change is the perception of "us" and "them." We need to use civic concepts, and this does happen quite often in practice. I have Arab friends and I feel we are close in terms of being Israeli. We really do live in the same place. Culturally we share a lot, but on the level of consciousness there is a very large barrier between "us" and "them." The "others" or Arab "others" - those are a perceived as a real threat. This needs to change, and I think in practice it is changing because there are many people here that are "others"; it's still very far from the current situation though. I'm aware that that's a sort of utopia.

  • Which international audience is the most influential in the region, and why?

    That's pretty obvious I think, the United States. In many areas-- in their political and financial support of Israel. People say we're the 51st state. We're not entirely an independent country. We depend on the States for many things. It's also the largest force in the world so all the surrounding countries - Syria, Egypt, Jordan - are influenced by it. I'm not saying that Europe or other places have no impact. Unfortunately, the United States is a deciding element and we are paying the price for being their extension in the Middle East.1

    • 1Dagan is referring to the notion that United States' close strategic and financial relationship with Israel in conjunction with the United States' recent actions in the Middle East (particularly in Iraq) has had an adverse affect on Israel's public image.

  • Do you think the US has misconceptions regarding the conflict?

    The US prioritizes Israeli interests, or alleged interests, over Palestinian interests. The US isn't blind to their interests, it doesn't ignore them, but in terms of importance they see Israel as coming first and not incidentally, since Israel also serves their interests.

  • Why did former peace processes fail?

    I think they failed in truly addressing the other side's needs. In processes such as Oslo and Camp David, there was an attempt to gain as much as possible. We want as few Palestinians on our lands and to annex as much land as possible. We want to profit financially but not to invest anything. That's the approach, but there needs to be a win-win approach. That means I win but the other side does too, even because of the practical reason that this is how it can succeed or be sustainable. I don't think I see that in any peace process or in any leader here.

  • Can you give an example of an attitude that needs to change?

    Yes, for example the issue of the settlement blocs. Both Likud and Labor are in favor of them, they say it is annexing only 3% of the lands, 5% of the lands, land exchange etc. But people who deal more deeply with the matter and are in the field understand that for example, Ma'ale Adumim or Gush Etzion are places that strategically speaking enable maintaining control over the entire West Bank. This is the embodiment of the power-based approach of maintaining as much as possible at the expense of the other side, hoping it'll give in and accept these terms because its situation is so terrible. I don't think that can really serve any kind of stability.

  • Is a two-state solution an acceptable solution according to the vision of peace you mentioned earlier?

    Yes. As an initial stage I think it's pretty much the only solution that can be considered because I think that most Israelis and most Palestinians wouldn't want to live in a joint framework; it's problematic after a history of prolonged struggle and imbalance. I think that in the long term separation will be difficult to maintain, especially in such a small area that is so densely populated, and also according to my vision. Peace means cooperation and open borders and much more freedom. Take the EU, where people can live in any of the countries, work in any country there. I think that's the meaning of peace.