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Why I'll be on the Gaza flotilla this Jewish New Year

In the days before Rosh Hashana, days of introspection and forgiveness, I am reminded that by virtue of my identity as an Israeli citizen I am responsible for the disaster and tragedy befalling the people of Gaza. Introspection begins with opening one’s eyes and recognizing one’s sins, and only then trying to repair them. There is no more Jewish act than that.

Israeli naval forces seize control of one of the ships trying to break the siege on Gaza in September 2010. (IDF Spokesperson)

Israeli naval forces seize control of one of the ships trying to break the siege on Gaza in September 2010. (IDF Spokesperson)

If everything goes according to plan, on Monday, September 26 an all-woman flotilla will set sail for Gaza. If everything goes according to plan, I will be on that flotilla.

Naturally, the decision to join the flotilla was preceded by various considerations. But above all towers the image of one girl, Muna, whom I saw three years ago in a film by Gaza-based director Fida Qishta, which tells the story of Gaza after Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009.

Qishta’s film documents the destruction of her city during the war. She is no CNN reporter and has no interest in hiding the horrors of that war: the bombings, the white phosphorous, children’s bodies, more bombings, the cruel and arbitrary attacks on fisherman, gunfire at farmers who cannot work their land because it is too close to the no-go zone, a father who harrowingly calls out for his son among the wreckage, and a 10-year-old girl, Muna, who accompanies Qishta throughout almost the entire movie, pointing out the location where the people she knew were killed.

She is incredibly bright and well-spoken, and very to the point. Time after time she insists on taking Qishta to the house where the Israeli army concentrated her loved ones before bombing it. Muna lost 21 members of her family, including both her parents and several brothers. She remembers every torn limb that she saw that night, along with her dying parents and her brother uselessly begging the soldiers to let them leave.

In her room in her brother’s house, she talks about her dreams and shows Qishta her drawings. “Sometimes I see my mother in a dream, only there am I able to see her now, but even in the dream I know that she actually died and won’t come back.” In the neighborhood, or what is left of it, Muna agrees only to play with other orphaned children, since she doesn’t want to hear another mother call out for her children to come inside.


Eleven years since its unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip, Israel has been able to etch Gaza as a land of terror into the Israeli consciousness — the black hole that, once in a while, digs tunnels below our feet and fires rockets and missiles at our towns. Once in a while, Israel opens up the gates of hell and unleashes its wrath on the Strip. In the interim, it keeps busy making sure we forget the place even exists. To forget the fact that Israel, with the help of its neighbors, locked the gates on nearly 2 million people who are struggling to live among the wreckage. To forget the fact that despite the lie that Israel “ended the occupation of Gaza,” it still controls every grain of rice that enters (lest we forget the joke by Dov Weisglass, one of the architects of the disengagement: ‘The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”)

According to experts, if the siege on Gaza is not removed, it will become uninhabitable within a few years. The truth is that Israel made Gaza uninhabitable long ago. Gaza is a disaster that keeps getting worse in every respect: infrastructure, water, nutrition, employment, health, etc. We cannot allow Israel to make us forget that Gaza indeed does still exist.

Since the first boats set sail for Gaza eight years ago, Israel has gone to great lengths to present the flotillas as a violent, extremist act by Israel haters at best, terrorists at worst, who want to destroy the State of Israel. Israel even went so far as to kill 10 people aboard the Mavi Marmara, which Israel later apologized for and paid compensation to the families of those killed.

Perhaps that which should be obvious needs to be said again: the flotillas to Gaza are an absolutely nonviolent form of civil resistance against the illegal and inhumane blockade on Gaza, which is crushing those who live there. The point is not to confront or clash in any way with Israeli security forces, not even when they board and take control of our boat. The point is to stop the world from forgetting about Gaza and all those who live there.

When Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Liberman and Miri Regev paint us participants of the flotilla as violent, anti-Semitic extremists, I’ll remind myself that it is my Jewish values — no less than my personal conscience — which drove me to join the flotilla, especially now, at the end of the month of Elul. During these special days in the Jewish calendar, days of introspection and forgiveness, I remember that by virtue of my identity as an Israeli citizen I am partly responsible for the the disaster and tragedy befalling the people of Gaza. An act of introspection begins with opening one’s eyes and recognizing one’s sins, and only then trying to repair them. Just days before Rosh Hashana, to me, there is no more Jewish act than that.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    1. Bernie X


      Maybe you and your all-girl crew can stop and save some desperate African migrants while you’re at sea.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ray

        Maybe you can arrange a boat and go help them yourself, if you’re so concerned with them? No? You hypocrite.

        Reply to Comment
        • Bernie X

          The migrants are fleeing their homes and sailing to Europe, not Israel, which already hosts 50,000 African migrants.

          And no, I don’t want any more of migrants to come to Israel.

          And yes, I am concerned about their safety, but if I rescued them, than how would I get them into European countries?

          Ray. Apparently you’ve not bothered to think this through because you are unconcerned about the migrants.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Grandpa Frost

      Don’t worry Orly, the Israeli navy will rescue you before you actually get to Gaza. You are safe.

      Reply to Comment
    3. i_like_ike52

      Please don’t quote “Jewish values”. Where is there a “Jewish value” to allow a sworn enemy to arm itself and to carry out attacks against other Jews? How did you invent such a supposed “Jewish value?. The vast majority of Jews have never heard of it, so who empowered you to define what “Jewish values” are? When the Palestinians elected the HAMAS leadership who makes its genocidal intentions against Israel crystal clear and has never hid them, they defined the nature of the conflict between Israel and those Palestinians under HAMAS control.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bernie X

        ” How did you invent such a supposed “Jewish value? ”

        Simply, when you’re a ‘moral narcissist’,like Orly.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Hugh Walker

      You are helping to set Israel free from its chains as much as Gaza. You are a part of Jewish conscience and it’s something to be proud of. Great work!

      Reply to Comment
    5. Lewis from Afula

      The author has clearly drank too much magic-mushroom juice. Such Leftist self-hatred written by someone suffering from intense self-delusional fantasies.

      Yeh, the Hamas are nice people really!!!!
      Lets ignore the hanging of LGBTQ people
      Lets forget the butchery of women who don’t cover their head.
      Lets pretend they don’t behead apostates.
      That’s just for starters, before we reach their positions regarding Jews & Israel.

      Reply to Comment
      • Duh

        For those of you against Hamas rule in Gaza, why not abolish the greenline (and the Palestinian Authority) and allow all Palestinians and Israelis freedom of movement and residency across it?

        Reply to Comment
      • Carmen

        Lewis – let’s pretend you really give a shit about the propaganda you spout. What’s next on your list of don’t cares but hasbara’s first line of defense – distraction and straw man arguments, so I’m guessing you’ll be talking about Syria.

        Grandpa Frost – your time would be better spent praying the israeli navy doesn’t open fire on these boats; seems to be habitual or they’re as stupid as the army and shoot at anything and everything. I think they’ll also have a date with the Hague.

        Bernie – Orly and the women crew have a defined mission. If you’re concerned about ‘some desperate African migrants’ who were cast out of zioland, why don’t you do something about it?

        I_like_ike – it figures.

        Orly – best wishes to you and all the crew on the flotillas – you are all women of valor.

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula


          So Hamas do NOT murder Gays, Apostates nor Women who refuse to cover their heads?
          In that case, I apologize for my straw man propaganda – how shameful of me for fabricating false facts.

          Reply to Comment
          • Carmen

            Oh Lewis! Instead of whataboutery, you insist on conflating Hamas with ISIL. Hamas is no friend of ISIL, but JSIL and ISIL are great friends. As you know it’s been well-reported how the zionist state has provided succor to ISIL in treating their wounded fighters when they just ‘confirm the kill’ with Palestinians they’ve wounded. How do you like your whataboutery Lewis, far away in Syria or closer to home in Hebron?

            Reply to Comment
    6. Bruce Gould

      Efraim Halevy, former Mossad chief:


      “…the leadership of Hamas knows they have no chance of destroying Israel. Now is the time to talk to Hamas…there are no existential threats facing Israel, not from Hamas in the south or Hezbollah in the north, and that the only existential threat facing the country is the loss of its Jewish majority.”

      And as Israel moves towards one state, that is exactly what is happening.

      Reply to Comment