Celebrating a Life - Yehoshua Zamir
20.09.1921 - 14.11.03
"Survival Is Not Enough"
Yehoshua Zamir of Kibbutz Ein Dor passed away November 14, 2002. Yehoshua Zamir was a founder of MidEastWeb and a friend of peace, who devoted the latter part of his long life to Arab-Israeli peace, after his son, Yaron was killed in the assault on the Beaufort in the 1982 Lebanon War. For Yehoshua, achieving peace was a central goal of Zionism, part and parcel of the same pioneering ideology that brought him to Israel as an illegal immigrant in 1945, where he settled at Kibbutz Ein Dor. Yehoshua's one man campaign for peace was based on the theme, "Survival is Not Enough." He published two books on the Web: the diary of his son Yaron, and his own diary and thoughts about how to achieve peace, Survival is Not Enough. He was an accomplished photographer who illustrated the book, "Ani Kurdi" and used his skills to make a documentary film about peace and mourning for victims of the conflict, which was shown on Israeli television.
was a friend, a partner in building MidEastWeb, and an inspiration to anyone searching for a human way to
peace. In a very real way, MidEastWeb is part of Yehoshua's vision and legacy.
Below is his letter to Israeli PM Menachem Begin, written shortly after his son
died, and eulogies of friends.
Letter to Menachem Begin
June 28, 1982
Mr. Menachem Begin
Prime Minister of Israel
On Sunday, June 6, 1982, my son, Yaron, fell in battle at the Beaufort. I have not stopped crying since that day and my hand trembles as I hold my pen. In his diary, I found a poem he had written on October 16, 1978. These were its closing lines:
That same small detail -- a world of
With those same people and a protest singer
Can rise up now and rebel
And to the world, `Enough Killing', can yell.
Two days ago, our family gathered at my brother's kibbutz. His son-in-law was also killed in Lebanon, on June 23, 1982, during a Syrian artillery bombardment of the town of Alei. He left behind a wife who is pregnant and blessed with a baby boy less than nine months old. My brother's other son-in-law was crippled during the Six Day War. My brother's son is now serving in Lebanon as well and his wife's family lost two of its men in Israel's previous wars.
My tears dried and my hand ceased trembling when I heard his children say to their mother: "We're next in line".
When night comes I am plagued by anxiety, fearful that they shall come knocking on my door, bringing me more bitter news. Sixty members of my kibbutz are still in uniform and they are all part of my family.
I came on Aliya from the United States in 1945, managing to enter Palestine as an illegal immigrant, as did many members of my kibbutz, the fourth North American kibbutz of the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement. Of the 70 people from my kibbutz who came on Aliya, more than 50 are still in the country, more than 40 of these on Ein-Dor. Not for one moment have I ever doubted that this is my country.
Our Zionist and humanist education has brought forth splendid results. Here we reside in the lower Galilee, living peacefully with our Arab neighbors, and this is the way I have educated our children. So, what could I say to my neighbor when he came to express condolences over the death of my son, Yaron, while members of his family were being shelled in Sidon, Lebanon? What could I tell Yaron when he returned from putting down demonstrations of Druse Arab residing on the Golan Heights who were refusing to accept Israeli identity cards [Israel annexed the Golan Heights in December 1981, thus imposing citizenship on all its residents who before 1967 had lived under Syrian rule]? And how could I look him in the eyes when Israeli soldiers in the occupied territories were shooting at women and children?
Does the mightiest army in the Middle East really have no other methods for dealing with these children? The ground on which I stood is beginning to give way. Are we fated to live by the sword, a sword which has been sullied by the blood of babies?
Is it not the hour to cease shooting and start talking? I do not ignore the fact that the leaders of the PLO are greatly to blame. The blackest day of my life since the Nazi atrocities was May 15, 1974, when they murdered innocent children in the Israeli town of Ma'alot. But we can seek and find partners for dialogue as we found in Egypt. We returned the Sinai to Egypt. Why could we not arrive at a fair compromise with the Palestinian people as well?
On the evening of Monday, June 7, 1982, I was deeply hurt when you and Sharon appeared on the Beaufort, all smiles, and, with the blood of our fallen sons not yet dry, you turned to him and remarked, "How fresh the mountain air atop this fortress"...
You cannot bring back my son, Yaron. But do not add further bereavement, pain, and suffering. Let the bombing of civilian-populated areas cease. Do not use spears and the bodies of our sons to try to dictate who shall rule in Lebanon. I reiterate the words of my son, Yaron:
You have renounced your vow of, "No more wars!". It behooves you to give back your Nobel Peace Prize.
In pain and sorrow -- and with a hope that there shall be no more war.
A Bridge - Correspondence with a Palestinian friend
In 1970, Yehoshua became fascinated by the lives and culture of Kurdish-Jews in the Moshavim (agricultural cooperative villages of Yardena and Beit Yossef near Beth Shean. He documented the experience of these handsome and proud people through the eye of his camera. His work was published as a photographic essay in the book "Ani Kurdi" - "I am a Kurd" - a play on a derogatory Israeli idiom meaning "I'm no genius. I just work here and do what I am told." Yehoshua saw the joy, wisdom and love in their intricate culture and warm community and his photos conveyed his impressions to all of Israel. Photos from Ani Kurdi were exhibited posthumously at the Tel Chai Museum.
Baking Pita Bread
And what now, Yehoshua?
Who will take photos of Kurds from Yardena and Beit Yossef with a loving eye, of the wrinkled faced fellah (Arab farmer) standing with his sickle at the foot of Mt. Tabor, of the joyous volunteers on the lawn at Ein Dor? Who will teach us the art of your human love now? And who will play the harmonica for us the entire long way home from Jerusalem?
And who will tell us with your youthful ardor, about the treasures of the video and the Internet, those wondrous inventions, that might be the ones that will increase fellowship among human beings and bring salvage to the world? What now Yehoshua?
Who will get up at the crack of dawn to send emails to reporters around the world , in order to promote peace and understanding among human beings, and who will tell us with sparkling eyes about the correspondence with the bereaved father from Nablus, a sign and omen that not all is lost, not all has been swallowed up in the darkness
And who will set the agenda for the Beaufort family? Who will be its Minister of Culture? Who will examine the senseless events, see signs and wonders in them and impose order upon them, explain them and give them meaning as you used to ? Yehoshua, about two weeks ago Tamir from Kfar Masaryk, one of the Beaufort fighters, was killed. Two days after my condolence visit to his family, I unexpectedly met his eldest son, 14 year old Roie, on the steps of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem with his fathers heavy camera in his hand.
You always used to laugh when we said: Its a coincidence... So what does it mean, Yehoshua? It was you who rejected the idea of any chance in our world, and always sought to find reason and order in it. So what is the meaning of all the murderous, zealous, frenzied turmoil that surrounds us? What is the meaning of the murderousness that buries sons before their fathers? Who can give meaning to these events in your stead? And who will color them in the optimistic hues of your restlessness?
You walked among us, Yehoshua, an 81 year old boy, with silvery hair and laughing brown eyes, kind eyes that seek to brighten every stain, every spot, to turn darkness into light.. The world stormed and surged around you, moonstruck nationalists and unyielding fanatics sought to drown us in a sea of blood and despair. And you, Yehoshua, a youth of 81, an incorrigible lover of man, such an innocent and honest and beautiful man, walked among us. And we, who have none of your innocence and splendour; we, to whom a bit of cynicism clung, and even doubt, and forgive us- bitter and dark despair gnawed us at times. We looked at you always with astonishment, and a bit of your faith in man, in peace and in life clung to us also, even if only in small measure. In truth, reality gave us little reason to reinforce this faith.
We knew you, Yehoshua, in the most difficult hours of our lives. At times when a black abyss opened up at our feet. You knew how to light our way throughout these 21 years with the light of your personality, your loyal and supporting friendship, your love of man, your faith in man and your love for life.
Thank you for everything. Farewell, my friend.
November 15th, 2002
Yehoshua Zamir - A Life
Yehoshua Zamir was born Zelig Braveman in Rochester NY, five months after his father was killed in a work-related accident, and received his fathers name, Zelig Braveman. His mother, Zelig and his two older brothers moved to Palestine and Zelig spent his childhood years growing up in Tel Aviv of the late twenties and early thirties. His oldest brother, Tzvi, who had a very strong influence on Zelig all his life, joined the Hashomer Hatzair movement in Palestine, and in due course Zelig also joined.
His mother had remarried, and before giving birth to her fourth son the family moved back to the USA where they again found their way to Rochester. It was here that he became very active in the Hashomer Hatzair movement and was a leader in Rochester. The movement asked him to go to San Francisco to built a branch of the movement there. Rama, who is now his wife, went there with him and their relationship started then and lasted all his life.
In Hashomer Hatzair, Yehoshua was an excellent and charismatic leader and he was also active in the forming of the kibbutz-to-be, Kibbutz Amerikai Daled. He of course knew Hebrew better than any of us and knew all the songs and dances, played the harmonica, etc. When the USA entered WWII, Yehoshua was working in a shipyard building Liberty ships in San Francisco, and for this reason he was not called up in the draft. When the war ended, Yehoshua was one of our first members to make Aliya (immigrate to Israel). This he did by signing on as a seaman on a merchant ship that docked at Haifa, and when the ship reached port he jumped ship and went to Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek, where the Americans of Kibbutz Daled were concentrating. There, he started his career as fallah, farmer, a job which he enjoyed greatly.
When the Americans joined Israeli Kibbutz Vav at Nachlat Yehuda, near Rishon LeTzion, Yehoshua was sent to study agriculture at Rehovot, after which he joined those that had gone to Tira, close to our permanent place of settlement. Actually, Yehoshua was on the committee which chose that as our place of settlement. At Ein Dor he continued working in extensive dry farming and in our local Experiment Station for a good number of years, until the kibbutz decided he was needed as a teacher in our high school. He studied realistic subjects at the Oranim seminar and took on his new vocation with his usual abundance of energy. It was about this time that he initiated activities between our high school children and those of the Arab village of Kfar Masr, our closest neighbors.
Shortly after this he became intensely interested in photography. He catalogued with an intelligent but warm eye events and people that were close to him. He photographed the villagers, our neighbors, Moshav Yardena where he served on reserve duty and about which he published the book, Ani Kurdi (I Am A Kurd). When there was a terrorist attack on Maalot, he went there to photograph its inhabitants. He traveled to Japan and photographed the members of communes there, and of course took photos of many other places and people in Israel, as well as many beautiful photos of the scenery of Israel and of Sinai. He photographed the beauty in the ordinary man and woman, a family, a happening, moments of joy and moments of sadness. The observer cannot help but feel the empathy and the authenticity that permeates his work. From photography Yehoshua went into video, which he saw as a means of connecting people and involving people, communicating.
After teaching, Yehoshua went to work in our factory at Ein Dor and worked there for many years until his retirement. Yehoshua served a term as secretary of the kibbutz. At this point, I return to his family life. His oldest daughter, Naomi, was born when the kibbutz was still at Nachlat Yehuda. At Ein Dor his son Gilad was born, then Tamar, Amit followed but died after several weeks, a tragedy which left its mark on him and Rama, and then his youngest son, Yaron was born. Yaron was killed in the fighting on the Beaufort on the first day of the Lebanese War. This affected Rama and Yehoshua very strongly, and from this point Yehoshua worked as hard as possible to further Arab-Jewish understanding and the cause of peace. He was instrumental in forming the Beaufort Family, the group of parents whose children fell on that first day of unnecessary war on that cursed spot. He was vociferous in his denouncement of the Lebanese War, and strongly supported the activity of Yitzchak Frankenthal to promote Arab-Jewish understanding especially amongst those who had suffered the loss of their child because of the uncompromising position of the leaders of both nations. He also did as much as he could to help others come to terms with their pain or their loss, and because of his ability to empathize, he was able to help.
Several years ago he underwent a heart operation from which he never really fully recovered.
He left behind him a legacy of an authentic view of people of Israel, a bereaved and loving family and a huge circle of friends of all religions and all colors.
Kibbutz Ein Dor
February 11, 2003
Feisal Zouabi Writes About his Good Neighbor and Friend
It is a great
honor for me to write a few words about Yehoshua Zamir. This space will
not suffice for ıall the feelings of esteem, love and respect I have for
this man. I met Yehoshua at the age of 12, when ıhe used to come to
visit my late father and developed a relationship of good-neighborliness
with many ıpeople in the village. Yehoshua's relationship with the
village inhabitants began as early as the 1950s. ıhe and another member
of Kibbutz Ein Dor, Aryeh Malkin, used to help the villagers with the
reaping ıof the wheat and the vineyard work. ı
|Feisal Zouabi & Arieh Malkin|
When I finished my studies at the Arab College of Education in Haifa
(1965) and returned to the ıvillage to teach at El Amal School, where I
currently am serving as principal, our acquaintance took ıon an
ideological meaning. Yehoshua, who at the time was teaching at the Tabor
High School in Ein ıDor, and I, initiated encounters between my students
and his, encounters which lasted from 1967 to ıı1968 and contributed to
the development of good neighborly relations between the village and
ıadjacent Kibbutz Ein Dor. Zamir was an outstanding educator and
expressed great love for the ıstudents. His relationships with human
beings were based upon principles of love for the other and ırespect for
human beings by virtue of their being human. He believed in coexistence
between Arabs ıand Jews and between all people, regardless of religion
Yehoshuas acceptance by the village , as a photographer, took some time. In Hedim Newsletter no. ıı104, he wrote: I went on foot to the neighboring Kfar Masr. I wanted to get there before the villagers ıboarded the 6 AM bus. The path crosses through almond orchards and it is not possible to see what is ıgoing on on the road. I had the camera in my hand ready for action. Suddenly I heard shouts and a lot ıof people running on the road. I rushed over too, thinking there had been some calamity. Women and ıchildren were streaming out of the houses onto the road. While running toward the intersection, I ıraised the camera to photograph what was happening. A kid ran up to me and said that it was not nice ıto photograph such a thing and in the womens eyes I saw anger, and maybe more. At the intersection ıI met an old acquaintance who was on his way to the hospital in his pickup truck with the family of the ıman, who moments before was hit by a vehicle from a neighboring kibbutz. I didnt take pictures, and ılater discussed what had happened with my teacher friend from the village. I told him how sorry I was ıabout the accident and explained why I didnt want to photograph the worried looks and the looks of ıanger directed at myself, the stranger, who had come to photograph the suffering of others I tried to ıexplain my way of work and my approach to photography. I am not looking for one-time scoops, ıeach time at a different place. I am looking for a connection with the people, and this is acquired only ıby means of long-term acquaintance in a single place. Along with the mutual acquaintance and ıconnection, mutual trust is created as well, and when I achieve that in Kfar Masr, as I have in a ınumber of other settlements, I will be able to photograph the difficult circumstances as well as the joy. ıThe question , of course, is how to make them understand that it is immensely important to show ıpeople throughout the world that there are still places where, when a man is hurt everyone rushes over ıı to help, to confirm, to be present unlike in the cities of the world, including our own, in which a ıman can fall down on a main street and no one will help him up. How can I show them that we all ıhave something to learn from one another? And we could learn a lot from them, if we only knew how ıto break down the barriers; to get closer, and to open up our eyes and our hearts. My friend, the ıteacher, understood and even helped me in recent years explain my approach to other villagers. ı
Yehoshua documented the village up until 2000, until his health no longer enabled him to photograph.ı My acquaintance with him, and our close friendship helped me believe that we can change the world ıin all that concerns relationships between human beings Jews and Arabs. And despite the hardships, ıthe loss and the trauma experienced by both nations it is possible to build relationships of friendship, ıneighborliness and mutual respect with any human being by virtue of his being human, despite the ıdifferences between them. Zamir was an optimist and he expressed hope for a better life. This state of ımind carried over to his photographs, his work as an educator and his relationship with human beings. ıYehoshuas memory will stay with me forever. A dear man with unique humane values, an ıoutstanding educator, a man of the earth blessed be your memory.ı
ı His friend, Feisal Zuabiı