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The Pergamon: Love is the end and cause

The Pergamon: Love is the end and cause

In the summer of 2022, I gained insight into the British penal system when I was jailed for a month following direct action against Elbit—this is my prison diary (pt.2)

In the summer of 2022, I gained insight into the British penal system when I was remanded to Her Majesty’s Prison Eastwood Park. I was sent to jail for one month along with eight other activists following direct action in Bristol against Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest private arms company. During the month I spent in the penitentiary, I documented everything I saw, heard, felt, and thought as a form of resistance. This is my prison diary (pt.2)

May 21st 2022.

It’s a late afternoon hour, and all the prisoners are already locked up in their cells after receiving supper. Apart from going to the exercise yard for half an hour, we do not get to leave our cells. It doesn’t bother me at all, and I see it as an advantage because I get more time dedicated to reading.

This is my fourth day here, and I’ve already built a busy routine: Exercising in the yard (although I don’t have a timer, I believe that I broke my record in running today), reading, making prison applications, and writing. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning draws me completely into his world. As I read about the horrors he’d lived, I feel lucky for having plenty of food, warm clothing, a mattress, and some peace. It is clear to me now that I am a prisoner of conscience. Every step I’ve taken has prepared me for what’s to come, and the truth be told, I quite enjoy my life here. I’m happy to be here in my cell, although walking down these narrow and long halls is a foreign experience to me and strikes me in its peculiarity because I’ve been used to living an individual life. Yet in many ways, I feel less alone here than in Berlin. My soul has reached its limits in detesting Germany – The alienation, , the civic cowardice and spinelessness, the blind loyalty to the apartheid regime, and the gripping hold of the beurocratic “iron cage” above all. When I was in the arrest cell at Bristol’s police station, I was given a book named Leaving Berlin. How ironic.

This morning I’ve prepared the wedding greeting card for Dali’s wedding, a wedding I will not attend. The preparation of the postcard flooded me with emotions. I’ve blessed and wished her that the sun shall always shine on her in a tribute to love – for both our political redemption and resistance to oppression shall be made by love and in love. Love is the ends and cause, the love of justice and of freedom is that which connect me and Dali in sisterhood and it’s the same love that has brought me to my confinement.

Today I was lucky to look through the double-glazed glass window and see a grey cute- looking squirrel. How happy I was to see him! He climbed on the prison wall and sat on the barbed wire. I don’t know how and why such a small squirrel would climb there, but one way or another, he wasn’t electrified, so I was relieved. It also means that electricity doesn’t run through the barbed wire.

In my mind I can see R uttering the words “the 15th” when we were led to the court’s basement in the last time I saw him. I see him telling me to observe myself as if I were outside of myself. What do I see, then? A complex mixture of joy and fear of the unknown. Yet even outside of prison, there’s always some level of uncertainty. I must remember that, even when I’ll get free (am I not already?), it was here in jail that I became freer than ever. I also notice agitation whenever I hear the rattling of the guards’ chains and keys. I know this sensation well since my childhood, but I don’t know exactly why.

While detained at the Magistrates Court’s tiny holding cells, my heart was pounding so heavily every time the rattling of the chains and keys hit my ears. That day I wrote to myself words of comfort: That I’m strong and can control my breathing, that there’s nothing to fear about anything that concerns to the body, for I had prepared myself for the possibility of imprisonment for years, and that nothing acoustic or aesthetic can hurt me; that our role as revolutionaries is to evoke inspiration and that in fact, I am freer than I ever was. This is also what I told Jane in the exercise yard. I’ve promised myself to exhale more than I inhale so that the body will know to relax.

The nurse told me today that my blood pressure was slightly elevated when I walked into prison. It seems that I was nervous, but that was a good form of excitement, that of happiness. I’m sure that our efforts bore fruits because every day that the war machine cannot operate is a good day for humanity. Even if I have to spend years here, I’d spend them knowing that it couldn’t have been any other way. May the sky cover us with white roses.

It’s an early evening hour. The sheets and towels all smell of piss. The scent was vomit-inducing when I first got here but now I have become addicted to it. How funny! When I get home, I’d complain that the bed sheets smell too good!

Tomorrow I’ll start preparing my legal defense and write the draft for the opening statement. I intend to use the time productively and bring the news of our imprisonment to the public. I’m hopeful that the juries will exonerate us and we’ll emerge triumphant. We’ve already won, one way or another.

May 22nd 2022

There’s a tree of eternity growing inside of me now. It is stretching through me –

Horizontally Vertically

It expands and bursts out of my body till infinity.

I say that I am free; and I am free in the sense that even though my body is imprisoned, and I could be stripped of everything I have, there are still things that nobody can take away from me: My spirit and its strength, my freedom of thought, my love of freedom, my love for philosophy, and my ability to choose. The prison cannot take away Epicurus from me. It can’t take Epictetus, Plato, Aristotle, Marx or Seneca. My spirit cannot be stripped away from me because it is not material.

I can read Epictetus now from the record of my mind. He argues that we must fear not what lies outside the sphere of choice, but rather be concerned with what lies within it – our command of our own actions and thoughts. So I choose to be kind to my jailers. Either by choice or necessity, they must live the life of a prisoner to make a living. They are worse off than the prisoners; I choose to be kind to the prisoners around me, for their hard lives and cruel society led them here. I extend my inner strength to whoever needs compassion. I choose to smile at every being I’ll meet here. I will not to give in to negative thoughts but instead will choose the good, everlasting, sun.

The only choice left to choose is to surrender to reason, as Epicurus taught. My time in this world is limited. I am a mortal being. Being granted reason and Logos, I’ve ascended, as the rest of humanity, beyond time and space to see that which has passed and that which is evolving.

It’s an early evening hour in Eastwood Park and I’ve received letters of support from people worldwide. I was thrilled to receive the letters saying that we’ve raised the bar for activism – Long live the resistance!

I’ve found out that tomorrow my bail hearing will be held and that people expect to meet me outside. I doubt I’d be released. We’ll be denied bail. I am mentally preparing myself to spend a long time here, and I prefer to acknowledge that over having to bear the disappointment. In fact, today marks a week since my arrest, imprisonment, being held to court, going on the “Zinzana” (Prisoner’s transportation van in Hebrew slang) and arriving in prison. All of this has turned out to be a blessing for me because otherwise I would have never got to read Frankl’s book. Frankl writes that only those with a rich intellectual and spiritual life were able to survive the Nazi concentration camps, and the damage to their inner selves was less severe. Those who were able to retreat to themselves found inner peace, and those who practiced a certain moral code may have suffered greatly, but their inner selves remained intact.

I fell into tears when I was reading Frankl this morning. He describes how a young woman, who neglected her spiritual life, has turned to her only remaining friend to ease her loneliness while dying at a Nazi concentration camp: A chestnut tree whose one of its branches began to blossom. Hallucinating, she was talking to the tree, and it replied: “I am here—I am here—I am life, eternal life”. I had quickly wiped away the tears before somebody would notice them.

From my window, the same trees of eternity are blossoming, and the same birds flying by my window are all telling me that the love of freedom cannot be imprisoned. It is the irony of fate that I got to read Frankl in a prison cell; that I haven’t read it so far, after so many friends have recommended it to me. The prisoners who gave me the book did an act of grace.

Before going to Bristol, I was laughing with R about the feeling I had in my stomach – butterflies – just like the ones I had before a big exam in school. He began reciting “the Song of the Sea”, and we laughed together. How afraid I was to fail to quote those lines from the bible at elementary school! Our experience has indeed proven itself to be a test, a test of character.  I’m left now only with having to continue to show courage to stand this trial, excelling in this exam – to quote not “the Song of Sea” but “the Song of Freedom” – and showing indifference towards any decision that might be taken in my case – release or imprisonment – for after all, I might be imprisoned, but it’s impossible to take from me my inner joy away, or its twin: the love of freedom. Good night to all the prisoners and those jailed across the world! May birds full of beauty visit our windows and keep us company – I shall not ask for more than that.

~ Stav

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