Passenger I: Elik Elhanan, Israel
Elik Elhanan, Tel Aviv, Israel, is one of the passengers on board the Estelle on its last lap toward Gaza. He belongs to a well-known Israeli family whose forefathers emigrated to Palestine in the 1920s. His great-grandfather was the first Israeli ambassador to Sweden . His grandfather, Matti Peled, a general, was the first military person of high standing to oppose the 1972 occupation, and he formed peace groups with the Palestinians. He later retired from the army and devoted his time to writing a PhD in Arabic literature.
Erik is 35 years old now. When he was young he was a punk rocker. In 1995 he joined the Israeli army and became a paratrooper, over time advancing to become a member of an elite formation.
On 4th September 1997, his 16-year-old sister Smadar Elhanan was on her way back from school on the Ben Yehuda Avenue in Jerusalem. It was the first week of the school term and many people were out on the streets. That afternoon, three suicide bombers blew themselves up on Ben Yehuda. Five people died and twenty were wounded.
When Elik heard about the atrocity in his regiment, he called home, as did everyone in Jerusalem. There nobody had heard any news. When he called again, a neighbour answered. His parents had gone to identify their daughter. She and her best friend were among the dead.
Following the death of Smadar, Elik’s mother Noret Pelled Elhanan declared that she held the Israeli government and its politics of occupation responsible for the death of her daughter.
When Elik had completed his military service, he left the army and travelled around the world for almost two years before settling in Paris, where he sought contact with activists from countries around the world, working against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. His parents were involved in “We lost a child”, an organisation for Palestinian and Israeli parents who had lost their children. Two years ago, his father Rami participated in an entirely Jewish Ship to Gaza to end the blockade. On board were several survivors from the holocaust. They were stopped.
In 2002, Elik joined the soldiers who refused to take part in the war against Gaza, a group calling itself “The courage to refuse”. In 2004 he returned to Israel and, together with Palestinians who had been set free from Israeli prisons formed an organisation called “Combatants for peace”.
As I write these notes, we pass the Messina strait with Elik on board the Estelle. He sees the Israeli blockade of Gaza as criminal. Europe could easily apply pressure on Israel in the matter, as 40% of Israel’s trade goes to Europe. But, according to Elik, Europe and Israel appear to have reached an agreement as follows: Europe is absolved of the holocaust, and in turn does not protest against the Israeli occupation and oppression of the Palestinians.
Maria-Pia Boëthius, writer and member of the crew on board Estelle