Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Chasm of the Divide

from Masalaha--

A Personal Reflection by one Palestinian:

“I had just had a hard time at the checkpoint; they hadn’t treated me well as a Palestinian. I was going to Ramallah with my friend and a colleague in the car, and one of the soldiers humiliated me.

He was rude, and made me get out of the car and asked “Who is that chick next to you?”

I was annoyed, as she was my colleague and he was not talking about her in a nice way.

Then he saw that I wasn’t happy with the way he talked to me, so he said ‘Read that number plate over there.”

I felt like he was insulting me. I argued with him, “Why do you want me to read it?”
I’m not a man who likes a fight, but he was being very rude to me.

My friend was telling me to just read it, but I didn’t want to. I started to read it very slowly, and then he dropped his pen.

He said, “Pick it up.”

example of checkpoint argument

And I thought, “I’ve had enough.”

When I refused, he put his gun against my head and said, “You will.”

I said, “Do whatever you want. I will not pick it up.”

After that, he didn’t make me pick it up, but we had to wait three hours at the checkpoint without our ID.

I wasn’t feeling like going on a trip to meet Israelis would be good, but I’m a person who likes to face the situation. If I have fear, I want to face it. If I have a problem, I want to confront it because it will get out of control.

I thought to myself, “Okay, I will deal with the Israelis as foreigners as I am meeting them abroad in Jordan, not as soldiers in their uniforms.” On the first day it was okay, but in the evening it got hard. We had to get into pairs, each Palestinian with an Israeli,
and tell one another three things about each other.

I wasn’t lucky. The guy who I was with was an Israeli officer in the army.

I told him that I was from Bethlehem. And I told him my story. Then it was his turn. He looked like a tough man and he told me that he knew Bethlehem well as he had been there during the second intifada. He was in my city in a tank and I thought, “Now I am sitting with him!”

After that, I don’t remember anything else about what he talked about. I just saw black. I put him in the place of each soldier I had met that week. It was hard. I felt that I didn’t like him at all.

Late that same night, I told myself that I didn’t want to leave it like that with him. I wanted to talk to him. He is the one who gave me this feeling so I have to talk to him. So I went to him and asked to talk. He’s my age. I told him how he made me feel and that I found it hard that he was in the army.

He looked at me and said, “Zaire, listen. I’m sorry for what my people do. I am sorry for the things that have happened to you. But also understand that people like me, I have to do things that I don’t want to do. The army forces me to do things. So imagine how difficult it is in my heart.”

I felt his pain too. I realized that not all soldiers are bad; they are doing their jobs.

We prayed together, and on the last day, I shared my story. I was happy that I could influence people.

I’ve been away with Musalaha often since then. It has helped me so much as we learn the history of the other side, about their government and their political system, too. They don’t know about our system either, so it is really good. We learn to think and talk about the on-going situation.

Because of Musalaha, I don’t forget about reconciliation. However long the conflict continues, we need to carry on meeting with each other. We need to influence the next generation.

I now have Israeli friends who are very kind to me. We call each other up and see how we are both doing. It was very hard last summer as my Israeli friend was fighting in Gaza. We kept in contact though throughout the violence.

We need to be kind to each other. It takes time, but I believe in it. We are in one family. We believe in one God. It is important to sit together as one family. Musalaha brings us together. If I was to go on my own, I would be scared, but when there are more of us, it’s much easier.”

*Zaire’s name has been changed for confidentiality reasons.

From the Musalaha Website

Check out this Palestinian/Israeli organization dedicated to peace, reconciliation, and justice.

Start with their Bridge Building:

“Like all other departments in Musalaha, the Young Adults Department strives to bring Palestinians and Israelis closer towards reconciliation. The program track starts with a first encounter in a neutral location, away from associations of the conflict and away from the stresses of everyday life. In this environment, participants tend to express their feelings more freely, and more earnestly listen to and cooperate with each other…

Through Musalaha’s various reconciliation programs (e.g. trips, leadership opportunities, lectures) we empower these individuals with knowledge and understanding of issues concerning reconciliation and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, helping them become positive influences advocating peace and fellowship in their communities.”

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox


Lyn said...

Early morning tears as I read this safe in my northern Ohio home; aware of the gun fire I heard in Africia, in FL, that resonated from Kent and impacts all of us our ages and in Orlando and St. Louis, and in Cleveland in the U.S. and look away: Black Lives Matter; brown lives matter; we matter to each other in how we respond, why don't we get it?

Daniel Wilcox said...

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your concerns.

Yes, everyone's life matters. Every single human--red, yellow, black, brown, and white--is of great worth.

But, even those of us who do care, get so caught up in all of our work and our families and our local issues, that I think it is hard for us to feel deep empathy for those a long way off.
That's not an excuse, just the realization that caring for the stranger is much harder for humans than caring for kin.
Probably one reason I care so much about Palestine/Israel is that I lived there, so it is real to me. I knew people there, Muslims, Atheists, religious Jews, Christians, etc.

Hopefully, all of us can open our hearts wider and wider, extend care, and justice, and help more and more.