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A week of hope in London

(Image courtesy of author)

Last Saturday, I returned from a week in London. Together with Mohammed, an Israeli Palestinian, I visited schools as part of a British organization’s program to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in schools. The goal of the organization is to present the narratives of Israelis and Palestinians as they experience them, without comparing them, and to give students an opportunity to think about conflict resolution. Each of us shared our personal stories, representing only ourselves.

Mohammed spoke about Jerusalem and his love for his city. He told how he met Jews at a young age because he was brave enough to play soccer at the only field available, in the Jewish Quarter. He shared how he became a paramedic in an Israeli organization and how he was among the first to arrive at the settlements to save Israelis from the Hamas massacre on October 7. He talked about how the Jewish children he played with then are still his best friends today. They found a new language, the language of soccer, which he loves to this day. And he spoke about his family in Gaza, from whom there has been no sign of life for weeks.

I shared what it’s like to grow up as a third-generation Holocaust survivor, how in Israel, military service is mandatory. I spoke about not learning about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in school, and how I first met a Palestinian at age 23 when I attended a seminar by the “OneVoice” movement, and how that meeting profoundly affected me to this day. I talked about the real fear I’ve felt since October 7, about experiencing war for the first time as a mother, the worry that gnaws at my heart and has given me no rest for more than seven months. I also said that the killing of tens of thousands of Palestinians is immoral and can never be the solution.

I focused on how important peace is to me. “Peace.” A word I could say out loud there, abroad, but here in Israel, it is whispered. There, I could be everything I believe in, express the truth within me. Especially thanks to Mohammed – I walked around with a Palestinian who justified the fear and terror that gripped me on October 7 and stood firm in my refusal to accept what is happening in Gaza to his family today. There, I could be the peace activist that I am, able to reveal all my beliefs and prayers and even talk about the solution I see to this cycle of bloodshed. And in moments when I was blamed for what the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians, Mohammed stood up and said – Michal does not represent her government, direct your anger and grievances elsewhere.

A week ago, I returned to the country. I returned to being a traitor, a self-hating Israeli, I returned to “Yeah, go, go to Gaza, make peace with them, let’s see you.” I returned to the paralyzing fear of physical and verbal violence against the families of the hostages and their supporters, to the public encouragement by the government of continued violent actions in Gaza and the territories, and mainly to the lack of hope that washes over every bright piece of this land. To despair.

I don’t know how it’s possible to live here, and on the other hand, I don’t know how it’s possible to live anywhere else. London is not waiting for us, it provides a comfortable backdrop for the conversation between Mohammed and me, but it is not home. The whole world is hostile. I have no choice but to fight for this place. I have so much to lose if we can’t live here in peace. Therefore, on Saturday, I will stand again at Kaplan with the sign “In war, there are only losers,” and I will pray and hope and fight so that my child, a great-grandchild of Holocaust survivors, will feel, unlike me, safe and proud in his country.

About the Author
Michal is an urban planner working in Holon's municipality. It is a city located in the central region of Israel where she lives with her family. While studying for her academic degree, she acted as the head of the local "One Voice" branch initiative. Where students work to promote a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nowadays Michal is a peace activist taking part in demonstrations and petitions in order to influence the decision makers and the Israeli public to reach a solution where the two sides can live together in peace.
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