An open letter to the Palestinian-American stranger that approached me in spin class

Recently I had a less than pleasant encounter with a Palestinian-American woman who attends the gym where I work. At the time I acted as appropriately as possible, restraining myself from letting the situation escalate while taking proper (and necessary) steps thereafter to ensure my own job security, safety and comfort in my workplace. But her words haven’t left me since and I have had a lot of time to think about what I would like to say to her if we ever spoke again (which we will not be doing). I wanted to get them off my chest. It goes something like this:

You probably think I hate you for verbally accosting me while I was sitting on a spin bike in the middle of cycling class on a random Monday morning, but I don’t. You probably think I hate you strictly because of the angry Facebook post I wrote about six months ago, in the middle of the “knife intifada” in Israel. That, after all, was your reason for approaching my boss at that time and complaining about what I said. It was also your reason for interrupting my favorite spin class to give me a piece of your mind two weeks ago. But I do not hate you, despite being slightly afraid of you now. I actually respect you for standing up so strongly for your beliefs and I believe that we have some things to agree on despite our many differences.

For one, you said that we both had the same enemy — hate — and shame on me for perpetuating it with a provocative Facebook status. I whole heartedly agree with this. We do share the same enemy of hatred and my post was angry and hateful. (For the record I haven’t been able to locate the exact post but it went something like “I wish Palestinians would go back to Syria, Lebanon and Jordan where they are originally from and just rot in hell there״ followed by a link to an article about a Palestinian terror attack that left Israelis dead). You interpreted this as me saying any Palestinian in the world, including yourself deserves to die a fiery death which is neither what I said nor what I meant. But regardless, the post was mean and I shouldn’t have written something like that on social media, especially when it does not reflect me or my viewpoints accurately.

Then I got to thinking about why you said that in the first place. You said that this was not about the Israeli- Palestinian conflict but about the fact that I was prejudice and hateful. The problem is you can’t really just go around accusing strangers of being hateful unless their hatred directly applies to you or personally affects you or a subject that you are sensitive to. You said that you would have reacted the same way had I made a hateful post about all black people (you used the N word I believe) but I find that hard to believe. For one, I would never write such a post and for two even if I did you would never see it because you wouldn’t be LOOKING FOR IT to start conflict! But that is a whole other topic to cover in a bit…. The point is you are upset because you know that someone that you come in to contact with almost daily sits on the other side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than you and now it is in your face. Or actually, it’s literally in my face.

You can be as upset at me as you want because I am Jewish, because I am married to an Israeli or because I lived in Israel but it won’t really justify you confronting me. You need some ammo right? Something to make me look like the villain, like I started this. So besides my Facebook post you might argue that Israel has committed so many horrific atrocities to your people or maybe even your own family. Israel kicked you guys out of your homes, they bombed your buildings, interrogated your men and even killed children (that were living above a stockpile of weapons). I’ve heard it all. I won’t deny it and I’m not going to even go in to the despicable things the Palestinians have done for the sake of time, but we both know the list is just as long. The fighting goes back too far for there to be a feasible resolution today. Furthermore, neither of us can change what happened and why. I do think that a Jewish State has the right to exist but do I think it was founded in a fair and just way? Not really. Should people have been expelled from their villages? No. Should they have eventually found new homes in the designated proposed Palestinian State at the time? Perhaps yes. Should they have rejected this proposed state and attacked Israel the very next day after its founding only to lose miserably? Definitely no! Do I think it’s sad the way Palestinians are forced to live now as a result of this conflict? Yes! However, and this is a big however, try to name one time in history since Israel’s birth that she has ever acted against Palestinians without provocation. In other words, after Israel became a State and the Arabs lost the war of ’48, when were your people ever just sitting around minding their own business when Israelis attacked indiscriminately? Name me one time! You can’t can you because the reality is that any act of aggression or violation of rights Israel has committed has always, ALWAYS been an act of direct retaliation to another event that took place in which a Palestinian was the instigator and Israel was either defending itself or trying to prevent similar attacks in the future. Every war, every peace treaty that fell through, every intifada was all started by your people. Find a credible source and prove to me that I’m wrong. You call it “resisting the occupation” but you forget why there ever was a an occupation in the first place: because YOU couldn’t put your fucking weapons down and try to build your own state within the borders you were given instead of constantly attacking Israel! The saying really is true: If Israel put down her weapons, there would be no more Israel. If the Palestinians put down their weapons there would be peace. For right or for wrong Israel EXISTS and is here to stay. It’s mere existence has served as the justification for years of terrorism in the Arab world, especially among Palestinians. News flash, you don’t get to a higher place in life by merely trying to seek revenge and destroy others around you! You especially don’t accomplish this by acting like barbarians and breeding an entire culture of terror and hate through your community.

Which brings us back to my original point- you accusing me of spreading hate and vitriol. Well, yes in the context of my news feed which consists primarily of cat videos and pictures of my friends’ babies/weddings/vacations my post was a bit hateful. But let’s put things into perspective here….for all I know you come from a family or a background that actually encourages violence against Jews on a DAILY BASIS. For all I know you grew up reading history books that left out the Holocaust. Maybe you were even one of those kids of sick parents that got dressed up in Hamas gear with guns strapped to you to glorify fighting with Israelis. You probably had candy in the streets when a global terror attack occurred. You probably heard the songs about wiping Israel off the map forever, and maybe even sang them. So it’s quite hypocritical that you would come and talk to me, seek me out even to tell me I’m the hateful one. The mere fact that you have an issue with me and chose to bring it up in an aggressive way shows that you in fact are the one choosing hate and anger over peace and tolerance. And don’t even try to say that I am being a bigot by assuming these things to be true of you just because you are Palestinian, therefore painting all of you with the same brush. You might want to be different than your fellow Palestinians because you live in a more tolerant country but your actions speak differently. And in light of recent events I have given up on the notion that Palestinians are a peaceful group of people with a small terrorist minority. Even in my short lifetime I have seen way too many instances to indicate that most Palestinians, whether politically involved or not have a deep hatred of Israel and are even willing to harm Israelis. How else do you explain a terror organization (Hamas) that calls for the ultimate destruction of Israel in its charter being “democratically” elected by the Palestinian people? The incitement is only getting worse and sadly it is becoming a societal norm to want to go out and knife someone down. I wish I was being a bigot right now but sadly these are just the facts. So I say without any risk to my own character or credibility that it is only a logical possibility that you as well have been indoctrinated with these beliefs and share these sentiments. Please prove to me that I am wrong.

Although to be completely honest I really want to give you the benefit of the doubt. You seem like a decent lady who likes the same classes as I do at the gym and we have some mutual friends. I want to believe that if we were to press rewind you could have come up to me in a very different way and said “Hi, you don’t know me but I am a Palestinian American and I was very hurt by what you wrote of Facebook. I think we have some differences that maybe we will never agree on, but let’s talk this out in a respectful way and maybe we’ll both learn something from each other”. For the record I would have gladly taken you up on this offer, hypothetically. But I have to be honest, what is really eating away at me about this whole ordeal is the fact that my gut tells me you didn’t just want to have an adult conversation with me about something controversial. You didn’t just want to tell me you were hurting and you certainly didn’t want my apology (which was given about three times I believe). You didn’t only want to stand up for what you thought was right by showing me that you are against hatred and bigotry. I believe your true intentions were to hurt me (not physically, although it crossed my mind that I should probably have my guard up). Yes, I can see through this charade and you were either trying to embarrass me, ruin my day, get me fired, or worse, provoke me or my super protective Israeli husband into doing something stupid that could get us into trouble. On top of that I think you were trying to intimidate me. Why do I think this? I thought I’d never get to this point….. BECAUSE YOU FREAKING SEARCHED FOR ME ON FACEBOOK EVEN THOUGH WE ARE NOT FRIENDS AND MAYBE HAVE A HANDFUL OF MUTUAL FRIENDS AND YOU READ MY STATUS UPDATES!!!!!!!!!!! Who even does that????? You were digging, you knew exactly what you were doing.. Having mutual friends doesn’t mean you just jump on strangers’ pages randomly and check them out unless you are LOOKING FOR SOMETHING TO CHECK OUT!!!! You are the one that started this, I tried to resolve it and move on and then like the teenagers throwing rocks at IDF soldiers in the West Bank you just nagged at it again! You had to keep poking, keep provoking, keep fanning the flame. I’m no genius here but I see a parallel (read: paragraph four, three quarters of the way down) You invaded my privacy and my life and yet you want to play the victim!! Sounds a little familiar doesn’t it??? (Hint: every Israeli-Palestinian war or conflict follows this pattern. Palestinians provoke, Israel strikes back, Palestinians become the victims. Again. And again. And again.)

And yet despite all of this I do not hate you. I bet it kills you inside but I don’t. I bet it kills you even more that I know you’re reading this even though it is posted on an Israeli blog just because I know you’re obsessed with stalking me and finding more reasons to hate me (that you can’t justify). The main reason I don’t hate you is this: I truly hold the optimistic belief that people like you came from where you did to little cities like ours in America to change your life and your future for the better. Whether you were born here or your parents brought you, I have faith that people like you came to follow a new way of life, leave the violence and hatred behind and give a world of opportunity to your children. I know it is not easy to let go of your long held grudges or beliefs as they may be, and it is certainly impossible to forget. But I hope that I am right in thinking that you want to be able to see people like me as simply different and not bad. I hope that one day you will no longer want to look for the bad in a person like me or try to bring it out of me. I hope that you can eventually see me the way I used to see you before all this…just another member of my health club…no labels, no judgement, no fear or hatred. And on that positive note I will bring this to an end. Thank you for reading.

About the Author
Lauren is a passionate thinker and blogger. She lived in Israel for three years and currently resides in Tampa, FL. She discusses her experiences in Israel as well as current global issues in her blog "twirlinginthesun"