“Best or worst, come what may”, so told me J, who’s probably one of the bravest people I met (along with his sister K), when we said our goodbyes and after I wished “may we meet again in the best of circumstances”. “Best or worst” he said, “come what may”.
When reality is hard to take, spoiled me often tries to narrow my perspective down to the ideal scenario. “The best of circumstances” I said. How foolishly wishful.
J and his sister K are very unlikely to encounter the ideal scenario when they return to their home in Bahrain, after taking part in the first official delegation to visit Israel. Far from it actually, and I pray to God that even if it isn’t the best, please don’t let it be the worst.
“Remember to move your car from your usual parking spot when we return home sis”, J casually told his sister when we spoke of the threats that are waiting for them when they return. “Don’t worry brother, it’ll be ok” she answers also casually, with a smile, and I know that as ecstatic as I am that we meet here in Israel, the price of peace is high, and between them and I, they are paying a much higher rate.
A historical Bahraini delegation visited Israel in the past week. Like most things in life, beyond the painted front, things are complicated. Like Oscar Wild said – “The truth is rarely pure, and never simple”. Many more words I will write about this delegation and the humble part I got to take in it, but beforehand, I feel there is one part in it that changed me forever, and therefore deserves first stage. The encounter with J and K.
“Why are you here?” I asked J. He doesn’t hold a political, public or business position that’ll benefit from being in relations with Israel. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Why would a young man in his prime, risk status, social connections and worst of all, personal safety, for being associated with Israel.
True. We signed the peace accords, but excessive affection between the nations was never the main component in them. So far, the nature of the relations between Israel and the rest of the Arab world was always fluctuating on the range between visible hostility (and/or open war) to a cold and functional peace. Hate towards Israel is still a very common currency of the realm, and true love is to be found merely as tiny islands in an ocean.
“Very few things matter to me in this life”, J responded, “And she is one of them”, he pointed at his sister. “She wants peace, and if that’s what she wants, I am going to be there for her”.
K and I were walking down the street earlier that evening, talking about her decision to come to Israel, when she told me “I have a friend back at home who explained to me that ‘the Jews are evil, and that what Hitler did to them is an indication for it. Therefore, what he did was for a good reason’. What Hitler did was evil. I don’t believe there is a good reason for evil. We make peace with people, so I am here to see with my own eyes and understand with my own mind”.
Later that evening I asked J, “But why risk so much?” I was very aware and dreading the consequences of their choices. A day beforehand I didn’t know them, but in a day I learned to recognize two precious souls, and now they are my friends. Just earlier in the week they were brutally treated and cursed at when walking through the old city of Jerusalem. “May your plane crash into the sea!” was but one of the more “civil blessings” that were shouted at them, and the rest will not be tolerated by the paper (or FB censorship). That’s regardless of the endless hate they endure online. J looked me straight in the eyes and said plainly and with no etiquette “We want peace? It comes with a price. If it’s on me to pay it, so be it”.
Without meaning, J and K made me examine my life and feel shame, and I’m glad they did. In comparison to the risks they are taking, the things that scare me are child’s play. The things I want to do, the things I believe in deep in my heart, are not common choices or opinions, to say the least and I know they will come with a price. I don’t agree with much that is going on around me. I dream of speaking out. Of walking bravely through the storm. But there is a price to be paid. It is high, and I fear it as I darn right should and will be foolish not to. And it is still way lower than the one J and K are paying and will continue to pay for the peace they hold in their hearts. Shame on me.
There is much more I have to say about the Bahraini delegation that was here. It was historical. It was of crucial impact. It was another huge step towards peace. But before monumental things, there are people and they are the most important thing. Meeting J and K gave me the final kick in the butt I needed (thanks guys, what are friends for ) to desert the path of fear, and start my journey in the path of courage.
The common fairytale-misconception about “doing the right thing” or “choosing bravery”, is that once you do, things somehow work out and all the pieces fall into place. I don’t know if that’s true. I honestly don’t think so. Many people do the right thing and pay a heavy price. Me included. There are no promises in life, and while expectations often result in pain, pain doesn’t always result in gain. Such is existence. But that doesn’t absolve us from being true to ourselves. Because anything else is taking our universe out of order. Joy is ok. Pain is ok too. And all shall come, and all shall pass.
“Best or worst, come what may”.
Thank you J.
Thank you K.
I pray that you stay safe.
Now off to work I go.