Before I moved to Israel, I had an argument with a friend. He told me he does not believe one person can make a difference. He insisted it is always groups of people, organizations, political parties. I listed: Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, all to no avail. He would not listen. One person, he said, cannot change the world.
A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend here on our kibbutz. He’s given up on the idea of peace in Israel. “We’ve already been trying for over 70 years,” he said and walked away. Seventy years? I thought. Is 70 years a long time to try for peace? When Germany and England were at each other’s throats in two world wars, would they have expected to be working together 70 years later, peacefully and happily? How many other countries can we think about who have been enemies for what feels like forever, only to find themselves at peace centuries later? Friends, even.
Another friend here, whose political views are totally polar opposite from mine, tells me not to be naïve. “Why do you think you can make a difference?” he asks.
I feel sad for these friends. But I also feel lucky. Five years ago I was, I thought, trapped in an abusive relationship, with a tiny baby, and I did not know whether we would get out alive. I remember my mum saying, “You will get out of this. It will not last forever.”
Often we believe, because we are human and cynical and blind to the possibilities of hope and change, bad things will last forever. But history shows us, time and time again, this is not so.
And because I have been in hell, and managed to get out of it, I truly know what is possible in this world. The evil that is possible. And the goodness too.
Something I have never truly understood about Israel and Palestine is why so many peace organizations have individually been trying to fight against those who are unified in their belief Israel and Palestine will never work together, the Jews and Arabs will never be at peace. I always knew if these organizations were to work together, they would be much stronger.
On Friday, September 24, 2021, in Kibbutz Hannaton, this is exactly what happened. Representatives from 15 leading Israeli-Palestinian peace organizations came together for a peace event. Hundreds of people, Arabs and Jews, were there, eating together, enjoying music together, listening to speeches together, and taking part in dialogue circles together.
It was also wonderful to hear from the two senior representatives of the Palestinian Authority, who travelled from Ramallah to tell us in no uncertain terms, “We want peace. We are a partner for peace. We the Palestinians want to live in our own country in peace and co-operation with the State of Israel.” Even the children were exploring what peace means to them and decorating a peace castle. It was a phenomenal beginning to what will be many more events, and a change in the way we talk about peace here.
There WILL be peace between Israel and Palestine. There will be peace between Jews and Arabs. This enmity we have now will not last forever. How can it, when so many people are working for peace, and spreading the word of peace, and showing how peace is the only way of the future?
My sister told me some weeks ago, “It’s all very well what you guys are doing for peace in the North. But people in Jerusalem will not listen. Your message and your actions will not reach all of Israel.”
I beg to differ. The only way we can bring about peace is by showing the rest of the country the beautiful events which can and will happen when we are unified here as a human race, not separated by culture and history. And I have a very simple question to put to all those who do not want peace. Do you truly want your children, and your grandchildren, and generations of children to fight and die in wars of our making? Which are our responsibility to stop?
On Friday, I watched as Jamila from Kfar Manda and her assistant Aisha worked tirelessly for hours to make pitot with toppings for hundreds of people, for free. Arabs and Jews alike relished it. They sat together and talked, bonding over the delicious tasting food, breathing in the atmosphere of peace and friendship. Those two women did not stop working, and it was only at the end of the whole event, once everything had been cleared away, that I saw them having anything to eat themselves. Those women believe in peace and will do all they can to make it happen. They were the first stall by the entrance of the event, and for me they will always be a symbol of it.
We will never give up; we will never rest; we will work tirelessly and endlessly until the very end, when peace WILL come.
There is no question of it coming — the only question is when. And I would like to see it happen in my lifetime so that the little boy I saved from an abusive home will never have to face violence and terror again.
I believe one person can change the world. And when that one person unifies with another one person, and another one person, and so on, the possibilities are limitless.