Since my arrival to Israel in 2008, I had visited all of her neighboring borders with Lebanon, Syria, Jordon and Egypt. However, the place I really wanted to visit was the West Bank. I had always heard that it was a very dangerous place, but I really was interested in going there because almost every day I heard from the news that there are so many things happening between Israelis and the Palestinians which I wanted to investigate. The conflict of many years put both communities in distrust and a state of almost total separation. A brief visit to the West Bank seemed like a great opportunity to me.
I didn’t have any political motivation to go there; I was just curious from a social perspective how everyday life looks there. I was under the impression -from stories I had heard from friends and news reports- that people out there must live in a constant state of fear. So, a friend of mine and two other Israelis (a man and a woman who drove us), took us to the house of an American rabbi who lives in the West Bank. The meeting with the rabbi took about an hour in which questions were asked as I wanted to know as much as possible about converting to Judaism. Fortunately we were able to leave the office of the rabbi with smiles on our faces. All went well! After we finished, the friend who was acting as our guide made a phone call to one of his friends to ask if it was possible for us to visit and he agreed. He was a Palestinian named Ali Abu Awed.
Ali was in prison for ten years on suspicion of throwing rocks at the IDF soldiers. After his release he met a Jewish man. They both became very close friends- almost like brothers. Together they had created an organization that aims to tell the stories about experiences of hatred and terror between two people and create an atmosphere of reconciliation and forgiveness in order to bring peace among people. There are so many things every day happening among the Israelis and the Palestinians that need to be learned. The decades-long problems have created a lack of trust between both sides. The frequent visit to the West Bank was obviously a great opportunity for me.
My visit to the West Bank wasn’t for diplomatic reasons- it was just to know and learn. For I believe that most of people who live there typically live under fear on their daily basis. However, even though there is great fear or hatred, it is because we are struggling over an extraordinary and special land. For Jews, it is extremely difficult and challenging to think we have give up the West Bank. It has been our father’s and mother’s home thousands years ago. In my view, the only thing that can be done is to become aware of how marginalization makes terrorists carry attacks on innocent people. Single mothers, young and old, need food, work and a quiet life for their relatives near the neighborhood, just as Ali has.
Ali was such as a great and wonderful guy. He lives with his relatives between Efrat and the Gush. He has two young adorable girls Fatima, Asha and a wife. “I was sentenced to a prison for ten years on suspicious of throwing rocks to the IDF solders,” he told us. “After my release from prison,” he added, “my Jewish friend Shaul and I created an organization which supports both sides, sharing true stories and strengthening co-existence.” “When an attack against Jews takes place, Israeli soldiers can get also get mad and become brutal towards Palestinian residents,” he said. It sounded very obvious to me as a Jew that soldiers should make sure that every resident in a place –whether Jewish or Palestinian- can leave in peace, harmony and dignity without threat. “The goal is about peace and equal rights. It doesn’t matter who’s right and who’s wrong.” He cited. While we were approaching his house he and his friend pointed out a greenhouse a few miles away, where the three Jewish teenagers Gilad, Naftali and Eyal were abducted by Hamas militants. Days after, their bodies were found in a field by residents who had been searching for them for weeks. They were killed in an agonizing way. However, their legacy lives on and they will truly be missed by many.
Ali said, “Think about social rights, think about the water issue. Just imagine that you lived in a house that has water one day a week and in front of you there are settlements which have swimming pools. You don’t need Al Jazeera to tell you how to hate Israelis. Sometimes I still would like to make the other side feel how we feel, when the army does such sad things to us and to them. Whenever a war happens, someone gets killed, a child gets arrested or people get treated badly by the IDF, it makes me lose hope. It stops all the good work that I and my friend trying achieving for peace.” “I wasn’t born to kill or to be a victim,” he added.
Now, both peoples are focusing on their national security, in particular stopping the terrorists attacks across the country. This war has been going on for many years. However, by continuing to work for co-existence like Ali and Shaul, and sharing true stories, we can make peace on both sides.