Intifada Conversations: The Frustrating, Confusing and Encouraging
Terrible times like those we have experienced this past fall/winter in Israel-Palestine can shake us to our cores. What emerges can bring out the best or the worst in us. More often than not, I think it brings out both simultaneously -- we often turn inward to support our loved ones and our own people, and exhibit fear and suspicion toward those who are part of the other. Here are a few conversations I have been a part of that have offended, frustrated, moved and encouraged me.
The day of a large attack in Jerusalem, I took my child to an after-school activity in the community center. I have never seen security guards here, but on this day, there were three guards. I sat down on a bench.
Security guard: “Are you Arab?”
Security guard: “Ah okay, so I can leave my bag here.”
The security guard adjusted his kippa, left his bag near me, and went to sit somewhere else on duty.
A Palestinian Muslim friend and neighbor from a nearby village told me it takes hours to get in and out due to the roadblocks and closures. Driving her children to school or herself to work takes 1.5-2 hours, a drive that should only take 15-20 minutes.
As we discussed the recent nightmare we’re living in, she told me “Israelis are killing Palestinian children near your home.” I lamented that our police are shooting to kill, particularly when these kids are often surrounded by police who could likely subdue them some other way. Referring to a particular incident, she said, “A boy was just walking to school when Israelis shot him.” I knew the story. I had read the news; it was not far from my home. “I saw a picture of a knife he carried, and I read he tried to attack a border policeman,” I responded. She scoffed, “No, he did not have a knife. He was on his way to school.” Our stories of the same child were markedly different. I believe my news more than hers; she believes hers more than mine. “It’s a sad situation,” was all I could say. There is no point arguing it further, particularly as she is suffering the daily humiliation and injustice of road closures.
“If you can’t get home due to the closures, come visit me. I don’t live far away. Have coffee, eat something,” I offered. She raised an eyebrow gesturing to her head covering, “With this on my head? No, I am afraid to come to your neighborhood. But when are you free to come visit?” “Not now,” I replied, “I don’t feel safe coming into your village these days.”
We stood there at this impasse. There is not much to say. “Stay safe,” we wished each other, embracing.
Upon hearing that some of the attacks were close to me, a Palestinian friend who lives on the other side of the wall wrote to me: “My dear sister, I just heard that the attacks were so close to where you live. Sister, I mean it -- my house is yours if you feel unsafe. You need to know that we will receive you with open arms. Let us pray for peace. Take care, and I love you and will not give up on our relationship.”
We’re in a new year, but we haven’t turned a new leaf. We’ll participate in many more conflict-related conversations of all kinds. Hopefully what we offer one another will be kindness and encouragement, even when we’re confused or frustrated by our differences.