I am from Bethlehem. There are six of us children; it’s a perfect number. I am the youngest. I was raised here. I went to school and studied theology at Bethlehem Bible College.

A long time ago I heard about Musalaha, when I was at the Bible College. I went on a desert trip to Jordan. I remember I was recently married and how I have three children. Anyway, it was wonderful. It was really amazing, enjoying the desert and the nature there. But before I went, I thought, “How can I meet with my enemy, how can I speak to the Israelis?” I was suffering a lot as at this time it was in the war, the second intifada. 

It was a terrible time in our lives. You know, shooting, tanks, and curfews. IT was really hard to wake up in the morning and find bullets outside your house. You think, “They were shot here,” and so the next night you can’t sleep because you are worried, thinking “Maybe tonight it will hit me.” Especially when there is no electricity, you can’t hear the news so you don’t know where the shooting is. And you think it must be next to your house. All you hear are the helicopters, but you don’t know exactly where they are. 

At that time I remember my stomach used to move, tremble, when I got scared. One night I was scared to death, really, I couldn’t speak. My mom prayed for me and I saw God and he comforted me and this pain went. It was the only thing that helped. 

It was at this time I went to the desert with Musalaha. I remember the Israelis were sharing, saying they had only moved to Israel six months or a year ago, and that they came from Europe or America. They were not from here.

It was hard. For the first day I couldn’t look at them or speak to them or enjoy being with them. I just thought, “You have come here and taken our land and now you are having fun. We cannot go out of Bethlehem. We are suffering and you moved here and are living a peaceful life.” That’s what I thought.

On the second day I started to look at them as human beings, you know. And I thought, “It’s not them; it’s their government. It’s not them; it’s what they believe and have been taught.” So I started to see them as people. 

On the last day I did a drama about this, about seeing your enemy suffer and helping them as human beings. Things changed in my heart. 

Now I go to monthly meetings with the Young Mothers at Musalaha. We learn more about each other. When I hear from the Israeli women, I realize that they suffer too. They have many challenges; they fear attacks just like we do. Sometimes I look at them and think they live a perfect life, but now I see that it’s not perfect.

Musalaha doesn’t treat us Palestinians any different from the Israelis, like we are weak and they are strong. They treat us with respect and give us time to speak. I see that the Israelis are good people. They are mothers just like us and they have Jesus in their heart. 

Meeting together gives us the opportuniy to be together and not to build a wall between us. You know, if you don’t love someone and you don’t see them, there is a wall between you. It’s like if you have a conflict with your mother-in-law and she lives in another building, you don’t see her and so the conflict increases. You won’t try to love her because you don’t see her.

It’s the same with Israelis. If you don’t see them and meet with them and get to know them, you won’t learn how to love them. Musalaha helps bring down these walls.

I hope that in the future we can all live peaceful together and eat with each other, that we won’t look at each other as either Palestinian or Israeli, just as followers of Jesus and as human beings.

*Mary’s name has been changed for confidentiality reasons.