When I was growing up, I remember being able to see Jordan from the window of my home and knowing I couldn’t visit because the people there were my ‘enemies’. But I also remember the day when the King of Jordan came together with Yitzhak Rabin and Bill Clinton and signed the Israel-Jordan peace treaty. A bunch of us kids from schools across my city were brought together and formed a line holding hands all the way from the border of Egypt to the border of Jordan. White balloons for peace flew overhead into the sky as we stood there proudly linked together. A week later I visited Jordan for the first time with my parents. Israelis and Jordanians were finally able to meet with each other and it all felt so exciting.
After that, there was more hope about resolving the conflict between Israel and Palestine. People were eager to meet each other here too. Little changes were happening like Israelis feeling more open to visit East Jerusalem (and eat delicious Palestinian hummus!). But after the assassination of Rabin in 1995, it felt like people gave up on the peace process, each side believing they’d lost their partner for peace, becoming hateful and seeing each other as enemies. Each side came to believe there’s no chance for peace, and if there’s no peace, that means the other side is dangerous so we need to protect ourselves from them. For Israelis that looked like building bigger walls and stronger armies. I see how the culture and language that people use in society today has become more violent and aggressive since then, but it wasn’t always this way. It’s different from my reality growing up and even from my parent’s reality. People were more connected then and there was more hope.
A few years ago, I decided I needed to be more involved with reconciliation work in Israel-Palestine. As I nurse, I joined a peace-building group of midwives, but in the group you weren’t allowed to talk about the conflict, Israel or Palestine, only midwifery. They said the reason for this was because they had talked about the conflict once before and an argument had broken out causing the group to split up as a result. But because of this lack of engagement in the conflict I found I couldn’t create deep relationships there. Around the same time, my sister-in-law, who was part of Musalaha, invited me to join a women’s group. At Musalaha they say you can’t have a good relationship without talking about the conflict. We can’t ignore conflict; we can’t just sweep it under the rug. If we do, it will come up again in either the same way or in a different form and the pain will remain. Pain has to be acknowledged and addressed in order to be resolved, we have to talk about it. I love the dialogue Musalaha creates and the space it offers people for this. I think dialogue helps create hope, it helps create ideas for a better future, deep friendships and also shared projects to make change. I love that when I come to Musalaha I know I’m going to have interesting conversations, be challenged and meet like-minded people. Being part of a community where people are set on peace is very refreshing and makes me feel at home. It gives me hope to know there are still people who believe it’s possible for future generations to live in this land in a better situation. Little by little, we’re changing the violent reality we face today.
I’ve taken up this position as a Musalaha board member because, for me, the most important thing is to “love your neighbor.” It sounds so simple, but it inspires and challenges me every day in the way I live my life. I was born in this land, I love this land, and living here means loving my Palestinian neighbor. I also think in order to love others, you need to love yourself. When you’re in conflict with yourself it’s easy to have conflict with others; maybe that’s a key reason for the conflict at large. But when we learn to love ourselves the way we were created, it becomes easier to love our neighbors, even in their imperfections. I want to add my voice to this cause and bring more people on the journey for peace. Also, as a Israeli Jewish believer, loving my neighbor and therefore pursuing peace and justice isn’t a question for me. Reconciliation isn’t a choice, it’s something I have to be involved in and something I love doing. Deep inside me I believe we have to do everything we can to make peace with our neighbors and create a more hopeful future together.