This post is going to be a bit different than usual.
What I always wanted to do with this blog was to give honest accounts of my way of seeing the world through my travels. For those who know me a bit more, you probably realize that I try to always see the best in people; you can blame that on my inner utopian.
Although I came here with the will to stay as neutral as possible in order to get an unbiased perspective of what I discover here, I quickly understood that my presence in Palestine has a political significance; I don’t think anyone who is not pro-Palestinian would come to volunteer here. My views have of course evolved tremendously since I arrived and have seen so many things for myself. I got to witness the situation from the inside. These distant people that I used to hear about on the news now share my daily life, are my co-workers, my friends, my family. Sadly, most of them have deeply suffered in one way or another from the occupation; they have been shot, arrested or injured, they have had their houses destroyed or their relatives sent to jail, they have seen their friends die. Many dream of being able to get out of here, but their right to movement are denied to them.
There would be so much more to say about the injustices that Palestinian people face , but this is not the point of this post. Today, I wanted to share with you some of the things that go on inside of my overwhelmed mind. I am not talking about the sadness, nor the helplessness; those emotions are very much present, and I must deal with them everyday, but I am used to them, I consider them “normal”. But since I am here, I have discovered other types of feelings, strong, negative ones towards the occupier, which sometimes puts me in a difficult place.
But before I tell you more about it, let me tell you about a good friend of mine.
We met during our respective travels a few months ago, and had a short but great time together. He is from Israel. At the time, I never, ever doubted that I would come to Nablus a few months later. I remember talking about the conflict with him, and not wanting to say too much about it because I estimated that I didn’t know enough, when talking with someone who lived in this situation his whole life. I remember his explanations of why he decided to work in the army, that seemed pretty legit: the situation is established, they’re going to need people to handle it so they might as well employ people who want to make things happen as smoothly as possible. He insisted on the fact that nothing is ever black or white, and I never sensed any of the hatred that we hear all Israelis have towards the Palestinians in him. I didn’t know him very long, but I do know he is a good person, such as the other Israelis I met on the same trip.
When I decided to fly to Tel-Aviv before coming here, I sent him a message on Facebook: “I’m coming to your country”. To be honest, I was a bit scared to tell him the truth right away. I felt, and I always feel like, coming here means so much, that I didn’t know how he would react if I told him I planned to volunteer three months in Palestine. When I did end up telling him, shortly after, I was positively surprised by his reaction: he was very comprehensive and willing to give me more information and help me, for the border formalities for example. He also invited me to come and see him any time in his city. That made me happy.
After my arrival, we continued chatting. He is curious to know what I’m experiencing, on the side of the wall that’s forbidden for him.
This is what he sent me after one of my first posts about Palestine:
“You should absolutely travel here as well… Btw, i just noticed your blog posts – It’s quite interesting for me to read, as I cannot go to these places and see how is life in there. The people who live there affect my life and I affect theirs, yet I barely ever see them face to face… Also, It’s very difficult for me to read some of your sayings. “considérés par leur oppresseur comme des animaux”? I’m part of the oppressor. I do not consider anyone as an animal. even the the three palestinians who attempted to carry out terror attacks this very morning. Even the two who, this weekend, murdered a young father and injured another while they were doing their shopping, in a supermarket where both jews and palestinians go. We understand very well that they are human, we know that the violence is fueled by pain, we are not indifferent and we are not acting out of cruelty. I’m not saying all we do is perfect and righteous, but don’t demonize me. this is the real world, and sadly, there’s no “good guys-bad guys” situation here.”
This is what I replied:
“Thank you for this message – it is very interesting and I am happy you remind me of these things. I am sorry for the words I used; I shouldn’t have generalized, I’m always the first to say we shouldn’t generalize. I didn’t mean to include all the israelis in there – to be honest, I was just repeating words that I’ve heard from people here, because some situations do lead to think that way. I want to be clear about the fact that the Israeli government is not the same thing as the citizens for me (and you are the best example!), I should clarify that on my blog. Do you mind if I use your message and post an answer on my blog?”
This was a while ago, but I still wanted to give a more elaborate answer on here, because I think it is an issue worth discussing.
I mentioned the contradictory feelings that overwhelm me at times. I am a very peaceful person, and a partisan of an utopian “world without borders”. We are all citizens of the same planet, we all share the same emotions. So the concept of hate for any kind of nationality is very repulsive to me.
However, after a few weeks here, I discovered unwanted, negative feelings inside of me, feelings that would appear every time I would hear that once again, the Israelis had destroyed houses, imprisoned, or killed an defenceless person, for example. The time that struck me the most, is when we all gathered to watch this short video (made by an Israeli woman living here, by the way). It was followed by a very interesting discussion about our reasons for being here.
It was not the first time I saw videos of that kind, but this condensed version of it moved me deeply, and I couldn’t stop tears from welling up in my eyes. More than that, I couldn’t help but to feel hate. I felt a strong hate for the people who let this happen, who have taken the freedom and dignity of all the beautiful people surrounding me, who have caused the creation of these horrible refugee camps. But who did I hate exactly? The Israeli citizens are human beings who think they’re doing what’s best for them. Yes, a lot of them are most probably highly brainwashed into thinking that all Muslims are a threat for their life and that the occupation is highly justified, although out of all the people, you would think that they wouldn’t want anybody to be victim of the segregation and sometimes similar kinds of treatments they had to endure a century ago. I get where they come from: most of the encounters they have with Palestinians from the West Bank are violent and scary. The same applies in the other way round. And I do believe that to a certain extent, Palestinians are brainwashed too, although they are undeniably the victims of this situation. Furthermore, I completely condemn all kinds of acts of violence towards both sides, and you will never hear me support the Palestinians who go out and kill Israeli civilians.
I don’t hate Israeli citizens. I want to hate their government that enables and encourages this whole situation. But then again, who would I hate exactly? The “government” is not a single person I can blame for all of this, neither is society. Gosh, I hate our society, sometimes, far beyond the borders of these countries. We all have our share in the horrors occurring in the world at the moment. Should I hate human kind? Should I hate myself? No. From the few things I’ve learnt in life, I know that hate is never the answer. That hating is never going to solve any problem. Love and compassion, on the other hand, can. I don’t want to ever let that hate take over me. My friend is right, nothing is black or white, no one is completely good nor evil. I appreciate our conversations that make me think about these things and consider the other side, too.
I still find it difficult to understand that the Israelis are letting this happen, that so few of them actually contest what is going on, how they have not learnt from history, how they can tolerate this stupid wall and all that it implies, how they can go and live in the settlements. I struggle with that everyday. I support the Palestinians’ fight for freedom and dignity with all my soul. But I still consider that Israelis are entitled to that same freedom and dignity. I still believe with all my heart that violence will never end that conflict, that communication and compassion may.
I guess that’s just a small part of all that I have to say. Don’t get me wrong, I realize that the situation is very, very complex and that my hippie solutions are not going to change it all. But maybe it’s a good way to start, who knows.
This article may seem unfinished, because in a way, it is. I’m trying to make sense of all the contradictory feelings that often overwhelm me, but it’s a long process. I hope what I’ve said may have made sense for you. Thank you for reading me.
Peace and love, everybody. ♥️