Saturday, October 14

Breaking Walls of Hate and Building Walls of Understanding

It is always heartening to receive feedback on one’s blog. There is nothing more frustrating for a journalist when he finds that nobody reads his articles. It does not matter if the reader does not agree with what is written. At least, the writer knows that his opposition has read his articles. One can write away to the world with quixotic zeal but very often to no avail. I had a response this evening on my cell phone from a source least expected.

We are ordinary people yearning for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Since Israel was established, this country never knew a day of peace.  The hate between Israel and her neighbours runs so deep that any form of compromise or discussions on achieving a peace settlement is ever evasive.

Today I received an email from a 29 year old lady student who studies computer engineering at Bir Zeit University in Ramallah. She lives in Tulkarem which is near Bat Chefer. She had picked up my blog site from a Yahoo search. She told me how she has become interested in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. She was very moved by my Ramadan greeting card to the Muslim Community which I had published on my blog at the start of Ramadan.

While she appreciated my greeting card, she also told me about her frustrations as a Palestinian being denied basic human rights because of the Israeli occupation. She mentioned the road blocks, check posts and the degrading body searches that many Palestinians undergo before crossing into Israel.  She asked me about my attitude towards Israel being a racist state, the apartheid wall, the refugee problem, the occupation and the illegal settlements. Her family came from an Arab village called Jatt which is a few kilometers from Bat Chefer where I live. She told me that she couldn’t get a permit to visit Jatt where members of her family still live. She cannot understand why people like me are free to immigrate to Israel from our former countries of origin while she and her family are denied the right to visit their families who remained behind in Israel since 1948. Her email was bitter.  

Of course, I explained the various reasons why the Palestinians cannot visit Israel without security clearance. I sent her links on the internet on the history of the conflict hoping that she would gain an understanding of the Israeli point of view. I also went to great lengths explaining why Israel is not a racist state giving an example where I could to refute that claim.

This evening she phoned me on my cell phone to thank me for the correspondence and we had a long sincere chat on the hopeless situation between our two peoples. It was different chatting one to one rather than getting emails. We found that we had much in common in that both of us believe in the fight for human rights for both our peoples and for an end to the conflict and our common desire for peace and dignity.

I was very surprised to receive a phone call from a Palestinian lady. I appreciated her boldness in phoning me. I told her that she must feel free to express her opinions to me even if they may sound jarring and hard for me to hear. This is the only way we can understand each other. We must have chatted for close to half an hour. I was amazed at her excellent Arabic tainted English. We ended our conversation with “Inshallah!” and that impressed her. We promised to remain in touch and try to find ways whereby we can encourage dialogue amongst ourselves.

I do believe that we must try to find moderate Palestinians with whom we can communicate. Despite all the anti-Israel rhetoric that I heard, I somehow managed to portray to her my understanding of her feelings about the hopeless situation of her people and empathize with her. She thanked me for the time spent in our conversation. She felt that she had made a new friend in me. I promised to send her more internet sites that would give her a wider perspective on our problem.

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