I am on my flight back home, and to distract the tears that insist on running, I decided to write.
I should have delivered my last blog some time ago, but the immersion in so varied and deep experiences prevented me from doing it. I was born in Israel, raised in Brazil, and for many years did not visit my homeland, despite the strong connection and my hard work dedicated to peace in the region. Finally I had the opportunity to spend some time there.
I had already scheduled beforehand some contacts, and a big anticipation revolved around meeting with my virtual family, born in the “Turning a New Page for Peace” group on facebook. I arrived in Israel armed with a couple of dozen phone numbers of Israelis and Palestinians. Just a few knew each other in real life and a great excitement took over everyone. On the first evening, I announced my arrival, and quickly we agreed to meet with some of the Israelis in a cafe in Yaffo. Eyes shining, hugs and longing souls who had not seen each other for ages. We drank, laughed, told stories. They introduced me to the strange habit of eating watermelon with cheese, which, I confess, I did not surrender myself fully to. Finally I could touch them and hear the sound of their voices. Feeling them near brought me comfort.
In the next week we met with a group of Palestinians in Beit Jala, one of the few neutral places near Jerusalem where all are allowed to go. We left Tel Aviv in four cars to the restaurant that other activists had been using as a headquarters, and where the Palestinians of Nablus, East Jerusalem and Bethlehem would join us. We were willing to talk about peace in the region, share food, dreams and realities with those people with whom we had already established strong ties in the virtual world, but were supposed to be our enemies.
Gradually people arrived and joined us at the abundant table. Another portion of hummus, more pita bread, a little more tahini. One of the Palestinians brought two of her children – she wanted to show them that Israelis were not only the soldiers they knew. Others brought new friends who quickly joined the group. A festive table, but still somewhat shy, many photos and the joy of building a new reality.
Israelis and Palestinians share very close affective memories. They live the same summers and winters, know the same landscapes and eat the same fruits of the earth. The conflict is not about their differences, but about the same aspirations.
Satisfied, we formed a circle under the trees in the courtyard. One by one, we shared our dreams of peace. Looking at those people around me, I was taken by a strong sense of belonging. I did not see there an “other”, but elements of myself. We are brothers and sisters and we seek the same thing. Perhaps we believe in different ways to achieve the same results. Perhaps we see other shades in the same colors, but definitely we are not on opposite sides. The joy of the encounter took everyone and we said goodbye as longtime friends.
Enjoying one month more in Israel, and guided by my Israeli friends, I talked to Druze, Bedouins, secular and Orthodox Jews, Arabs, Christians and Muslims. When we told them that we worked for peace, all of them, without exception, opened their doors for us. At no time did we meet resistance. Maybe some showed skepticism. Those who are tired of a situation of non-peace, and wary of their own potential.
I say goodbye to this land and this people with a heavy heart, but with the certainty that our idea has to be spread. Definitely a life of peace, abundance and prosperity is not a local issue, but a heritage of all mankind. I will miss them a lot and I carry in me the confidence that we have something to live for, even if it is sometimes arid, frustrating and painful, but absolutely possible. I leave with the desire to return soon, and perhaps I will give myself joyfully over to the delights of watermelon with cheese.
YaLa Young Leaders