New Friends, New Perspectives | Matan, Israel

This time I am going to tell you directly about Israel and my life in Jerusalem as I see it, without comparing it to any other place. I think there is no better way to project a message than by telling it through your own story. For each and every one of us, there is a story. Often, we carry it around as invisible and heavy baggage. We all calculate our life with this imaginary calculator in our head as we try to figure out what is important and necessary for us as individuals.

Roughly a year ago,  I decided to move and study in Jerusalem. I never thought that a city would be able to change me this much, but as John Lennon says, “life is what happens when you are making other plans.” As a person that has traveled and seen the world during the past few years, Jerusalem is truly a special place. There is no other place that you can really feel where you are while you really there as Jerusalem. No matter your religion, you can feel the spirituality emanating from the city, especially as it showcases the rainbow of humanity that exists within this tiny country.

Think about it in terms of religion- for thousands of years, religion has succeeded in convincing mankind that something as meaningful as God exists. Yet at the end of the day, where is the physical/rational proof to back up this claim? There is none. So I ask myself this- if mankind can be convinced that a God exists, can’t they also be convinced that peace is not just possible, but also tangible here?

Before I moved to Jerusalem, I must admit that I didn’t know many Arabic speakers nor religious Jews, and definitely didn’t know any well enough to consider them as friends- not because I didn’t want to, simply because our social circles or paths in life had yet to intersect.

However, in a single year at university, I felt my entire paradigm shift as I grew close to two new friends. The first is an Arabic speaking, half Christian-half Muslim. The second, a religious Jew. While our opinions differ at times, that fact that we are all students allow us to look at things differently and find the commonalities amid our varying cultures and backgrounds.

Recently, I was randomly thanked by one of the girls. At first I couldn’t understand what she was thanking me for, however her response is what has encouraged me to write all of this. Her reply was simple. “Matan” she said, “I think I need to thank you because it is so easy to talk with you even when we don’t always agree.” I answered, “you have nothing to thank me for because I feel the same”.

This brings me to my point– overcoming difference is simple. A person that you can easily talk to, is the person who opens him or herself up to listen. I would like to believe it works the same way at political level too. The moment we have leaders, on both sides, that will not just speak, but listen we could see the change and maybe we can begin to discuss the “forbidden” word of peace and all it entails.

Yet, before we speak about a change of that sort, we need to focus upon ourselves. How will we educate our future children and generations? What will happen if our kids are raised in a world where they need to hate the other because he or she or it is different?

The Middle East has been a complicated area for many years. It consists of many different countries, cultures, religions, and above all, people. As I see it, I live in the most complicated, yet all the while unique place in the world.

Everybody has different ideologies and opinions, but the genuine power in words is how the other listens and understands them. In the Middle East, tolerance and restraint are concepts gone astray. We must look at each other and see what brings us together, not only what sets us apart. In Israel we always have the same argument, ‘to whom does the land belong, who has suffered more?’ Strings of pain are a connection amongst us all, both Arabs and Jews alike. Don’t you think it’s time we inside out that feeling of self-victimization we all carry as a society? Isn’t it time that we all walk together towards a new future?

If life is like music, all the noise is our harmony and we are the notes. This is the concert of life, and it’s up to us to strum those delicate notes because now is the time for Israel and the Middle East to play a different rhythm.

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