Ever since the violence began, Arabs and Jews have been tirelessly working together, organizing peaceful protests, visiting each other, planning peace-work activities and talking together.
Walking under the silver-laced sky late at night on May 20, with our beloved dog Lucy, I look up at the moon, which is not new, in fact, it’s very old, much older and wiser than we all are, and I pray: Help me to help people understand. It’s a simple prayer, on the surface, for a writer who always uses words to explain life. But its complexity confounds me, and I feel despair, against the background booms in the distance.
For this is Israel, and a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has just been announced to begin at 2 a.m. tomorrow morning, so of course, there are booms in the background. There have been for 11 days.
Only these are actually the fireworks of our nearest Arab village, and our Arab neighbors celebrating a wedding.
For we are in the North of Israel, and things here are very different. Ever since the violence began, Arabs and Jews have been tirelessly working together, organizing peaceful protests, visiting each other, planning peace-work activities and talking together.
“My family has been here for 500 years,” says the father of our Bedouin friend, a restaurant owner in Zarzir, one of the Arab villages closest to us. “We are not moving. We will always be here, and we will always be friends with our Jewish neighbors. You are always welcome here.”
His son adds, “Treat this as your second home. You are like family to us.” (Next week, it will be our turn to host him and his family, in our kibbutz.)
This is just after he has taken us into the back of the restaurant to show us the hundreds of T-shirts he has had printed to give out at peaceful demonstrations, with the words: ARABS AND JEWS REFUSE TO BE ENEMIES, in Hebrew, Arabic and English. His co-partner of the idea, our Jewish friend and neighbor, has already advertised the T-shirts to our Kibbutz and everyone is asking for one.
War or no war, we will be wearing these T-shirts on many occasions. No matter what government is in power, and what terrorist organization it seems to be playing into the hands of, there are thousands and thousands of Jews and Arabs in Israel who are and will be working together for peace in the Middle East.
This is something the British media has not been reporting. The hundreds of thousands of protestors marching for Palestine are marching against Israel, when in fact they should be marching against Hamas. It is Hamas who is oppressing Palestine. If we could get rid of them, we could start working toward peace in Palestine and a two-state solution, where equality is paramount, terrorism is totally stopped and the two states live peacefully side by side.
I find myself wondering how many of the protestors in England have been to Israel or been to Palestine. I find myself wondering if they know the difference between Gaza and the West Bank, between the South and North of Israel.
I find myself wondering if they know how Jew, Muslim and Christian work together with mutual respect and equal rights in so many areas of Israel. I find myself wondering whether they know that many Israeli Arabs do not even want to live in Palestine; they are proud of being Israeli.
Please do not misunderstand me. I know Israel has a long way to go in order to give every Arab citizen of Israel and Palestine equal rights, but I also know how many thousands of us are working in peace movements every hour of every day to make the situation better here.
A Sad Irony
I find it sad and ironic how the British people who believe they are siding with Palestine, by opposing Israel, are actually doing no such thing. They are only siding with the extremists.
In this country, the majority of all people want to live peacefully, side by side. We are happy together. There are Arab doctors, lawyers, teachers, judges, nurses, ambassadors … you name it. There is no apartheid here.
There is just a beautiful country living in a very fragile state, under an old moon with silver- laced clouds … waiting for the terrorists to stop launching their rockets, giving the rest of the world something to misunderstand.
Shoshana Lavan is a published author, high school teacher of English literature and language, teacher of English as a foreign language and most importantly, a very proud mother of her gorgeous toddler. She has recently made Aliyah and is an aspiring peace activist.