Today I took part in another meeting between Arab and Jewish teenagers in Israel. For those who don’t know this, I volunteer in an organization called “אפשר אחרת” or in English “A New Way.” It literally means- “A different way is possible.” During the meetings, I speak privately with the students and try to understand how they feel, and why. Today, I had the privilege in joining them at the circus!
67 students walked into a circus with hula-hoops, ropes, mattress’s, and were ready to start! This specific group today met for the 3rd time. I parked my car, got out and saw two men standing in the parking lot. I approached them asking if they knew where the students were and could tell me where to go. They smiled and told me “The Arabs and Jews?” I nodded. They told me they were inside. Before walking in they stopped me and said- “Wait, what is this for?” I began to explain what A New Way was, and their purpose. They were the bus drivers that brought the students, and ironically, one was an Arab bus driver and one was a Jewish bus driver. They began to laugh. The Arab told me- “I brought the Jewish students! And he brought the Arab students!” After a minute of laughing they stopped, looked at one another and then at me and said – “So is a different way possible?” I smiled and told them there is. One said Amen, the other Inshallah.
When entering the circus I noticed the problematic students, the easy going ones, and the girls who didn’t want to ruin their hair and sat on the side. I quickly made eye contact with one student. He seemed like the leader of his pack, and I needed him. After speaking to multiple students I asked him to come with me to the side. He stood, and I began to ask questions. His friends said “Can we come too?” And I said “of course, as long as you’re willing to answer questions!” I began to ask the leader of the pack, Salim, how he felt, if the meetings gave him hope, or changed his opinion… He was optimistic and told me there was a lot of racism between the two sides in the first meeting and he’s seen a huge difference. Suddenly, his friend cut him off and yelled “There is no peace with them! Are you crazy? This is all bull shit!” The other 5 students simply looked at him and were shocked he had the courage to speak this way to Salim. Salim was angry, you could tell by looking at his eyes but he gave his friend a friendly slap on the back and told him “Stop! If we don’t do it, no one will. We have no choice. This is the only way.” His friend was aggravated but said – “I guess you are right.” Salim continued to explain to his friends how important it was that I was recording them and sharing their message he said “If more people hear us talking like this on the radio, they will know the truth, that we are peaceful and want to live together.” He was right. And it wasn’t only I who saw it. His friends saw it too. The 48 year old bus driver asked me if it was possible, if a different way was even attainable. And the 16 year old Arab high school student could have given him the answer.