We have no choice. This is the only way.

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.

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How can an IDF soldier wear a Palestinian flag?

תמונה 21

There were a few hours left before I had to be at our meeting spot in Tel Aviv. So I started packing. Maybe this color isn’t nice? Maybe this color isn’t friendly enough? Maybe this color will scare them away from me? I took out something I could wear to sleep – only to then realize that every t-shirt I sleep in is from my service in the IDF. Great. What do I wear to sleep?

I finally figured out what clothes I should take. Closed my suitcase, headed to the bus. I was excited, I was anxious, I was scared, I didn’t know what to think. Even the one person I did tell said – ARE YOU CRAZY?! So I stopped telling people. Just went with my heart, I went with my fiends. I arrived at hotel after 4 hours on the road, entered the lobby, for the first time, I met the Palestinians. I met the human beings I’ve been speaking to for 6 months online. The people who a year ago I would have been scared to speak to even online cause I was taught they would show up at my house and hurt me. We started talking- Small talk. How was your ride? Great! Was the border check annoying? Eh not really. Let’s go get lunch! Ok! But I knew it was coming…

A small group of us decided to walk to the Dead Sea- An Israeli, A Palestinian, and A Tunisian, walking to the Dead Sea. I wear a bracelet of the Palestinian flag, I think it’s important to show coexistence, that I, an Israeli, can accept Palestine.  On our walk there I knew K wanted to ask. He looked at me and said “Do you wear this bracelet because we are here or because you love us? How can an IDF soldier wear a Palestinian flag?” It took him a few seconds to put the words together. He didn’t know how to word it- I believe he was just as scared as I was. I told him the truth- I want to defend Israel for my people, and for your people. He didn’t understand fully yet. But I knew he would at some point. “But you know how they treat us Palestinians? How could you?” I tried to explain my feelings towards Hamas. That building tunnels wasn’t the way to peace, and that we couldn’t allow them to hurt us and sit back and watch. He began to slowly understand. Over the next few days we spoke a lot. Every break we had we got deeper and deeper into the conversation. S was very quiet. He sat there just listening a lot, and I always wanted to hear him. On the last evening, I was alone. Just me, and 4 Palestinians, and oh- they had questions. We talked about the IDF, the US, wars in Gaza, what it’s like to serve in the IDF, weapons we use, with no anger. The conversation was calm. We spoke about the US, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan – We spoke politics, Abba, Bibi, how sad I was from the results and they were just as sad. We stayed up until 2 am talking about everything. I spoke about how terrible the occupation was, how inhumane I feel it is, how Abbas is a partner for peace and I pray he will succeed. An Israeli and 4 Palestinians – trying to figure out what is actually holding us back from reaching peace. I felt like I left the conversation feeling good. Like I made my point clear, but I was skeptical. When I got back to my room, S texted me, he said “I liked the way you think very much,” and sent me his phone number saying “if you’re ever in the West Bank and need help, here is my number.” It was beyond heart warming, I knew I gained a friend.

On the last day we sat down to keep working on our writing. After my discussion with K I was worried. But I hoped he would think fondly of me when he went back home. The day was starting to come to an end. He came up to me and said “Angy I would like to interview you. About how an IDF soldier can be pro-Palestine and wear this bracelet. Can I please?” I was excited beyond words. I managed to explain to them that you can be pro-Israel and pro-Palestine. You can love Israel and want good for the Palestinian people at the same time. You can fight for Israel because you aren’t only fighting for Israel, you are fighting for Palestinians. We are all fighting terror. Because we want peace, and terror is keeping us away from it. He asked me questions for 30 minutes straight. And I did my best to answer. To show him how important it was for Israel to fight terror, how traumatized we are, how important it for us to live in peace. I showed him a text message I got from a friend from Israel saying “Don’t forget to tell them we want peace.” He was surprised, but he smiled.

My message managed to reach 5 new Palestinians. People who would have never known that there are IDF soldiers who want peace. Who love the Palestinian people and believe they deserve rights just like anyone else. That there is someone who wears a uniform during wars, but is against the occupation. K told me he would share our interview and tell his friends. I promised that if they ever have questions, they are always welcome to contact me. This may seem like a small step for some, but it is a huge step for me. King Abdullah II said a few weeks ago, “Young people, especially, must be inspired by values that reject violence, create peace and build inclusive society.” And that is exactly what we did.

We all want peace

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Stop acting like I’m not on your side, because I’m on everyones side. That’s because- we are all on the same side. We all want peace. We all want our children to grow up in a country where they feel safe. Where we know they will go to school in the morning and come back in the afternoon. We all want perfect leaders. We all want justice. We all want peace…

I’m a Zionist- I believe in Israel just like everyone else. But when something happens, any form of terror occurs in this country, all my friends don’t see me as one of them. I suddenly become the person to attack, the person to ridicule, the ‘naive’ human who believes in peace. “This is peace?” “This is a peaceful way to end the conflict?” “Did they enter the synagogue to speak about the conflict peacefully?”
As if I am not one of them. As if I did not serve the IDF. As if I am not a Jew…

I recognize another side. I recognize someone else’s pain, no matter who it is. Because there is no other side- we are all one side. We all want peace.

Because I want peace, I’m treated differently? Because I want my children to grow up peacefully one day in this country, I’m treated differently? Why? Because I voted for a different political party than you? Because I don’t believe violence is the answer? Because I believe the only way to peace is through communication? Because I want peace?
When did wanting peace become such a terrible thing? When did wanting peace become a reason for me not to be considered ‘patriotic’ or ‘Zionist.’

My Palestinian friend, Zeynep, wrote to me this morning the moment she heard the terrible news… Apologizing…
“I’m a Palestinian and I don’t stand against zionism. I know that Jewish people deserve a land to feel safe after the bloody history they had for hundreds of years. I’m a Palestinian who feels deeply sad about the people who had to flee from their homes or got stuck in Gaza side. I’m so sad to see the sides ignoring each other’s pain and causing extra pains!”
And then she said “Imagine that I announce this in public!”

That’s exactly how I feel… I can’t make a single Facebook post that says ‘peace’ because it’ll come with 50 new Facebook messages and 100 new comments which i’ll have to answer one by one.
If I can recognize her pain, and she can recognize mine, why can’t we all recognize each others pain? After all, we all want the same thing, we all want peace.

Let’s Stop Promoting Hate!

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Here is an idea.

Let’s stop promoting hate.
Let’s tell someone we care about them, we think they deserve to be here just like we do.
Let’s stop posting anti-WHATEVER or pro-WHATEVER posts on FaceBook.

Promoting hate, is promoting war. Promoting war, only promotes more hate.
Israel’s entry into the Gaza strip, promotes hate. Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, promotes hate. The death of human beings, promotes hate.
Hate, promotes citizens to vote for political parties that want revenge. Revenge, promotes hate.

One reason I was against Israel’s entry into Gaza is because it’ll only lead to more deaths. On both ends, Gazan citizens, and Israeli soldiers.
Another reason I was against Israel’s entry into Gaza, is because like all of Israel’s attempts to “reach peace” by entering, the IDF stays in Gaza for much longer then planned. Occupation isn’t good for either side.
As mentioned previously, occupation and war, promote hate.
Israel’s war in Gaza right now, is only promoting hate. For every mother that is loosing her son, and for every father that is loosing his daughter, one more Gazan that didn’t promote revenge, didn’t promote hate, may begin to now.

Another Israeli mother who lost her soldier, another Israeli father who lost his daughter, one more Israeli that didn’t promote revenge, didn’t promote hate, may begin to now.

I have a few tips on how to STOP promoting hate.
1. STAY AWAY FROM FACEBOOK WARS. They don’t work. They are never “real” dialogue. Every time someone who doesn’t agree with my political opinions posts a comment, I remove the comment and message them privately telling them- “Hi. I don’t like FaceBook wars, especially not on my wall because they promote hate. If you would like we can have this conversation privately :)” And 9/10 of the times they tell me – OK. And don’t even bother talking to me about it. The moment you take away from these people the “platform” they love that is called FaceBook or any social media for that matter, they suddenly shut up- because the entire world isn’t seeing them arguing about what they believe in suddenly and it’s obviously just not worth it for them. (HA)

2. Try to post PRO-PEACE articles! Seriously, they barely exist I agree. But posting radical or extremist posts, usually only promote ONE side, and much hate. Stay away from them, and look for articles that promote both sides- equality is key!

3. Never read only one countries news. Israel is the best example. Reading only Israeli news, and watching only Israeli news channels will never give you the full truth. Yes, it may all be factual and blah blah blah, but common guys. Let’s be honest. It’s not enough! Reading different perspectives is very helpful and as long as you’re intelligent enough, you’ll know what to filter out- and I know you’re intelligent enough!

4. This one is my favorite I have to admit. Talk to someone on the other side! Have a conversation with someone from Gaza. Ask them what they think, how they feel and what is going on in their town right now. The best news you could ever get, comes from the human beings living it. Don’t be afraid of what other people will say or think of you and remember that peace activists are always behind you. Give them the hope you have for peace, remind them that you believe in it too. They see the same biased news reports you see!

You’re not naive for believing in peace, you’re not crazy. You’re simply optimistic. And the only way to reach peace, is with optimism and promoting it.
Good luck to all, and as always- here for questions and comments. Keep it peaceful!

Have We Lost Hope?

Hi All,

I’m not big on making political posts because I feel like my blog is suppose to make you smile rather than cry, but living in Israel has forced me into feeling a certain way that I would like to address.

The past month has been rough on both Israelis and Palestinians. Over a month ago, 3 boys went missing, their bodies were found after 18 days. A few days later, a young Arab boy was found dead in Jerusalem. They say it’s “A way to get back at the Arabs for what they have done.” I put this in quotes not because it was said, but because this is what people think. Now, for the past 6 days, Israelis and Palestinians have been running the moment they hear a siren or in Gaza’s case, the moment they hear a “boom.” On Israel’s side, there are tons of bomb shelters. On Gazans side, there is nowhere to hide.

Israelis think that a way to “get back” at Hamas (or whoever did it for that matter considering no one is 100% sure), is by rioting in Jerusalem, throwing rocks, and sacrificing their lives. Palestinians feel that a way to “get back” at Israelis, is by rioting in Jerusalem, throwing rocks, and sacrificing their lives. These are radical, activists who feel harming others, will in some way help them gain respect for Israel/Palestine after they killed 6 of OUR boys. I say 6 of OUR boys, because while the IDF searched for the kidnapped boys, they killed 3 on the Palestinian side. Totaling in 6 lives. How is their life any different then OURS? How are OUR lives different? Palestinian, Israeli, Arab, American, how are we any different?

An Arab women was yelled at by a Jewish lady. The women and her son ran off the bus when the women called her a whore, slut, and anything else she could possibly think of to “get back” at this mother. Did this mother kidnap and murder those 3 boys? Did this mother in any way harm your freedom, or happiness? It is said that 110 lives have been taken in these past few days in Gaza. Supposedly 10 of them, are Hamas activists. I ask again, did the rest of the innocent lives that were taken in Gaza kidnap and murder those 3 boys? Harm your freedom, or happiness?

My one question is: Have we lost hope? Has society lost it completely? Do we not believe that peace is even possible?
When society still has hope, anything is possible. The moment we stop believing that peace is possible, we begin to vote for the wrong political parties, protests about the wrong issues, and overall speak differently. When you promote something to a single human being, you may change that persons perspective. When I, an Israeli who served in the IDF speak to a Palestinian in Gaza or the West Bank, I grant him the feeling that maybe there is someone on the other side that doesn’t want him dead, that maybe someone on the other side has that hope that he has too. That maybe, just maybe, together we’ll be able to achieve peace. Because tomorrow morning when he tells his friend that he spoke to an Israeli who told him that they differentiate between Hamas and Palestinians, that friend will talk to his friend and so on and so forth.

For some of us, not all, the hope is there. And maybe just maybe, with just your single voice, the hope will pass on to the next person, and the person after that- and maybe that next person will be a radical activist that once stoned Palestinians cars in East Jerusalem and suddenly was granted the hope that you passed onto him.

Let’s share the hope.