I am on an airplane, flying back to Germany. I have spent the last four years in Israel and decided to take a break from the Middle Eastern craziness, beauty, stress and intensity.
Full of emotions and a head steaming of thoughts about my experiences and the great friends I have made, I finally find my allotted seat and sit down, hoping to have a nice and quiet neighbor. I only want to sleep. The couple who then sits down next to me after trying to store their bags and backpacks in the overhead bins for minutes (felt like hours) amusing the passengers around, including an Israeli rock band all dressed in black with cans of beer in their hands, looks very sympathetic.
I smile at them and then continue reading my magazine. Maybe I should have closed my eyes instead because what follows is a two hours-long discussion about the greatness of Israel, Jews residing in Germany, German priests residing in Switzerland and me being a messenger sent by God. The couple is Swiss. Longing for sleep and a break of political and religious discussions with liberals, seculars, fanatics, ultra-religious, “leftists”, “rightists” and “whatever-there-is-leftists” , after four years of political science studies, I am surprised and overwhelmed by the passion and need for a discussion the person sitting next to me exhibits. She introduces herself as a reborn Christian, who discovered the ultimate truth five years ago and has since then been to Israel 14 times. I admit that I did roll my eyes secretly.” Jews and Christians are brothers and Europe needs to support Israel instead of constantly criticizing it”. Well, I also think that boycotting dialogue and being pro- or against one side will not help anyone. I guess we should all be pro-peace.
After overhearing my conversation with the friendly lady sitting on the other side of the aisle, who asks me about Israeli immigration to Berlin addressing her fear of renewed assimilation followed by segregation, she continues her prayer by quoting articles about anti-Semitic acts in Germany. She then asks me whether I and my parents have been taught about the Holocaust in school because she has realized that her German priest seems to be completely ignorant, daring to criticize Israeli occupation although he is German. We have been taught about it in school. I, as a young German, deeply grieve about our history. I am angry and speechless about it, and I understand the need for political correctness and sensitivity as well as true reconciliation… but, do I honestly have to listen to a “true believer,” who repeatedly refers to Arab immigrants as the reason for the rising anti-Semitism and other problems in Europe as well as about all the Germans entering Switzerland looking for jobs, which she obviously dislikes? Do I owe her a justification? Is she only fond of me because I, a non-Jewish German, am in a relationship with a Jewish Israeli? Her intolerance and over-simplification angers me, her bigoted smile annoys me and her deep conviction of me being a messenger sent by God who made me, a German, study politics in Israel and fall in love with an Israeli in order to represent the true Israel in Germany, amuses me.
Religious fanaticism and intolerance exist everywhere, even in the picturesque, peaceful, neutral and harmonious Switzerland, where wearing religious symbols, especially when they are Muslim, is illegal. I don’t want to listen to her anymore. I go to sleep.
YaLa Young Leaders