It was a sunny day in the late weeks of summer 2011 in the center next to the old port of the French city of Marseille. A group of independent musicians, with the help of donors, organized a small concert for charity to gather donations for the Palestinian children.
Palestinian flags and Banners were lifted up high that said, “Help the Children of Gaza.” People from different kinds of faiths and nationalities came together to show support and the musicians were singing in different languages and different styles (mostly indie and acoustic music). A young, beautiful woman sang a breathtaking song that made everyone smile and while the song was in Arabic and not all the people understood it, it still got their attention. The song spoke the universal language of music. Muslims from North Africa, Jews and Christians from Morocco and France were dancing and exchanging stories, children were playing and running around making the crowd look even more energetic, even elders danced to the loud music, socialized, and shared stories with younger people.
And then out of the blue, a group of young Jewish extremists came holding Israeli flags and shouting “Palestine on occupe! Palestine on occupe” (Palestine! We occupy). The music stopped, all the children went to hide behind their parents
Most of the people there were pacifists so they just tried to ignore them and keep having fun, but the extremists did not stop there, they tried to remove the Palestinian flag. An elder Jewish man tried to speak some sense into the young extremists while two police officers sensed that things were heating up and it was a large crowd. They called for backup just in case anything happened. Two young men joined the elder in the conversation with extremists, and a group of people started shouting from the back, “Zionist! Assassin!” The conversation got heated and the people from both sides started punching each other, women started screaming and protecting their children, and men from both sides started throwing anything they found at each other. Pacifists tried to break the fight but with no use – both sides were too stubborn to even listen or pay attention to the harm they were causing.
After just a few minutes, the backup arrived. They tried some verbal warnings, but it didn’t work, the fight just kept growing bigger, it even included the pedestrians. The police threw a gas grenade. People started running and stepping on each other, some of them got hurt, most of the Jewish extremists ran away shouting “ISRAEL VIVRA!” while the pacifists were shouting back “Nous Somme tous des Palestinian.” Men from both sides got arrested for questioning, and those who were left started cleaning up the mess and waited for the ambulance to arrive.
People, however, continued the party with forced smiles on their faces to assure their children that everything was alright, but it was not. What was a beautiful and peaceful gathering became a huge mess in seconds. It just showed how the events from the Middle East are affecting the entire world and disrupting its peace.
Three years after that event, when I think about it, I feel happy and proud; the things I remember most are the people I met and that I’m still in touch with to this day. If we look at the glass half full, people from different places came through in hardship as they did in prosperity. The events in the Middle East are not only dividing us, but they’re also brining us together.