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, and 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 friends. I arrived at the hotel after 4 hours on the road, entered the lobby, and 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 because 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, and 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 is 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.