I’m tolerant, however… By Imen R, Tunisia

Since my childhood, peace and war were the main topics talked about in my school, my family gatherings, on TV, on the radio, my Facebook newsfeed, and more.

When people talk about war, I knew what I can imagine: conflicts, bombs, fire, death, corps, guns, hate, and tears. But peace! Oh dear, what’s peace? Is it love? Is it people hugging each other? Is it kisses and smiles? How we define peace? How do I define peace?

At early ages, I thought peace is being right, but accepting someone who you know is wrong. It is being, for example, a Muslim accepting Jews, Christians, or Atheist but at the same time, feeling that it’s okay to convince them once in a while that your religion is the only right one, and that they hold wrong beliefs. It is being straight and accepting gays, but deep inside consider them mentally sick. However, as I grew up, I understood that no one is wrong as no one is right and that you can’t pretend to be peaceful while you are judgmental deep inside.

But I went to the YaLa Conference with that little bit of judgment deep inside. I was young, and all that I’ve seen on TV was that Jew Israelis are monsters!

My coordinator Moriya, such a beautiful soul, who’s now a dear friend, is Israeli. I was asking myself how such a good person, a very good person like her is Israeli? But when I went to the conference, I met many Israeli good people! And now they are my friends.

Attention: this is not an article aimed to change your mind about Israeli people, nor was the conference aiming to do that either. This article aims to tell you that you are not alone in this world, and the world is not what you see on TV!

At the conference, Israelis and Palestinians were both together laughing, dancing, and talking about a conflict their grandparents caused, and now they’re paying for someone else’s mistake. At the conference, we were a group of people from different backgrounds, countries, religions, beliefs, sexual orientations, but we lived together in peace in the middle of nowhere!

On Friday, Muslims went to pray Jumuaa, and at 5 pm Jews celebrated their Shabbat. Actually, we sang with them, we all hugged each other and sang. We all listened to stories about Jesus, we all knew things about the prophet of Islam, and we all listened to why God does not exist! We all celebrated our femininity and heard how awesome it is to be gay! We learned new things about Tunisia, Morocco, Palestine, Israel, Syria, and more! And I whispered to myself: “OMG! Israelis are just humans! And Palestinians are not only a crying mother with a dead child! Palestinians are people who love life, embrace peace, and looking for a solution out of war!” and since that day, I’ve never watched TV news again.

Sarah, our beautiful instructor, was calling us- 100 participants from different areas, thoughts, and beliefs – “HUMANS!”, because we are humans. Humans who were talking all day about their dreams, beliefs, life, goals, issues… and dancing all night as one!

Our youngest participant was a Palestinian baby who came with his mom. And I saw that baby being held by an Israeli to calm him down in order for his mom to concentrate on the lesson. I’ll never forget that image! I saw love; I saw peace. The peace of accepting someone with no wrong or right, the peace of loving someone unconditionally.

I went with doubts and deep judgments, and I was back to my home country with love, and hope. And, also, tears. Yes, tears. Because I was already missing people I don’t know if I’ll meet again. And I’m sad, really sad of millions of years of hate, discrimination, and war. If we only embrace peace, if we only manifest true love, if we only learn how to be tolerant without thinking we’re right and the rest are wrong! If only…


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