From Pain Into Action

We are all humans, with blood and feelings. When words come from our authentic heart, this will reach out to other people’s hearts and minds. I believe in change, I want to make a change in my community and other communities, I want to show all the world my story as a Palestinian refugee. I want the world to know that it is possible to witness wars and unimaginable pain, but still find compassion, and a desire for peace. I want to stop the wars by raising my hands for love and tolerance.

Over time, I developed an understanding of the other side. I became best friends with an American-Israeli Jew who came to my home in Nablus. My anger became sadness, then hopelessness, then frustration and then the motivation to do something and change the situation. I want to use the environmental crisis as a platform to bring Israelis and Palestinians together and to build peace, because the violence must stop. I repeat, I don’t want my children to see what I saw.

After my experience of living for one year at the Arava Institute in Kibbutz Ketura, Israel, I wanted to share my experience with people in my community.

I started making changes on a local level by sharing my personal experience with my friends and my family. I expected rejection from my people. I thought they would disagree with my opinions about integration with the Israeli community and my wish for peace, and was shocked by what I heard. Some of my friends who had at first rejected me for my existence in Israel and desire to be with Israelis, asked me later if they can do something to let their voices be heard. They offered to record videos of themselves explaining their daily situation at the refugee camp in Nablus city. They wanted to share their desire for peace, and they wanted the opportunity to talk with Israelis. Of course, change does not come through conversation alone. We have to do something to show the world the change. To make peace in Palestine and Israel, I know there are a lot of obstacles facing both communities. The distance and separation between us is always increasing. My biggest concern is about what I can do right now, and how to make it real. How can I build or create something to support environmental-based peace-building in the region? I have to face all my fears in my community to show them the truth, to show them what I have seen in Israel, and why I decided to integrate with the Israeli community.

I want my people to experience what I experienced even if just for a moment, to taste the flavour of being together. Our only connection should not be at checkpoints, or as a Palestinian working in construction in Israel. I hope we can create a physical community, creating opportunities for both sides to be together. At least, I hope to bring together people who believe in love and peace, to raise our voices and say no to violence, to show that we can be together and try to prevent the recurrence of violations. Now that I have come back to my city, I am still in touch with a lot of amazing people from Israel, but can’t see them because I need to get a permit from the Israeli government to be able to go to Israel. It is very hard for me to get a permit, and it is also hard for my Israelis friends to visit me in Palestine because of their government. I hope I can meet them again one day. I know I am not a happy person. I just came back to the refugee camp where the poverty and sadness began in my life. I often spend time alone between four walls in my room thinking of beautiful moments in Israel and the freedom I have never been allowed to experience in my home. But I feel in my heart like the ocean finds the shore, I’ll find peace one day. In the end, amongst all the restrictions, despite all of the Israeli oppression and assault, there are people inside Israel and Palestine who want to make a change. I stand with these people in the hope that one day we will make peace. In spite of all the sadness and darkness surrounding my life now, I want to try to spread love and hope, to overcome these feelings by seeing the smiles on people’s faces.

This is my purpose. This is my pledge. This is my promise.

Written by Sam Araysha, Palestine

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