I''m not scared. I will be brave. I will sit up straight and look out the window. I will stop thinking these sick thoughts, these racist ideas that I am ashamed for going through my head. Yes, I''m on a crowded bus- an extremely crowded bus. Yes, I''m sitting next to a large man, someone who could easily shoot me. Here I am, a sixteen year old boy being paranoid. I am watching a movie in my mind, watching this man next to me slit my throat, or stick a gun to my head. Then I see the people sitting behind me jumping on him, pushing him to the floor, screaming "Terrorist, Terrorist!" It''s not the movie that''s bothering me. It''s the person I have tagged as the culprit. The man sitting next to me is an Arab.

I consider myself left wing. Recently, I was even physically hurt for saying that I don''t believe all Arabs are bad, or that all Arabs want to kill Jews. I believe in giving Arabs rights, empowering them and allowing them to live freely and equally in our land, that they hold a claim to as well. I believe, contrary to most of my classmates, that someday there will be peace with Arabs. I think that part of the conflict is caused by our viewing Arabs as animals and not as humans.

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Some of my proudest moments are on the bus, watching old Arab women, with their heads covered, sharing a four- seater with Haredi women, similarly dressed and covered. I watch Israeli arsim, tough kids, take up the back row, dressed in sportswear and listening loudly to middle eastern music, throwing sunflower seeds on the floor.  The next day, or even that night, the back row is filled with Arab boys, albeit with slightly different music, but the same atmosphere. I almost took a picture of an Arab man sitting with an Israeli soldier. "See," I tell myself, "look at how well we get along. If only some of those politicians, some of those anti- Israel reporters could come and see this. They would understand that peace will come soon!"


I always believed that I too would get along with Arabs. Until today, when an Arab sat next to me for the first time. "That Arab over there, sitting next to you, with not a care in the world. Look how happy and calm he is. Bet he''s not thinking about getting killed, about some big Jew stabbing him. The whole world is afraid of him, is afraid of them." These thoughts shamed me and made me feel terrible about myself. Until I realized my mistake. I wondered what would happen if this Arab of mine, the guy sitting next to me, was sitting next to a radical right- winger, or even one of my classmates- the kind of person who would kill him in a moment. A person not unlike the Israeli stereotype of an Arab - someone who will not stop until death. Would he be scared then?

If we want peace, it will take serious efforts from both sides. We must work on improving ourselves and become more accepting of others. We must realize that we are all human, we are all similar, and we all ultimately just want to live our lives, to ride our buses safely and peacefully.


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