A new victory toast for Palestinians and Israelis

Joint Israeli-Palestinian tour showed me that as a Palestinian that it might be possible to forge a new, singular narrative with my Israeli brethren.

Budo for Peace 521 (photo credit: Dorit Fridman)
Budo for Peace 521
(photo credit: Dorit Fridman)
When you live with leaders who have no courage and who are drunk, on power and control, perhaps it’s time to start inspiring them with your own courage instead. Perhaps it’s time to wake them up to the voice of humanity, and if necessary, burst their eardrums so that it is the last voice they hear in their life. When your leaders are drunk to the point that the sound of war is rock music to their ears and the wails of human suffering is akin to a cozy night of jazz, perhaps it’s time to shock them into waking up. Shock them by making clear your desire to live side by side with your brothers on the other side.
I am a Palestinian and this is my goal.
To that end, I joined a mixed group of Palestinians and Israelis on a hiking trip last week through the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Jericho. We came together to experience the historical sites of both our peoples and to work towards opening communication based on the similarities between us and not what divides us. I simply felt I was doing something I believe in.
For two days, we lived as one family. We exchanged ideas on all aspects of life that make us human beings. As we discovered more about the other, we learned just how similar we really are. . Yes we have differences, as any group of people would, but we found that we are also qualified to live together in a very productive manner. There was a range of personalities and lifestyles among us: some were religious, while others were more secular and others still were atheist. Despite that, we all agreed to have one common purpose: To live together in love and cooperation.
At dinner in a restaurant in Bethlehem, we sat together around a large table and I was so engrossed in inspiring conversation, my only regret was that that I didn’t take a moment to document the moment with a photograph. Despite only knowing each other for a few hours, it was the type of dinner that made us all feel like family. We discussed everything from our day to day lives to finding possible solutions to the conflict
At half past one in the morning, we arrived at the hostel. Despite being wiped out from a day of trekking and sightseeing, we still chatted about our lives with our new Israeli friends whom we now shared rooms with. We were full of curiosity to find out more and more about and the other’s way of life.
Even though each side has different narratives and even different explanations for historical events and places, we all agreed that we could still use the reality of where we are now as a catalyst to learn to live together. We can learn to be proud of both our narratives and our shared historical home.
In that sense, we came away from the experience with a desire to try and forge a new narrative, a single narrative of one place and of two peoples who can proudly show the entire world what they’ve achieved.
We aren’t naive enough to believe that somehow through a history trip we are ending a 60 year conflict and solving the suffering of both peoples. But at the very least, we are taking steps forward and continuing to raise our voices more and more. Together we’ve decided to fight for our right to freedom; freedom from occupation; occupation of the mind, the land and the people on both sides.
As we walked through the sites of an ancient civilization, I came to understand from my new Israeli friends that they, too, are sorry for the occupation and that they, too, were never interested in having things turn out that way. Like me, they want to live in freedom and security
In this region, people from both sides talk about victory and depict it in various ways; some might define say victory is as killing soldiers while others might say victory is turning the international community against the other, or pressuring it to stifle the other. But coming away from this meeting, I know that my definition of victory is different: My victory was winning the hearts of my new friends and giving them  my own heart to in return. I only wish that the taste of this new victory be experienced by the rest of the people in this region so that they too can walk around with smile of inspiration on their faces, with an optimistic outlook and full of ideas for the future.