Peace starts with a step they say and indeed it does.
In March, 2018 I was a member of the Palestinian delegation in the Encompass Trust Cyprus. Signing up for the program, I was looking for a free trip to escape the tremendous workload that I had back then. I remember thinking to myself that I would go to Cyprus, not mingle with Israelis, keep to myself and enjoy the sun shine and a safe haven far away from the work and politics.
All my plans collapsed on themselves. However, from the very first encounter we had with the Israeli delegations, my ‘keep silent’ strategy crumpled on itself, I was furious at hearing their narrative, I wanted to argue, scream and go home. Karen Abu Zanat, our moderator, had never seen this furious and angry side of me; as a matter of fact I had never thought that I withheld all this negativity and hatred in me. Karen was able to reassure me by saying that “this is all a part of the process and that I will be much more mature at the end of this trip.”
That day Karen left me with this food for thought, as I have always seen myself as a considerate and logical person. Plus I am a twenty five yearsold university teacher. ‘How in hell would I be more mature?!’ I thought.
Over the courses of two weeks, my bond become stronger with the members of the Israeli delegation. I have come to identify them as humans with feelings rather than cold blooded killing machines and to my surprise at the end of the journey I have made friendships with some of them as we shared interests and passions.
Upon returning home, I made it my goal to strive to plant a seed of hope wherever possible and with whatever possible means at hand; I tried to teach (though discretely in most cases as I did not want to compromise my own safety) those around me about the necessity of humanizing the other part as they too are parents and have children and they do actually suffer if they lose a house or a family member. My efforts had not all been successful and in many cases I would be labeled a traitor just thinking in such terms, but ‘hey, it’s a process’ and I am sure that with time they will understand, forgive and never forget.
After only four months, I was invited to participate in a similar journey in the United States, but my approach was a whole lot different this time; being fully subsidized was the least of my worries and I was even willing to pay myself to be a part of it. My conduct in this trip was totally different and I have made two of the greatest friendships of my life. I have actually matured!
Written by Samah – Encompass Cyprus Alumni