HER STORY #26 - anonymous

Jerusalem

I was born in Jerusalem. I live in Jerusalem. I have studied and worked here. 

What I like about Jerusalem is that you can find people from all over the world, all cultures. You really feel that it's a holy city. Everyone is really connected to it. 

I was born here, and I know this place really well. If you go to the old city, you see different religions, different people. People speak different languages. 

People here are loveable, but the problem is that everyone wants it for themselves. The city has never been for one person. It has always been for everyone, so we have to respect that. 

Racism

I don't like racism here. I have been feeling it from the beginning. 

I'm a Muslim, but I've studied in a Christian school. We've always been raised as one, and I didn't feel, as if I wasn't connected to the school. But sometimes the nuns there would make specific classes only for the Christians, or they would celebrate the Christian feasts with Christians only. When we had Muslim feasts, we used to celebrate altogether, also with Christians and Jews. It didn't stop here. 

When I went to Hebrew University I also felt that Arabs were treated in an inferior way. Some were okay with me being an Arab, but other people reacted differently. I can feel these things. It's a vibe. I saw the hate, even if they didn't say it. 

Sometimes I would go into deep conversations with them and tell them things like: "Not all Arabs were what you think. Not all of them are aggressive." Sometimes I would just ignore them. 

During the Gaza War in 2012, during my second year at the university, we would sometimes hear the alarm [siren] at the university, and people were scared. I told everyone: "It's nothing. We don't need to hide. Why should we run?" They started telling me that I was a terrorist. They were angry and afraid, and I couldn't say anything. You don't have to deal with all Arabs, like they are all one thing. 

One of my seminar teachers was amazing. She knew that I was an Arab, and she supported me in writing about Israel and Palestine. She told me not to be afraid. But in my first year I had a course called "The Government of Israel." I knew nothing about this topic or about Israel, so I went to the teacher and told him that I didn't understand the topic, and that it was difficult to understand the whole system because of the language as well. He said that he could help me. When I told him that I was an Arab, he told me: "Go to my assistant. He will help you." I told him that I wanted his help, but he wouldn't help me. 

I've learnt how to react to this culture, how to just ignore those people and how to get along with people, who are ready to accept me, as I am. 

Now I have graduated from university, so my connection to people is lower. The people that I am in touch with are those that I have common ground with. I have no problem with them. 

But I think that the violence that the city is witnessing has affected the relations between Arabs and Israelis of course. Israelis are more afraid; they don't trust Arabs. 

If I speak Arabic in the street, they look to see, if I am dangerous. I think this is normal actually. If I was them, I would have stopped and looked, because the situation is really dangerous, especially if you're in Jerusalem. Even as an Arab. 

I don't trust the police, because if something happened and blame was to be given, it would be on me. I'm not scared of the police, but whether or not I had done something wrong, the blame is always on the Arab. I'm not secure as an Arab in Jerusalem. 

I once drove to an Arab neighborhood, and there was a police car. They told me that this wasn't a Jewish neighborhood. I told them that it was fine, as I was Arab, but I don't look like an Arab. So they took my ID to check it, and then they told me that I could go. 

Also, once I was walking in the streets with my mother. She has blond hair. We were speaking English, so people wouldn't understand, what we were saying. The Arabs there thought we were Jews or Americans. They shouted that loud, and I told them: "No, you've misunderstood. We're Arabs!" 15 guys encircled us, so I had to do it. 

Jewish Friends

I have a Jewish friend. I love her so much. She's one of my very good friends. She's Israeli. She didn't agree with some of my arguments, but it never affected our relationship. We didn't accept that those things should affect our relationship. 

She also blames Israel. I've blamed Palestinians. 

We knew that our relationship should not be affected by this, because politics is not what makes friendships and enemies. I trust her blindly, even now. 

I've also worked for an Israeli institution called Ir Amim. Super amazing people. They helped me so much. They helped me with writing reports in Hebrew. I speak Hebrew fluently, but it was difficult writing the reports. 

Ir Amim works for equal rights for the Palestinians. They are Jewish and Israelis. They call for equal rights for Palestinians. It's interesting, because they are a group from your enemy, but they were our friends. They tried to help us. I am still in touch with them. 

The Arab guy, who worked for them got hit by soldiers many times. Israelis from the organization face some difficulties and boundaries too. 

Normalization

I don't believe that normalization is a bad thing. 

I don't think we'll leave the city, not internationals, not Jews, not Palestinians. No one will leave, so I think the relationship between all the people living here should be normalized. Even if I don't love you, we should find a common ground and a solution to live together. 

All three religions should be here, as neighbours. 

I used to live in Pisgat Ze'ev [Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem]. We can't just go out of the city. This is not an option. It's like going to Europe as a Muslim and to start saying: "France is ours, you have to go out from here." It's not rational. 

Arabs won't accept going out of the city. Jews represent 70% of the city, so they wouldn't be able to leave either. Both sides should understand that it can't happen. War is not the solution. Clashes are not the solution. Stabbings are not the solution. 

Stabbings

I believe that there are so many reasons for why stabbings are happening. It's because of the land. 

People are not allowed to build, not allowed to expand their communities. Even if they build a new building, the municipality comes and demolishes this new building. 

They can't go to Al-Aqsa [Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem] and pray there because of the Separation Wall. Not all people are given permits to go and pray in the holiest city in the world. That is the main reason, why it's happening. 

The second reason is poverty. If I remember well, more than 60% (more or less) of Palestinians are poor. Around 70% of them are not allowed to move. They don't have the right to speak, plus they don't have money. If they had money, they would have done something else. They would have studied, would have expanded their work. 

Not having the money to feed your family or children is one of the most important reasons for the stabbings and why the violence is becoming more aggressive. 

Of course stabbings and shootings and acting violently is terror. Anyone who would hear the story without understanding the background would say this is terror. But we've been waiting from 1993 (Oslo agreement) for a better life. 

Palestinians have accepted Oslo, the 1967 borders and so many other things. We have waited for Israelis to give up on borders or something else, but Israelis are not ready to give up on things. We've been waiting for so long to see improvements in our basic rights and needs. When people don't gain these things that is when you'll see youth acting violently. 

They are imprisoned in the West Bank. They can't travel. They know nothing about the world. 

I feel violence is a normal reaction from all of those consequences. 

Politics

I always wanted to study something about politics. 

When we went to school, we weren't allowed to speak about politics. That's something Palestinians shouldn't learn and shouldn't speak about. 

They were afraid that if we spoke about it, teachers would be approached by the government telling them that they were inciting the children to act against the government or against Israel. Even our history books in Arabic were controlled by the Israeli government. They would read the educational books to approve them. 

So even the information we learnt in school about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was very little. You would learn very little, unless your parents taught you about it and/or if you taught yourself. So I read a lot. I knew a lot about Palestine, history, all the declarations, agreements, and my father encouraged me to learn and read more. That's how I learnt about the Palestinian narrative. 

I learnt everything about it, so why not also see the other side and understand the other side's point of view, it's political agenda? Maybe understanding this would make me understand the other side's perception. 

In Political Science at Hebrew University they only teach about Israeli politics. 

I would love to enter politics, but the thing is that it's a bit like a game. It's a game that's controlled from above, not controlled by us. Being a politician is a bit hard. It's a theater, everyone has her/his own role. I'm not ready to enter this dirty thing. I know that if I want to represent my people in the Knesset, I wouldn't have a problem with it. I just have a problem with the "dirty" part. So I try to understand it and to have a view about it instead. 

I work in the field of democracy, and I am educating people about politics and democratic regimes. 

Political Women

I'm also working on empowering women's political leadership. Women are not taken seriously worldwide. 

We have 22 communities in East Jerusalem. Of those 22 communities, most of the representatives or most of the powerful figures are men. It's because of our traditions and our cultures and social norms. Men are the superior. So we try to make women understand that they also can lead, that they have the power, the knowledge and the self-confidence. We try to teach them through role models and to teach them that Palestinian women also have a role in resisting the occupation. We also try to show them women political figures from all over the world. 

Women have the power, and they can enter the political arena. They can vote. They can do everything exactly like me. 

We try not only to educate women but also men. We try to tell them: "Your sister, wife, daughter etc. can speak and should speak." It's important for the development of the community and to build the future for the next generation. 

Message

I have a message to all of those reading this article. 

Palestinians are not terrorists. No one is born a terrorist. 

Palestinians and Muslims in general have been raised on forgiveness, love and peace. However the terrible social economic and social situation we are facing is forcing some teenagers and young men and women to act violently. We have been waiting for our liberation and independence since the Oslo agreement in 1993, and we are still waiting. Some have reached a hopeless road and a closed door. 

The Israeli government aims at making Palestinians poorer and weaker in all aspects. As a result, the only opened path that those Palestinians can take is violence, and they use violence not because they are terrorists. No! But because they want to draw the attention of the whole world to how there are people suffering, and how those people, orphans, injured, women, old men and all of the Palestinian nation desperately need your help. 

And I wish - I only wish that the truth had a tongue!