Dear colleagues in Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue and
The San Francisco Chronicle today, September 11, 2002, featured Palestinian Dialogue devotee, 24-year-old Sawson Zarour (ZSUSA1@aol.com).
In "Citizens and Survivors," Sawson remembers the life and death of her father, Nadim, our champion of Dialogue ahead of his time.
She describes the fear and judgment she lived in within her own country, the United States.
And her "new life."
"The only thing that made sense to me was to speak out like my father had done his whole life. Through the Jewish Palestinian Living Room Dialogue group that my father co-founded over 10 years ago, I knew I had a place where I felt safe to speak."
Instead of succumbing to fear and withdrawing, Sawson moved toward the "enemy," and into the midst of Jewish adults and students, bringing other Palestinians with her.
"I spoke about promoting dialogue as the only way toward peace. How else can there be peace if we can't listen and understand one another's deeply rooted anger and fear?" And shared dreams. We are so similar. And can be such fine partners.
Palestinian Sawson Zarour, with her story headlined in today's Chronicle, illustrates exactly where the true power of a Palestinian or Jew lies.
Not in isolation or hostility, but in standing together with "the other," creating news, inventing the future for the good of all.
We can all do what Sawson does, right where we live. -- L&L
Published in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 9/11 Voices -- Wednesday, September 11, 2002
A New Life as The Enemy Within
By Sawson Nadim Zarour
In Sept. 10, 2000, Mother and I sat at Grace Cathedral watching Father speak on a panel with a rabbi about the future of Jerusalem. In the midst of the introduction, my father spoke his very last words, suffered a massive heart attack and closed his eyes forever.
When I left the cathedral after an ambulance had carried Father's body away, I found that San Francisco -- the city of my birth -- felt foreign to me. Though both my parents had been born in Palestine, I had until that day rarely felt like an outsider in the United States.
When the terrorist attacks occurred in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, I again had feelings of not belonging. I was told by family and friends to think twice before telling people that I am a Palestinian. I was afraid of living in my own skin because to many Americans, I was the terrorist. My Ramallah community, in fear, canceled all of its events and festivities. Friends called and asked me if I was OK because they knew that the blood running through my veins was simply the enemy. The only thing that made sense to me was to speak out like my father had done his whole life. Through the Jewish Palestinian Living Room Dialogue group that my father co-founded over 10 years ago, I knew I had a place where I felt safe to speak.
Shortly thereafter, I found myself sitting in the back of a packed temple filled with Jews, listening to most of them speak point by point about how Palestinians teach their children hate and terrorism. This made my heart pound out of my chest, and I was compelled to speak and did so. People had to know the truth. We Palestinians are human beings and not animals, we love and fear and hope, like every American, like every Jew. Many of my Palestinian brothers and sisters have so very little hope amid the unbearable conditions in which they live that they feel compelled to take their own lives. I wanted more people to understand this.
I followed more opportunities to speak and found myself one day in a mainstream Jewish camp for young children in the middle of heaven: Yosemite. I sat there in the middle of trees that reached the sky. How ironic that at such a place I would try to make people understand that somewhere in the middle of the world my Palestinian family can't leave their homes, have no water, no means of food, no education, no voice, no life. Was it possible that anyone could understand that living in a nightmare would make you want to die? At this camp I spoke with young American Jews and Israelis my age -- some who had served in Israel's military -- and I learned that they too felt a kind of despair and fear of what their lives had in store. I spoke about promoting dialogue as the only way toward peace. How else can there be peace if we can't listen and understand one another's deeply rooted anger and fear?
Now two years after my father's death and one year after the tragedy of Sept. 11, I find myself a survivor. A survivor living through the loss of my father whom I adored so much and a survivor living in a country that calls me the enemy.
Sawson Nadim Zarour is an elementary school teacher in San Francisco.
Sawson receives e-mail at Sawsan@arabesque.cc and at ZSUSA1@aol.com .
Photos of her speaking to Jewish summer camp youth are at:
The Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group is at: