Now in Columbia, Missouri, courageous
Palestinian journalist Walid Batrawi (WBatrawi@journalist.com) and his
family will return home to Ramallah this June, 2003.
First, he wanted to write about meeting Judy Schermer, an exceptional Jewish woman (JudySchermer@hotmail.com) in Columbia.
It was an encounter he couldn't have had back home where people are sadly cut off from one another, worsening the "big disconnect" between the two, equally fine peoples.
Walid writes: "For Palestinians, checkpoints are a symbol of occupation and humiliation, but when it comes to meeting with their Israeli peace colleagues, checkpoints and borders start falling in the backs of their minds."
described by telephone her "great longing and desire to move out to Walid
and others . . . the only way to have things turn around."
Judy said: "You realize that everyone is a victim. I have also been victimized by the propaganda machine. It hurts."
"Above and beyond politics" is how she describes this face-to-face citizen relationship-building.
She talked about her challenge in her Missouri home town: "I would have no trouble finding some other Jews who are interested in beginning Dialogue. But I just don't know any Palestinians."
Judy will try to find others, to keep building bridges. She hopes her new friend, Walid Batrawi, will help her before he returns home to the West Bank.
Published by Common Ground News Service (CGNews)
-- March 7, 2003
See its Archives, and Subscribe to it at http://www.sfcg.org/cgnews/middle-east.cfm .
When the Odds Meet, Borders Fall
by Walid Batrawi
Joe Schermer is a first-grade Jewish boy who goes to the same school where my second-grade daughter, Tamar, goes in Columbia, Missouri.
The Jewish boy and the Palestinian girl are neighbors at school, as only a wall separates their classrooms.
Every morning I walk Tamar to school, while Joe's mother drives him there. The mother and I usually met at the 'borders' between the two classrooms, but we never spoke to each other.
One evening, just as I finished participating in a panel after the screening of 'Gaza Strip,' a film by James Longley about the life of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Joe's mother approached me to introduce herself.
"I'm Judy, and I'm a Jew."
I smiled and said, "Nice to meet you."
"Your daughter goes to the same school where my son goes," Judy said, trying to break the ice.
"Yes," I said. "I see you there."
"I was impressed with the way you spoke tonight," she commented. "I really appreciate it when people speak objectively, and I would like for us to meet again. It is very important for me to know more about the suffering of the Palestinians."
"And the suffering of the Israelis," I interrupted. "We both suffer."
"Yes, and this is why I think people like us should always talk. Maybe we can make a change," Judy responded.
At the end of this conversation, we exchanged addresses and greetings, and we agreed to meet sometime soon to continue our talk.
A few days later, we met again at the classroom 'border.' This time we spoke.
"Someone told me that there is a Palestinian family in this school. When I saw you for the first time at school, I could tell it was you," Judy said.
"Well, that's what we call the cousinship," I laughed.
"It's true," Judy laughed back. "I hope Israelis and Palestinians will be able to live together again."
"If it was up to the two peoples, I am sure that they could reach a solution," I said, "but politicians give us no choice."
"Tell me more about the suffering of Palestinians," requested Judy. "I hear all kinds of stories; it must have been hard for your daughter to live under such a difficult situation."
Her request made me tell a few stories, but again, we both were running late for our jobs, so we shook hands and walked in two different directions.
The 'border' wall between Tamar and Joe is the only barrier between the two children. At recess, they talk and play; in their hearts there is no conflict. Joe has never visited Israel, but his mother did in the seventies. For Joe's family, not all Palestinians are 'terrorists.' Our family never told Tamar that all Jews or Israelis are occupiers.
Before coming to the US, Tamar lived for two years under Israeli shelling. She witnessed the re-occupation of her hometown, Ramallah, watched Israeli tanks as they passed by the window of her room, spent sleepless nights of fear, and was locked in the house for days and weeks of curfew. Such scenes are the only images she saw of a Jew or an Israeli. Therefore, I was not sure what her reaction would be when she learned that Joe is a Jew, so I asked her.
"But he is a good Jew, Daddy," she answered.
"Yes, not all Jews are soldiers," I continued.
"So, there are good Jews and good Palestinians," Tamar said. "Joe is a nice boy. I like playing with him."
It is only when I see Joe and Tamar playing together that I start to hope again that all the attempts to reach a common ground for understanding and co-existence between the two peoples will be achieved one day.
Israeli and Palestinian peace activists are trying their best to come together. Getting together is not easy, as both have suffered from the violence. With a true belief in peace deep in their hearts, they can heal the wounds and go on.
Israeli checkpoints, the actual 'border' between the Palestinian territories and Israel, are the only places where both sides can meet.
For Palestinians, checkpoints are a symbol of occupation and humiliation, but when it comes to meeting with their Israeli peace colleagues, checkpoints and borders start falling in the backs of their minds.