A Story of Coming Together A moment of waking up. A little bit more.
By Sam Weaver
Once upon a time, if there is such a thing as time, there lived a Jew and a Palestinian. This Jew grew up keeping kosher, with family holding traditions, more than religion. Her father grew up in Israel, though she did not grow up with him, but still instilled in her were false impressions, and one sided stories about the State of Israel and Palestine. With curiosity and wonder, this person called herself to wake up to the truth of all manners; the truth about colonization, capitalism, privilege, and power. And, she learned about Palestine. And she became ashamed of her heritage; oppressed becoming oppressors. Blood shed and tears turned to blood shed and tears. What a mighty struggle to both celebrate a beautiful faith that holds the questions around the mysterious forces of the universe, the Creator, a history with beauty, celebration, prayer taken and twisted into a nation state claiming Judaism as their right to occupy another people.
And in this story is a Palestinian. A farmer in the hills of Hebron, a person just trying to live his life, raise his family, and put bread on the table. He is but one of every person that lives under this occupation with tragic tales of torture, destruction, and land confiscation, on this holy land for all peoples. This person’s story opens with a beautiful large shop in Bethlehem, filled with goods to sell, with pride to work and support the family. This store is bombed as he is outside the shop drinking coffee, during an uprising called the Intifada in 2002. And this is not the end of it. This person’s story involves loss of many members of the family through a fire started by settlers who live next door to his home. Surrounded 24 hours a day by Israeli soldiers carrying guns, arresting and controlling where they can enter and exit from, making life as hard as possible. And, the settlers- extremists often Orthodox Jews, who have no authority to hold them accountable for their actions. On the contrary, these people are supported by authority for anything that they say or do. This is the picture that this Palestinian has of the “Jew”.
So it came to be that one day this Jewish American (with both Sephardic and Ashkenazi roots) and this Muslim Palestinian came to meet. The meeting place: olive fields. Trees filled with purple gems, and surrounded by settler invasion and the potential for harassment and trouble. This day went smoothly for our group in the fields. With broken Arabic and broken English, and much hand gesture and facial expression, we connected about life and land over coffee and tea. She is brought over to see the new baby goats who have just been born, as they watched the shepherd head down the hillside. And, at the end of the day, the farmer invited three of the volunteers to join his family in his home for a tea and a meal. They accept the invitation, and meet sisters, wives, and many children. They sit in the living room over tea, and attempt to converse on topics such as work, marriage, children, their countries of origin and the election of Donald Trump. They laugh as they exchange guesses on one another’s ages, and look at photos of the family enjoying themselves, as well as videos of the farmer’s son, age 13 at the time, being arrested by soldiers on the street, a very common occurrence for young boys in Palestine. They are profiled and accused of crimes they never committed, all the time.
The food comes out- French fries and cauliflower both cooked in olive oil, salads, and bread. It is all delicious, and they are more quiet as they enjoy the food, hungry from a long day of work. Oh, and the olives. The most tasty olives that she had ever tasted. They begin talking again, maybe it’s about Arabic dialects, she can’t recall exactly how they get to what comes next. But, somehow Morocco gets mentioned and she blurts out (without thinking really) that her grandparents are from Morocco. The farmer is curious, surprised maybe. He asks, “Muslim”? She nod no. “Christian” ? She nod no. “Yehudi”?? His tone as he asks is concerning. Nonetheless, what can she do. She has been building a relationship with this person all day long. She isn’t going to lie, but something in her wonders what will happen. She replies, “Yes”.
What follows is a sequence of whispering, as the person reaches for a cigarette, the food shortly after disappears. One of my team mates immediately says, “She is very brave to come here. She is a good one. She is working with you”. Another cigarette. And, then lots of words, some understood and others not. She tries to discern the words, but the energy is what she is picking up on. She talks to him in hopes that he will understand that there are Jewish people that stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, and that fight to end the occupation, and that do not stand at all with the State of Israel. She says the words, ‘my people’ as she tries to explain that she is distraught by what ‘her people’ are doing, and he says, ‘my people?’ back, and she quickly works to clarify, that they are not her people in Israel, and at this point, she cannot hold back the tears, and they fall out in water falls and attempts to breathe deep in order to keep calm, and try to hold back more. These are personal tears — of her ancestors that decided in 1948 to move from Morocco where Jews and Arabs were living mostly in peace, to the nation state where her family participated and stood with the occupation of the Muslim and Christian Palestinian people. These are solidarity tears – that the Jewish people are responsible for what is being done, and that she can understand this person’s misunderstanding of religion versus the national state. And, as the tears fall, the tension begins to fade. Water and tissues are brought over, and the response is gentleness and care, with a hope that the tears will stop soon as well. And so, with the tension released, she thought she could feel more softness return to this person. She could listen to more stories of the family and the life that these Jews have caused him to suffer. And, he ended by saying we are all welcome to his home, to Palestine. Our eyes met, and more tears appeared in her eyes. This time, healing tears — a feeling of hope – that this meeting was felt by the ancestors of both of our people. She cries for both the Muslim and the Jew, for these religions and faiths have been misconstrued and misinterpreted by many, and it is a big shame and a slander that should be wiped away from the earth.
As they leave to return home from this unexpected evening, the farmer asks to aid them in finding their way back up the rocky steep hill. It was dark and hard to see. The farmer reached out his hand, and though under most circumstances in Palestinian culture she might be wary to accept, she took his hand, and was guided along the way, shown the well of Abraham that the settlers have taken from them, the school that he went to, now belonging to the settlers, and the beauty of his city. And, as we parted, he asked her if she would come back to visit. She answered, ”Inshallah”.
This is a story of one Palestinian farmer, and one Jewish American women, and the meeting of the two, coming together to heal from the separation of what once was a sweet connection between Muslim and Jew. Perhaps the peoples of that rich time were listening in, and perhaps the message of hope for the future relationship will be carried forward to more people in need of the truth, that we are both people, and that we can be living side by side in harmony and just peace.
Living in the greater bay area and engaging in activism surrounding Palestinian rights, Sam Weaver is currently traveling the world and seeking out opportunities to use her Jewish ancestry to bring attention to injustices of Israeli occupation of Palestine. She plans to continue her activism through education and direct action in the states.