Four years …. its been four years since I left Gaza and returned home to friends and family. Little did they know that I was a changed woman.
After nine months in Gaza, my eyes and heart were open. I cannot unsee what I’ve seen. I certainly will not close my heart to the realities I learned about the occupation. And I’m not going to forget.
Although returning to Gaza is my first choice today, it appears that Egypt, Israel and even the U.S. government have their own ideas about travel to the Gaza Strip, so I’ve wondered if there’s perhaps another path I’m suppose to follow.
There’s certainly much I can learn about the occupation from books and others more knowledgeable. Maybe I’m suppose to share what I’ve learned with Americans, add my voice to the parade beating the drums for the U.S. government to change its obsequience and blind loyalty to Israel.
I’ve spent the past four years walking a tight rope, teetering from side to side, not wishing to offend anyone with my words about Israel and the occupation, but to speak the truth when the opportunities arise. My options for speaking out have been self-imposed and narrowly-constrained to carefully account for the “sensibilities” of those around me.
- A friend told me bluntly, “don’t talk about politics. I want to keep things peaceful around here.” I suspect others feel the same way but don’t want to tell me to my face.
- A family member called me an anti-Semite while another said my words about Israel hurt her to the core because Israel is like a brother.
- Another family member said my conversation about Israel was the same as asking Jews who support Israel to “commit psychological suicide.”
- Some have looked at me like I’m a broken record. “Get a life, there’s more than the occupation to worry about.” One friend recommended that I channel my “do gooder” nature into the issue of female trafficking!
I’ve “unfriended” family members on social media to avoid bursting their protective bubbles. I’ve bitten my tongue and kept quiet in the company of some who might be offended. I’ve rationalized to myself that it’s better to be strategic and use my words wisely. If my goal is to change public opinion, and ultimately U.S. foreign policy, then beating someone over the head with the hammer for peace and justice is counter-productive.
Today, however, I turned the corner. Something snapped.
I’m not the same woman-mother-sister-aunt you thought you knew in 2012. Back then, I knew about oppression, occupation, inhumanity, and all the rest of the human condition from an intellectual point of view. I was very well informed, better than the average American, or so I thought.
Today, I’m connected with the Palestinians at the cellular level. I feel the occupation in a way that words cannot begin to describe. This isn’t to say that my experience can replace the life experiences of Isra, Samir, Motasem, Mohammed, and the generations of Palestinians who have grown up and lived under occupation. Never! Their shoes can never be my shoes, and vice versa.
But I cannot ignore and turn my back on them either. I can’t pull the wool over my eyes. I can’t fill my remaining days with other “do gooder” projects in an attempt to forget the truth I know in Palestine. And your ability to do just that really burns me.
How do I talk with you?
Your well-being is just as important to me as the well-being of the Palestinians. This isn’t a zero-sum game where my attention in one direction should harm or distract from another direction.
My personal growth and the love I found in Palestine should help me be a better person in every way, not just a better advocate on behalf of Palestinians’ rights.
But I feel you shut me down and disrespect me when you ignore me and prefer to remain in a cocoon of complacency with the status quo. The status quo is not OK! Our government’s direct and obscene support of Israel is just as responsible for the Palestinians’ suffering and injustices as are the laws enacted in the Knesset and the orders given to the Israeli Defense Forces.
How do I talk with you?
Silence is no longer an option. But I’m willing to listen to you as deeply as I hope you will listen to me.