This is a story about a young woman who learned something about her home.
My name is Niva. I’m a Jewish person born in the south of Israel. I grew up in a small community that was surrounded by desert. As a child, I didn’t get to know my neighbours very well. We didn’t speak the same language, and we didn’t go to the same places. I was told that the people who lived on this land before us—the Bedouin people of Palestine—just left.
One day, my father took part in a protest. Our army had hurt and killed a lot of people in the country next to us, Lebanon. Some people from our own country attacked the group my father was with. He was killed. The people who attacked him were angry. They didn’t think that we should speak for peace and justice, or question our leaders. Losing my father when I was very young changed how I see the world.
When I finished school, I had to join the Israeli army. It is the rule. I wished I didn’t have to join. When I finished my service after two years, I thought about leaving Israel. Life here isn’t easy. We live in fear and there is a lot of fighting. One day, I was walking along the seashore with my friend, Amaya. She told me about what happened 60 years ago when our country, Israel, was formed.
She said that there were other people living here, Palestinian people. Many of them were forced to leave their homes and their towns, because our people wanted to live here instead. I was shocked by what she told me. This isn’t something we learn a lot about in school. I started to feel scared and sad. I had so many questions.
This is where I live. How come I didn’t know about this before? If my country is the reason Palestinian people had to leave their homes, what can we do about it? I wondered if I should leave Israel. Maybe life would be better somewhere else with no war and no fighting. But I was born here. I love the people, the food, the language, and the land. I decided I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to do something about what Amaya told me. I knew it would be hard, but I wanted to learn more and work for change.
I started to work for a group called Zochrot. (The word means “remembering” in the Hebrew language) I volunteered to create a tour of four Palestinian villages that used to exist in the south of Israel. I didn’t know much about these places growing up, so I used the knowledge that Zochrot had about them. Today parts of these villages are covered with trees, but you can still find old buildings, like schools and houses where people lived. We at Zochrot lead tours to teach Israeli Jewish people about what happened here. People were forced to leave their homes so that we could live here. It is not easy to do this work. There are people in my country who don’t want us to talk about these things.
My hope is that one day we will live together in this land, Palestinians and Israeli Jews as equals. Then the Palestinian people could return to their homes. There is a lot of fear, hatred, and fighting between people. But we need to learn how to live together. I believe most people want happiness, health, and a good life. They want to live in peace with no wars. I don’t want other people to suffer because of what I do, or what my people did and still do today. Things are difficult, but I believe they can change.
The first thing for us to do to be ready for peace is to wash ourselves clean of fear, anger, judgment, and shame. Are we ready to wash that away? Let us come forward to begin washing away the things that hold us back from peace. We have the healing soap from oil of the olive, the tree of peace, to clean us.