It was on a Friday in November, 2010 when I landed at the Ben-Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. That day I turned 36. Four months earlier I had decided to take a sabbatical year. I was exhausted, stressed and unhappy. My friend Hanny, who was hosting me in her New York apartment, was delighted I was taking time to off think.
“What have you wanted to do all your life but never had time? she asked.
“I have always wanted to learn Arabic and understand the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” I replied.
“That’s it, you’re going to Palestine!” she said.
This is how that Friday, there I was in Ben-Gurion airport, answering questions at immigration control:
“What is the purpose of your trip to Israel?
Your last name Abusada, where is it from?
Where was your grandfather born?
And your grandfather’s father?
And the father your grandfather’s father?”
OMG! I did not expect such an interrogation.
That Friday marked the beginning of a new stage in my life. A trip that was supposed to last 45 days became 5 years. I learned Arabic, and Hebrew, and earned a Master’s Degree in Conflict Research and Resolution at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
I had unforgettable encounters and difficult conversations.
But although my eyes opened to the pain of living in a conflict zone, I didn’t know what to do. The more demoralized I became, the more eager I was to know its history.
If a conflict is a relationship gone sour, I had to know when and what soured the relationship between Jews and Palestinians.
Now back in Peru, I am sharing what I learned as I wish someone had explained it to me, in a simple way but not simplistic. I hope these short videos achieve this goal.
In them I argue that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not driven primarily by religious zeal, but by social forces and historical movements. The threatened Jews of Europe needed a safe place and, as expected, they sought it in the land of their ancestors. The indigenous Arabs of Palestine had deep ties to the same land and, as expected, they felt threatened by the European newcomers and their project of an exclusive state for the Jewish people.
We cannot contribute to peace between Jews and Palestinians, unless we know the history, understand their fears and learn to see beyond them. Only then will we be able to enter the dialogue in a way that allows us to be part of the solution.