by Faride Khamashta
On December 13th of the year 1999, my family and I moved from Ecuador to Palestine. I was only a child of 4 years old when that happened.
To be honest, I can hardly remember anything from my childhood in Ecuador, however, I do remember some events from my childhood when the second Intifada was unleashing...
A violent encounter with the real world
My father enrolled me into kindergarten a few days after we arrived in Jerusalem. At first we lived with my grandmother near Herod's gate, but some months later we finally found a house in Ramallah and moved in there. It was a house on a mountain top in an area called "Kufor 'Akab".
My brothers used to go for walks around the house and come back with handfuls of bullet casings, then make necklaces or decorations with them. As a tomboyish girl, I thought that was really cool; getting to hold a real bullet. At that time, I didn't really give it much thought as to why there were bullet casings a few meters away from our new house.
Other than the excruciatingly long hours to and from the Ramallah checkpoint, I remember one incident like it was yesterday. We were driving home from school one day, just passing the checkpoint when all of a sudden an Israeli soldier threw a gas bomb a few meters away from our car. Unfortunately, all of the windows were wide open, and before we could close them, some of the gas leaked into the car. I remember the horrible pain I felt when I tried to breath in; it felt like a hundred needles being pushed into my throat as I inhaled, and my eyes felt like someone put hot pepper in them; it's something that definitely no child should ever experience.
Right after that incident we quickly packed whatever we needed and went to live temporarily with my grandmother.
Then one dreadful day, my family was watching the news, and out of nowhere my Aunt started crying out for my grandmother to come quickly. When I looked over to see what was going on, I saw a young unconscious boy on TV. His head was bloody and some men were frantically carrying him to the ambulance; the news reporter was saying that he was critically injured in the head with a bomb fragment due to a sudden raid in Bethlehem. It turned out that that boy was one of my relatives who lived in the West Bank. He was extremely lucky to have survived; the doctor said that if the injury was just a couple of centimetres to the left he wouldn't have made it.
I believe that those two jarring personal experiences at such a young age shaped me into the person I am today and revealed to me the very violent world we live in.
I was confused as to what was going on; I didn't understand what an Intifada was, or why it was happening. But as I grew older and somewhat wiser, I got a better understanding of what was going on around me, but I never understood why. I could never fathom the immense hatred and discrimination that some Israelis and Palestinians hold towards each other; aren't we all human beings? It is when a human being kills another intentionally that one becomes an animal. This vicious cycle of killing, hatred, and discrimination doesn't glorify anybody or any government, it only leads to more and more of the same, whether it's out of revenge or mere hatred; the cycle will never end unless we all choose to break it.
A year ago I joined my school's book club; "The Jerusalem Book club" which brings teenagers from Israeli and Palestinian schools together to discuss books. We get together every couple of months in a restaurant and share our thoughts on the current book. And as it turns out, we don't only share a love for books; but also a love for music.
In those few hours that we get together, we forget everything; we forget that they are Israeli, and we are Palestinians, and just enjoy the food, the music, the books, and most importantly enjoy each other's company.
One day as I was talking to an Israeli friend of mine from the book club, I asked him if he was enjoying the new book, he answered: "to be honest, I didn't join for the books, I joined for the people". His reply gave me so much hope for this coming generation; it's from that point on that I realized how beautiful and versatile this country could be if we all lived in peace. And that is why I chose to live my life at least trying to make this country a better and safer place for the generations to come. I honestly believe that if this country of over 60 years of occupation could someday live in peace, then I have no doubt in my mind that the rest of the world could also someday do the same.