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"Not Enough Energy for Constant Hatred"

It is an early morning in late July that finds me standing outside the entrance of the Holy Sepulchre Church in the Old City of Jerusalem. With me are 20 young unfamiliar visitors with curious faces. Every now and then, through work or friends, I find myself caught in such circumstances where I am asked to walk with a group of strangers and show them around the Old City.

"I'm not a guide,'' I tell them, ''but I happen to have been born and raised here. If you want a touristy-perspective, you can always find guidebooks. I'll just tell you about things the way I see them.'''

There I stand telling them about the historical and spiritual significance of this church in Jerusalem; the priviledge to be stepping inside; the different rituals and ceremonies that take place, and the sometimes physical fights that occur during easter. ''There are spots inside to separate each Christian denomination from the other,'' I say, ''and despite the faithful facade, you can sense the love of power and authority inside.''

At that point, I see an angry man rushing towards me. ''How dare you say these things??'' he shouts out loud, "You should be ashamed of yourself for telling foreigners about these fights. We are all Christian and we love one another! You should NOT tell them these things!'' He gives me a good deep frown before he walks away, and I have to admit his reaction gets me a little flustered. I turn to the group and say: "Maybe I really am not supposed to tell you these things. Maybe I should just tell you that we are all about love and faith here in the holy land and that we have no hatred in our hearts.''

Of course the foreigners around me are astonished as they soon preach about the freedom of speech and the right to speak our minds. However, one of the truths about the Middle East is that in the midst of a bigger conflict, anything one would say or not say could strengthen or weaken the bigger argument.

That same week, one of my close friends finds himself in a situation where his ID might be taken away from him; leaving him with no nationality anymore (something that happens easily at this part of the world.) "You cannot expect foreigners to understand," he says, "they don't know what it's like to be from the Middle East! They don't have to worry about not having a proper passport and not having a place to go back to.'' I insist that ''foreigners'' have their own set of problems and that one cannot compare grief in the world. There are human issues that we can all relate to, and empathize with, and those are bigger than politics could cover.

That same week, another house gets evicted in one of the streets of East Jerusalem. I see solidarity groups lying down in the streets; some of the members of that family had tears in their eyes, and the little kids had so much hatred in their fists. How could injustice pass so easily was past anybody's knowledge. Across the resistant angry faces were tons of ridiculous blanks on police officers. They were just following orders; pointing their guns at the trees and the roots and the people who had once been there.

''The hell with you Israel!!'' I heard one of the young girls scream, ''The hell with you for taking down our houses and leaving us with nowhere to go to! But you forget, as you do your math, that we really have nowhere else to go to!"

That same week, I found myself in a bar in Tel Aviv, in Israel. I liked the music they played at that bar, yet my arms and legs could not easily move to the music. Around me were random guys and girls with life and sex in their eyes. As the groups were checking each other out, possibly envisioning each other with no clothes on, all I could envision was an audience fully dressed in army clothes; shooting down the place with tanks of destruction.

What I'm trying to say is: I come from a place with complex layers!

My emotions are mixed when it comes to this land of conflict. In fact, for all of us who have been here long enough to have witnessed some of the changes in the region, it is probably fair to say that we are all now diagnosed with a serious disorder in this time of history. We are all schizophrenics by geography!

The truth is, I'm not entirely the same person when I'm crossing a checkpoint in the West Bank than the person I am when I'm sipping coffee and shopping in West Jerusalem. In such chaotic circumstances, it may indeed be too tiresome to play the activist everyday. One professor once said ''Hatred takes up a lot of energy.'' At one point it gets too tiring to keep on arguing.

Then again, it's always more difficult to keep a moderate face when faced with injustice.

Unsurprisingly, you rarely come across objective people in the Middle East. Being objective could simultaneously mean that you're giving up your rights! And for this reason, I am not completely surprised that I had been hushed at the entrance of that church when I openly revealed the inner conflicts among us.

There are, and have always been, things that we are not supposed to talk about at this part of the world. There is always the fear, that when you present reality the way you see it, you might lose your argument. And so it is that there are places we are not supposed to go to. Friends we are not supposed to have. Words we are not supposed to utter. Knowledge we are not supposed to reveal. We should just hush-hush our own self-criticism and stay in the little boxes that have been imposed on us. We should all chant the same ideologies and follow the same creeds. We should all go by the book and not even bother to actually read the book. We should all keep hatred in our hearts for fear that we will vanish if we did not hate enough.

"How dare you allow yourself to even talk to your oppressor?'' Some of my friends would say, "How dare you pretend that the person whose shop you are buying from is not sending his son out to destroy your neighbour's house? How dare you normalize relations of injustice and occupation by getting close to the victimizor and learning the enemy's language?''

"You cannot be naive anymore,'' the preaching continues, ''you cannot empathize with the violator. You cannot be objective about the actions of the criminal. You HAVE to take sides! And whatever that side is, you have to defend it at all costs, you have to believe in and keep fighting for your right of existence and self-determination!''

At this point, I am not sure I am wise enough to come up with a solution to any of this.

All I can personally come up with is that I doubt fear has taught us much. Creeds around the world have been bruised and corrupted because their believers were too scared to dig deeper. From too much fear, we have presented ourselves with stereotypes, paranoid judgments and brainwashed fanaticism. With no desire to TRULY understand, we have managed with lazy homework instead; all of which has left us with a shallow, superficial understanding of what the world is.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.

Comments

Nusrat Ara's picture

A wonderful piece. I can

A wonderful piece. I can relate to you somewhere as I also belong to a conflict region.

regards
Nusrat

Nusrat

Dando's picture

Wonderful piece indeed!

I really enjoyed reading your article and love it!
it brought out what is really behind the religion.
it is only through persistance that you can see the edge of the tunnel. continue your activistism and enlightening people on their rights.
Great work
Best of luck!

Tina's picture

Insightful and wonderfully written

Dear Arda,
This is a great piece. You helped me to see what daily life was like for you in your region and the conflicts that go on, not just on your streets, but also in your mind. I really enjoyed this. Really well done.
Warm wishes
Tina

Leslie's picture

Feedback

Arda,
This is an excellent piece with tremendous color and use of sensory reporting. I'm one of the editorial midwives on the project and so my comments are pretty straight forward.

Overall, I think the writing is superb. The only thing the piece is missing is factual back-up to support all your great color. This is more of an opinion piece. It would run perfectly as an op-ed piece, but not as a frontline piece.

Needed elements: What you need is to bring in some solid reporting by the sixth graph. After the first "That same week, one of my close friends..." graph. Normally, you would bring in your nut graph that explains to the reader why your're writing the piece and where you're going with it by the third graph at the latest. But your storytelling style pretty much grabs the reader and I think you can keep her twice as long as an article normally would keep her attention.

By that graph, the reader starts saying - OK, I have all this great color, I'm hooked, you've got me, but where are we going. You do start to get there in the "What I'm trying to say is..." graph but that doesn't come for a while, and the reader is kinda wondering by now where you're taking her.

Length: I think you can chop a fair amount off of the second part while peppering it with the newsy information you need to support your thoughts. Comments on similar lines from a women's rights org. How they feel on that very same subject you're stream of consciencing about. Get them to give you a broad perspective on what women in the same situation have told them they feel on the matter you're sharing your thoughts about - the keeping quiet about some things, the anger, the holding to one's arguments, etc.
There's no way to add this to the piece without cutting somewhere, otherwise I think the length would lose the reader.

Lastly, although you don't have a solution, and we all know not too many people do, after you saying that you don't, you could have an outside source give their idea of a solution. At least to have some sort of resolve, even if a proposed and unsuccessful or untested one. At least it puts an idea out there.

Hope some of this helps.

Leslie Parrilla

Leslie's picture

Similar style

Also,
Wanted to add that you and Tina have very similar writing styles. And with that sensory ability, you both can keep readers holding on a bit longer until you hit them with the cold, hard, news. If you have a chance to read her's, you'll see what I mean. It's a good thing, in my humble opinion.

Leslie

Maria de Chirikof's picture

so interesting!

It is so fascinating reading accounts from someone actually from Palestine/Israel! I feel so much empathy for the Palestinians but know it must be hard to be an average Israeli and face so much animosity from everyone. I always think that the regular people don't mind "the other race" and could probably live side by side without problem except for the governments stirring things up...

hugs and a very interesting post,

Maria

Jennifer Ruwart's picture

Beautiful

Beautiful, Arda. I was caught up in your story from start to end. Congratulations.

Jennifer Ruwart
Chief Collaborator
JR Collaborations

Nusrat Ara's picture

Congratulations. I am happy

Congratulations. I am happy for you.

Nusrat

mamaAfrica's picture

Congratulations

Dear Arda

Congratulations, you made it. I rejoice with you

mamaAfrica

giftypearl.abenaab's picture

Congratulations

CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!! You write well and i love it!

Gifty Pearl Abenaab
Founder
Greight Foundation
www.greightfoundation.org

Arda's picture

Is this happening?

Dear all,

When I read Leslie's message a little over a week ago, I kept thinking of how lucky I am to get this kind of input posted on my journal. There were such accurate remarks in there and I've been thinking about ways to be more focused in writing; how to improve my writing, and how to keep on learning from and connecting with you all.

I have to say, I truly did not expect that the next time I'd check my profile, I would find ''congratulations'' posted. I read the word once, twice, and by the time I read it again, my smile was reaching from cheek to cheek; drawing my co-workers' attention to me who were teasing "OOOH she must've received something personal in her email!''

Personal, it sure is. I couldn't even share this for a few minutes as I wanted to take the moment in.

I have to say, I still cannot believe it, as I have read the frontline journals and was truly impressed with what I read. I cannot wait to read more, to write more, and to get to know this team more - a team that I'm genuinely proud to be a part of.

Arda

malayapinas's picture

I'm so touched

Dear Arda,

Congratulations! I'm just a little relax today after very full pack weeks of July and I'm happy I can't wait another busy days to share my thoughts with you. I understand how you felt sharing your story and I'm so touched . You show the different responses of people under seige, people who lost their freedom , people who lost their houses, their lands and their love ones. You show images of people who fight for their rights, people who are afraid and scared because of too much violence, people who don't care for others but only care for their own pleasure and people who killed innocent Palestinians.

i understand when fear immobilized us and accept silently what is unacceptable - we cannot make judgment and just hang in there , yet deep in our hearts we know we should do something to change. I think, it is a process that all of us undergo but sooner or later we have to make judgment and take sides. I hope someday when you reach that stage of being wise to make judgment - it will be a judgment that will free Palestine, a judgment where anger, grief and fear will be a joy of peace and justice among Palestinian people.

Thank you for sharing your story!

love,
malaya

jodelight's picture

powerful

Dear Arda,

I was so moved with the power of your words. Such a world of conflict... What is the solution? I'm not sure how to redeem a solution out of so much conflict either. That being said, I will continue to pursue a solution and peace from this conflict and other global conflicts.
You are so right about fear. It has only taught us more fear, and anger, and hatred. I read your piece over a few times, each time finding a new paragraph that was insightful. Keep writing, your story is so crucial to our ears.

in search of peace,

jodelight
jody

sunita.basnet's picture

Wow what a powerful piece

Dear Arda,
First of all congratulation tobe selected as a three best VOF frontline journal writer. Keep it up. I found your piece as a powerful and inspiring. I love it.

Yes, I can understand you the problem during and after the war. Our country, Nepal was also suffering from 10 years long war. We do have a same problem in our country. You are brave you bring this out.
Love you
Sunita

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

cad_communication's picture

An insight into your world

Beloved Arda,

You have done! Congradulation.

I was not surprised when i read that your frontline journal had been selected as one of the three to be published. I know that you have a powerful voice and my interview with you made me understand the environment you and other young girls in Jerusalem live in. You take us into your world and you make us see Jerusalem and we understand hindden facts that are usually left out in may writings. As i read your article i became the 20 people who you were guiding.

Thank you for providing this insight into your world. I look forward to learning more about Israel.

With love,
Gertrude Pswarayi

Pat's picture

Wonderful piece!

Great job, Arda. Your writing is clear and moving. I'm proud of you!
Patricia

Patricia

marietta64's picture

hi

perfect...

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