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An Unexpected Link
Last summer I attended the International Summer School (ISS), which is part of the University of Oslo, Norway. For me, as an Israeli and a human-being, it was a life-changing experience, because I met Wissal there.
The first thing that I knew about Wissal was that she has beautiful blue eyes. The second thing was that she is a Palestinian. Being the only Israeli in the ISS, I was anxious, yet enthusiastic, to meet Palestinian students. Back in Tel-Aviv, Israel, it was hard to imagine that I would drink a friendly cup of coffee on a pleasant Norwegian night with a Palestinian student. Even harder was to imagine that we could discuss the conflict`s most controversial issues, and still remain friends at the end of the day.
Now, when I am back in Tel-Aviv, it seems again as no more than a beautiful dream.
After serving 4 years in the IDF as a paramedic and medical-corps officer, I started my academic studies at Tel-Aviv University. I graduated Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology, and took a few courses about conflict-resolution. Then I applied for the ISS. I did not yet know what effect this will have on me.
Till arriving at the ISS, I did not meet face to face with any Palestinian living in Gaza or the West-Bank, not even during my military-service. What I knew about their lives was mostly what I saw in Israeli media. At that time, I did not really understand the other side, even though I tried to...
Meeting Wissal changed all that: she is a beautiful 26 years-old coordinator of health-project, and a nurse in her profession. She lives in Halhul, and she has a charming and friendly personality. I was amazed to hear about her life in the West-Bank and the difficulties she had, as a Palestinian, to get to Oslo:
Since the Israeli army put a closure on the West-Bank, she had to take a ride in an ambulance, because that was the only vehicle allowed to pass the blockades. Then she walked a long distance by foot, and drove through indirect roads to Jericho. From Jericho she got to Jordan (where she was again stopped on the border), and from Jordan, through London, she got to Oslo. until hearing her story, I could not understand what it meant not to have a passport or to be limited in your freedom to travel (though I am not allowed into few Arab countries).
Wissal holds a Master's degree in public and community health, and studied at the international community health class in Oslo. She even speaks good Hebrew, but since my Arabic did not improve much after taking those few lessons in the sixth grade, we communicated mostly in English. We talked about the Palestinian right to self-rule, the refugee problem and her belief that East Jerusalem should be the future Palestinian capital. She told me about her deep disappointment with the Oslo Agreement implementation, but in the end we both agreed that in order to achieve peace to this historic conclict, people in both societies must believe that peace is the only way, no matter how hard it is.
The most important thing that meeting Wissal in Oslo did for me, is that now I can see more clearly: Palestinians have the same dreams and goals as Israelis. We are very much the same, even if sometimes we see the same thing differently. there is no one way of understanding this conflict. But more important is to remember that we can agree on what we want our future to look like, and that we can imagine it together...
After going back, Wissal and I kept in touch. We linked together easily, and I hope that this friendship will hold. And why not ? after all, Wissal means link in Arabic...
To Wissal, who just got married. May peace come soon.
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