Israel – my home and a place where I feel rooted – and its people, conflicts, and complexities, has always been rich in stories waiting to be told. In 2012, I was part of a group of Jewish Israeli women ranging in age from 20 to 60, who would meet once a month with a group of Palestinian women from the area of Tulkarm in Palestine. We would alternate the location of our get-together: one month we would carpool across the Green Line to one of their homes, and the next month they would arrange a bus to a city in Israel. Once when we went to them, they took us to an amusement park and it was a wonderful day full of childish laughter and pure fun. When you think of Palestine, you don’t typically think of an amusement park, right? When they came to us, we met at the picturesque Bahai’i Gardens in Haifa, shared a guided tour of the gardens, and then had a picnic overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Some of the younger women became friends. We would talk about our educational aspirations, our partners, foods we enjoyed. But when we were together I felt acutely aware of the differences between us. Some of the younger girls had never been to the beach, even though they grew up less than two hours away. I could go to the beach whenever I wanted. They would need to apply for rarely-approved permits to enter Israel and go to the beach. Even for that day in Haifa, all Palestinian participants needed to receive permits in order to come, and many could not make it because, at the last minute, their permit applications were denied.
I share this story because most Israelis never encounter this reality, even though it exists in such close geographic proximity. Most Israelis never really interact with Palestinian citizens of Israel, let alone with Palestinians from the West Bank. I am lucky to have had these experiences, which broadened my view of the place I am from and the complex reality of life there for many people. But I know that others will not, so it is important to me to tell such stories to open the eyes of others.