I recently returned from a four-day trip touring East Jerusalem and the West Bank. I spent time meeting with Palestinian civil society activists, including our friend and former guest Mazen Faraj from the Parents Circle. I heard a variety of perspectives on Palestinian life amidst the conflict, and the visit left me reflecting on our work at Boston Partners for Peace.
One person I met is a Palestinian who is involved with Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and reconciliation projects. He told us that you cannot make peace from a place of fear, rather peace can only be achieved through recognition of the other. He was adamant that those who are afraid—be it from demographic concerns, terrorism, or military control—are not capable of making peace. This idea seems intuitive, yet when he said it out loud it struck me as profound. I asked him why he thinks this is the case. What is the psychology of fear and why does it prevent people from making peace? His answer was simple: when you fear someone, you fail to see their humanity.
I was reminded of this when I spoke with a peacebuilder who lives in a refugee camp near Bethlehem. He said that becoming a peace activist was one of the only choices he has been able to make in his life. He has always lived as a victim of his circumstance, not choosing to grow up as a refugee with the hardships that entails. But he did have a choice: to succumb to despair and violence or view his historic enemy as human and try to find a path for reconciliation. He chose the latter, and his journey continues to inspire many Israelis and Palestinians, not to mention many of us in Boston.
I am fortunate to have many choices in my life. I can choose what to eat, what to wear, where to go to school, how to live out my passions, and what issues matter to me. I choose to care about Israeli and Palestinian peacebuilders because I believe that recognizing others as human will make the world a better place for us all. I choose to support these efforts because I want to be on the right side of history. I choose to be on the side of love and not the side of fear. I choose a brighter future.