CHAPTERS
    Personal stories David Willner
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    David Willner

    Peth-Tikva

    I grew up with parents who believed that just as we have a country and deserve to live in it safely, the Palestinians deserve one too.

    Until I joined the military at 18, as required by law, I was very active and worked towards peace; but I never met and never saw a Palestinian. The first time I met Palestinians was in the military, when I was a soldier and served in the South Hebron Hills.

    After the army I wanted to continue working for peace. In 2008 I went to Combatants for Peace’s Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony. I was moved to know that there are Israelis and Palestinians working together. It was the first time I met Palestinians inside Israel and not in Palestine. Then, I joined the movement.

    In 2008-2009 there was the war in Gaza. At that time I was a student and attended a university in Sderot, close to Gaza.

    The war was very hard, for both sides.

    From my home in Sderot I could see the IDF’s planes and choppers firing rockets on Gaza. On the other hand, rockets were fired from Gaza, at Sderot, every day.

    I was a member of the southern group of Combatants for Peace at the time. We said, even if there is a war going on, we want to continue meeting; we want to work together, Israelis and Palestinians, even as the war is going on.

    Combatants for Peace believes that we need to pursue peace without violence. One Saturday morning, during the war, we decided to meet at our Palestinian friend’s home near Susya. I drove to the Susya checkpoint. Suddenly, as I was driving, right before arriving at the checkpoint, at a stoplight in Be’er Sheva, there was an alarm; which means there is a rocket headed towards the city. I was at the stoplight, unsure what to do. I left my vehicle, ran and clung to a wall of a house to protect myself. The alarm rings for one minute before the rocket arrives. I told myself, war is such a crazy thing. I work for peace, I don’t believe in violence; I am on my way to meet with Palestinians who believe in a nonviolent struggle, Palestinians who want peace and want to work with me, and I am going to die because of this war that neither of us wants.

    Then I arrived at Yusri’s house. Everyone was a bit upset over the war. Yusri asked me, “Tell me, why is your government making this war, why?”

    I don’t know, Yusri. Can you tell me why the Hamas is shooting rockets at us?”

    Yusri said, “I did not choose Hamas.”

    I said, “I did not choose this government.”

    That is why I am in Combatants for Peace. We prove that we can work together, Israelis and Palestinians, in order to end the cycle of violence; to pursue justice and peace, and safety for both sides, even in the hardest of situations.

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