CHAPTERS
    Personal stories Maya Epstein
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    Maya Epstein

    Tel-Aviv

    I was a kid when the Oslo accords took place. It was hopeful time, when my parents would tell me, “when you grow up you won’t have to serve in the military” and they believed it. In my family I was taught to respect every human being, no matter where they came from.

    When I was 16, the Second Intifada broke. It was a sharp switch from a carefree life and summer time in Tel Aviv, to one filled with horror at the attacks. Suddenly I started hearing, in my tolerant home, sentences such as, “They do not value human life. They raise their children to die, and all we want is to live”.

    After I completed my military service and obtained my degree, I started working as a journalist. I already knew I was opposed to the Occupation, but still I did not have a burning desire to pursue change. I mostly felt despair thinking about the state of things and the growing distance between my state of mind and that of most people in society. When the opportunity knocked and I was able to go on a student exchange program, I quit my job and flew to Paris.

    In Paris I joined a conversation group for Middle Eastern students. One day, a few Palestinian students came to the meeting. It was the first time in my life that I met people who define themselves as Palestinian.

    As we talked for long hours, we were able to agree about very few things. The conversation was disheartening. Further, each one of them had an intense personal story: about a family member who was jailed or killed, about living with the constant risk of having your home invaded by the military, and also small stories about being humiliated at the checkpoints. Up until that day, I only knew of stories like that through the television or newspaper, and I was always sure that it simply wasn’t possible that these things were happening.

    I started thinking: what else happens to people who live on the other side – what other stories take place there? These questions ran through my mind.

    I returned home, having decided that I could no longer ignore the reality I had now been exposed to, and go on living my comfortable life, because I had a responsibility to do something. I shared my thoughts with an Israeli student who waited with me at the airport before flying home. He told me about Combatants for Peace and asked me if I would like to join. I hesitated for a moment, and then I told him I would.

    I have been a member of the movement ever since.

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