I grew up in Haifa, in a moderate-Left house of Ha’avoda (Labor) voters. In my childhood, my grandparents, whose parents immigrated to Israel on the Third and Fourth Aliyah (1919-1931) told me stories about their Palmach service and the establishment of the State of Israel; about planting orchards and raising Hebrew-speaking children. The feeling I got from both my grandparents and parents was that we were a significant part of the country.
In the 1990’s, the air we breathed was full of hope. At home and at school, the sense was that peace was just around the corner. I did not always understand what the excitement was about, like that one day in 4th grade, when Israel and Jordan signed the peace agreement, and my mother stood in front of the TV with a kitchen towel in her hands and wept; but I did realize that something important was happening.
I left my parents’ home with the feeling that leaders will form reality, creating political arrangements ‘on the ground’ that will gradually change the reality of hatred.
Throughout my twenties, the Israeli reality became increasingly grim. Thinking that people who hold opinions like mine do not belong here was becoming widespread and legitimized. Two events led me to be active in the struggle to end the Occupation, and both of them took place in the past three years. The main event was Operation Protective Edge and the death and mass destruction it caused.
The fact that the IDF Spokesperson and the Israeli media openly reported the bombardment of residential buildings, on the tenuous moral pretext that the residents were given a few minutes to evacuate, shocked me. Where were they supposed to go? The other buildings in their neighborhood were also being bombarded.
Following the anxiety and shame that gripped me that summer, I decided to go to the demonstrations against the operation.
A year later was the first time I came to the joint Israeli-Palestinian Remembrance Day ceremony. It was an eye-opening experience. It was strange at first, to try and identify with the pain of the Palestinian families, as I did with Israeli bereaved families.
When the ceremony’s hosts kept repeating the phrase; ‘War is not a decree of fate, but a man’s act’, I had an epiphany. I suddenly realized how much the Israeli Remembrance Day ceremonies are politically-charged events, in which commemoration of the fallen is interwoven with the claim that our hands remain stretched out in peace, but our enemies want to destroy us, so we have no choice.
Suddenly, I realized there was a choice.