I was born in Silwan to a Palestinian family that had to move to Jericho when I was 11 years old. Until then, I had no idea what a Jew or an Israeli was, and what Occupation meant.
My first encounter with Israelis was on the way to school, when an army jeep blocked my path. The soldiers spoke to me in a language I didn’t understand, snatched my bag and emptied it on the pavement.
After that I refused to go to school alone, and my father would accompany me. Soldiers stood across from the school, and the children would whistle and throw stones. The soldiers would scatter tear gas. Sometimes the school would be closed for days or weeks.
At night, I would hear the young people demonstrating in the city streets – yelling, burning tyres, throwing stones. After that, soldiers would enter houses, and take out youngsters to clean the roads.
Once they knocked down the door to our house, very loudly. I saw a soldier standing in the dark with a weapon, and my father running at him, shouting in Hebrew. The soldiers took my father away; I didn’t know where to. I stayed with my sisters and my mother cried all night. My father returned in the morning, with marks on his body. He didn’t speak, he just sat on the side quietly and smoked.
I decided that these were my enemies and that I wanted revenge. I started throwing rocks, too, tagging walls with graffiti messages, making Molotov cocktails. This went on until I was arrested for the first time, for hanging up a Palestinian flag.
I supported the Oslo Agreements, I wanted peace and a state. I volunteered for the police force.
In 1996 we went to guard a settlement near Jericho. We got stuck between Palestinians throwing rocks and soldiers firing at the dissidents. My friend was wounded. The ambulance that came to evacuate him was shot at. The paramedic was shot in the back 3 times. My friend was killed.
So, I decided that the Jewish nation could not be trusted, that peace would not happen. I wanted revenge, I planned to be more active in the Second Intifada.
Yet, the opposite happened. A friend invited me to a meeting in Beit Jalla. When I arrived, I discovered there were Israelis there. I didn’t want to sit or talk to them, so I sat on the side. I heard an Israeli woman say, “We’re allowed to defend ourselves and we’re allowed to defend our people, but what happened in Gaza – to blow up a whole building and kill several families to take out one terrorist, that’s not acceptable to me. That is not my people, that is not my army.”
I wanted to hug her. That hug changed my life. I kept meeting with Israelis, learning about them. My entire perspective shifted. I believe that we can only save the situation together. We must find a way to share this land and not partition it.