Michal Hochberg 

Rishon LeZion
I was born in Rishon LeZion. My father was born in Poland and moved to Israel
when he was one years old. My grandparents were Holocaust survivors who had lost
almost all of their family in the war. My grandmother's story deeply affected my
identity and my worldview. My mother and her parents were all born in Israel. They
fought with the Etzel in their youth.

At home, my parents spoke of peace and about the need to reach a political
agreement with the Palestinians. We wanted peace, but we feared the Palestinians.

Even hearing Arabic would scare me; the images of the Palestinians on television
who want to kill us, alongside the terror attacks that happened in my youth, confused
me deeply. At the time, the violence seemed one-sided to me.
 
At the age of 15, I was at the peace rally where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.
During the rally there was an amazing sensation, we felt like we were on our way to
finally achieving peace. We were dancing together, Jews and Arabs, and we were
excited by the multitude of people coming to the rally.

The assassination at the end of that evening was one of the defining events of my
life. Until then, I had thought of my society as a peaceful one, and did not know that
there were violent, extremist, peace-opposing people in it.
 
When I was 18 years old I joined the army. I was excited for my military service and
did not perceive the army or the service as violent. I wanted to be posted in a
significant position and that my family would be proud of me. Throughout my army
service I did not meet any Palestinians.
 
At first I was a youth instructor: I taught high school boys how to shoot weapons and
about battle heritage. I taught exactly what I had been taught — I did not ask
questions about what I was supposed to teach, nor did I make the connection
between the fact that I was teaching them how to use weapons, and that they would
become soldiers who would use this knowledge in violent activity. Later I served as
an officer and did my reserve duty in the Home Front Command.
 
When I started university, I was exposed to new knowledge about the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict, and I joined a group that was studying it. We read articles and
went on tours with Breaking the Silence and Ir Amim. There I saw, for the first time,
the reality of the Occupation. At the end of the process we were in an eight-day
seminar attended by Germans, Israelis and Palestinians. After this incident, in which
I first met Palestinians personally and heard their stories and the daily suffering they
were experiencing, I could no longer keep my eyes closed.
 
Something in my identity, something in my narrative, felt broken. No one wanted to
hear my experiences and I felt very lonely and angry. I looked for a group to belong
to and work with to end the occupation. When I heard about Combatants for Peace
they seemed brave and inspiring. I felt that Israelis and Palestinians, joined in
nonviolent resistance, could be an alternative and together influence reality.
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Personal stories of Palestinians and Israelis who had been a part of the violence or witness to it. Yet they all made the choice to walk the path of non-violent activism and partnership.
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