Last summer, I participated in the most incredible program in Italy called WYSE (everyone should really check out WYSE, it was the experience of a lifetime: http://www.wyse-ngo.org/). During this program, I made an incredible friend. I want to tell you our story.

 

In previous years, several Palestinians and Israelis took part in WYSE. Their participation has not been easy – the relationship was full of tensions and even hatred. The moment Mahmoud and I met, I knew something special would transpire. “Hi, I’m Marina from Jerusalem, Israel”. “Hi, I’mMahmoud, from Jerusalem, Palestine”, he answered. We were both incredibly nervous at this meeting – he told me I was the first Israeli he ever met. He and his family live in Jordan, after being expelled from their home in Jerusalem. For the first few days, we talked about everything. Mahmoud jokes that we talked about 1948 to 2012 – but it’s pretty true. The other participants listened to us on the program’s breaks, and even the staff was very inspired. I have to say the conversations with him were incredibly inspiring to me as well. But suddenly we reached a breaking point – I had to speak honestly and tell Mahmoud that I have been listening and understanding him for a few intense days now, but I felt that he had forgotten my side of the story when saying Jordan to the sea should be Palestine. What about my home in Jerusalem? What about me – a person he has grown so attached to? Mahmoud listened, and I explained it was very hard for me to say these things to him, but I had to – I told him how every time one of my Jewish friends talks badly about Palestinians, I always stand up to them, even when I become an outcast through my actions. Would he do the same for me? Mahmoud ended up telling me that I had changed his life, and that he will take it “as his responsibility” to always consider me, his close friend, when he thinks and talks about the issue with others. The Palestinian cause is HIS LIFE. Hearing that I will be part of it now touched me deeply. When we said goodbye, we nearly cried, and he gave me a branch of rosemary from a near-by bush (a bit cliché, but I keep it in my wallet and smile every time I see it). I miss him dearly – and am so touched that I could be so honest with a Palestinian for the first time in my life.

 

Miss you Mahmoud!!

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