In Rome International airport, July 2011. it happened that I met Aviva who came to participate in an International camp about the refugee and immigrants issue in Europe. Aviva didn’t know that I’m Palestinian but she loved my attention about Israel and that I have a bit of knowledge that allowed me to understand whenever she spoke about the social justice demonstrations in Tel Aviv and many other cities in Israel and how she hate those left wing socialists in Israel.
In a moment when I tried to justify the Israeli social justice demonstrations she replied that she love Benjamin Netanyahu, and that he is the only Jewish leader who protect Israel. I understood for the first time that her support to Netanyahu as also others who support Netanyahu comes more from emotional reasons than any rational reason. That was in the first hours of our meeting, we had moved to another sleeping place - and during the night we went out to smoke and drink. Aviva didn’t drink Alcohol and she had brought with her a kosher food from Israel more enough for her whole trip in Italy which was more about three weeks. We started chatting again during the night - and when she asked if I’m Italian - I told her: no I’m Palestinian. She laughed and considered it only a joke.
I wanted to shock her with the truth so I pulled up my passport and gave it to her to check. She was speechless and unconsciously asked “why then you are nice?” In few minutes she claimed that she was sleepy and she needed to go to sleep. I was sure she just wanted to stop talking with me.
Another group of Israeli nominees who were from Tel Aviv area joined in the next day. They seemed very secular but very nationalistic. Aviva who is very religious and who grow up in Ma'ale Adumim settlement in West bank spent all her time with them. The point behind bringing Palestinian and Israeli participants in such a pure European conference was to give us the chance to get to know each other. However, at the beginning we were totally separated and avoiding each other. Each one of us sadly was closer to the Italian participants than to each other - when in fact we both came from the same land. Aviva was doubtful and she sometimes spoke with me about Judaism and what is kosher and was is not kosher.
Getting access to Internet in Italy was not an easy dream. For that I had to buy an Italian SIM card and to book an Internet service for one month “this needed a whole week to be possible”. I needed the internet to stay in touch with friends and family back in home and in the rest of the world. Strangely - I was the only participant who cared to have internet. One night while I was Skyping with a friend, Aviva came to offer me money so I let her to use my laptop and my internet. She asked how much money I wanted, so she can use my laptop to Skype with her husband, as she missed him! I was shocked to get such an offer. Firstly - because I’ve never got money (or asked for any in the past) for such help. Secondly, because Aviva was brave to ask me a help after some days of no talk! I told her that she can use my laptop the whole night and whenever she needs to Skype with anyone and she don’t need to pay me money because I don’t make business out of my laptop.
Aviva used my laptop for almost one an hour and she came back to my room she was crying. She asked me again “why did you help me?” I told her that I’m not really doing something extraordinary. If I needed such thing I would ask for it. Plus, I don’t need my laptop 24 hours and anyone can borrow it from me if they need it. Aviva responded telling me that she understands what I’m saying but she is Jewish and I’m Palestinian! I told her it’s sad that we hold such images on our minds about each other that is usually not true. It’s sad that we don’t see how similar we are. I told Aviva that many of my friends are Jewish and the woman I loved is Jewish. I told her that the more we break the fears inside us and the more we discover each other the more we will find that we can live together in peace and harmony.
I think that Aviva later went into a storm of thinking and doubting all what she believed once about Palestinians. She started to come daily to me to ask how Palestinians life looks like and what is going on in our homes, our cities and our universities. We spent hours learning about each other. Aviva who continued using my laptop was so eager to make a favour for me. She started to think every day about me when she cooked something for herself. She made me lunches and dinners each day so I didn’t need to eat the Italian Pasta that I don’t like at all!
Aviva changed so much! She even demanded from me a very weird demand. She - as many Israelis, lives with security fears. I can’t demand that those fears are exaggerated. But it’s not healthy at all. She wanted from me to promise her that if a huge war happened against Israel to hide her and her family in my house because Arabs will not attack Palestinians houses. I told her that there is no need to think always about wars and darkness. I told her that she and her family are always welcomed to my house. I pray to God that she never needs to come out of survival and escape - but to come always out of missing and happiness.
Aviva’s Father was a Rabbi; she used to always Skype with him too! Always to get his guidance about keeping the Jewish laws in her time with us. Where to eat and where to avoid eating - since the eating rooms usually had food with pork meat - also how to observe Shabbat and so on. She told her Father about me and her father told her that it’s not strange to meet good Arabs – but that she shouldn’t be fooled because Arabs are not all like Hamze.
The other Israeli nominees were too much politicalized! They show dissatisfaction about Aviva’s responds and interactions with me. They always tried to stop her! They have warned her in Hebrew many times to be careful with me. I was hearing and able to understand their Hebrew words!