"Tonight, I want to talk about the fear..."
On October 18th, 2015, 1500 Jews and Arabs gathered in central Jerusalem to stand up for peace and shared living. Two parents at Hand in Hand delivered speeches.
Gili Rei, a Jewish parent at Hand in Hand and the co-chair of our parent's committee, and Morad Muna, a parent at Hand in Hand.
Below is Gili's speech, click here to read what Morad said.
I am a mother of two children at the Hand in Hand bilingual school in Jerusalem. As a mother, I make sure to tell my children it's ok: it's ok to be angry, it's ok to be afraid, and sometimes we even ought to be afraid. Tonight, I want to talk about the fear. I do not want to sweep it under the rug, I do not want to shut my eyes or wave it dismissively. Fear is a real feeling, a human feeling, an essential defense mechanism, and you cannot argue with those who feel fear. I am scared. In these days our children do not return home by public transportation. There's a desire to remain indoors and when we're outside on the streets we look around extra closely. I am afraid something bad will happen to someone I love, and I ache for and deeply sympathize with those whose loved ones have been hurt.
My Palestinian friends from the Hand in Hand community are also afraid: afraid to speak Arabic on the street, afraid of losing their jobs, afraid of being suspected or being a target of violent attacks by police officers, soldiers or just ordinary Jewish citizens - who themselves are also afraid. Our friends who live in East Jerusalem are afraid that they will not be able to leave their neighborhoods, that they will have to undergo degrading strip searches, that their children will leave for school in the morning and not be able to return home because their neighborhood will be under curfew. Indeed, you cannot argue with fear, you cannot ignore it. But you can also not let it rule us.
In the face of fear, I stand now, as I did almost a year ago when classrooms in our school were torched by arsonists, looking fear straight in the eye, even if my eyes are veiled by tears and pain, and I offer an alternative. Because when there is an alternative, fear is certainly still there, but it cannot take over. My alternative is a choice to be part of the Hand in Hand community - a conscious choice of living together, with all the challenges and difficulties that come along.
It is not because I'm naive, and this is not a bubble of a few enthusiasts or fanatics. After all, we have chosen to do something that is so simple and ordinary such as going to school. This is a conscious choice filled with hope, based on the premise that for life to be better here one day, we must build it with our own hands, not just wait for a leadership that will be brave enough to end the occupation and the oppression.
Not only our children are building their lives together; We too, as parents, take and take part in the building process: stone upon stone, emotion upon the emotion, conversation after conversation, identity facing identity, fear facing fear, trust and love. This is the second time Murad and I talk together on stage. The last time was six months ago, at the joint ceremony on Memorial Day at our school. Among the things I said back then, I referred to the home we found in the Hand in Hand community, and so I said: we found this home here, in the school, in our community, in our shared life - Jews and Arabs. We chose to be together both when times hard and when times are happy, and allow one another to ache, love, dream, hope, and create something new together that does not erase the places and homes we came from, but builds a space with enough room for all of us. In these difficult and painful times that we are experiencing here in Jerusalem, when fear keeps rising, there is a feeling that maybe this home of ours is a dream. But it is not. It is real and is strong and stable and it spans far beyond the walls of our school and our community. Like the rally here this evening, it is part of the alternatives we have to offer in order not to let fear overcome. Hope too is real, vital, human. And we do not give it up. Not tonight, not tomorrow, not ever.