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August 26, 2014

Viewpoint from the West Bank: ‘We are all humans’

westbank_1 Alma, a 19-year-old Palestinian who sent us her story.

Alma is a 19-year-old Palestinian living in the West Bank while studying to be a journalist. She and her friends enjoy traveling and camping around the West Bank. Alma is interested in becoming a political reporter, and in the West Bank where she lives, “everyone is interested in politics,” she said.

Alma attended the Seeds of Peace summer camp, where both Israelis and Palestinians gather to find a common bond. It was an experience that changed her understanding of the conflict.

My journey with politics started a long time ago when I was a kid. My parents would take me for peace camps that include both Israelis and Palestinians. I had to talk about politics since I was young.

I’m kind of a peace activist. I’m not pro-any violence. I see what is happening here, and I see many people suffering, including myself. I have suffered from the occupation since I first opened my eyes to this world.

We used to have clashes behind my house when I was young. We lived near a settlement and there was a small mountain behind us where some teenagers clashed with settlers.

When the Israeli occupation or Israeli soldiers came to break up the fights, we used to hide in another apartment downstairs. We had two apartments, one for our ordinary life and another for when the occupation gets in the city. We used to move a lot from one apartment to another because of the clashes that happened in the area.

My parents just worried about our safety. They didn’t care about my political awareness, they just cared for my safety and they tried their best to cover us during the hard times.

I have a lot of friends in Gaza. We always keep in touch with them. They always post statuses and what they’re going through on Facebook or Twitter. We always check on them or talk to them about the situation. Thankfully, they are all safe so far. If we didn’t have Facebook or Twitter it would be really hard to contact them because the electricity sometimes cuts off in Gaza and the connection is really bad so we can’t talk to them on the phone most of the time.

I want people to know that violence won’t solve anything because we’re not equal sides. The Israelis and the Palestinians are never equal sides. They have power. They have support from all over the world. We don’t have power, we don’t have anything. All these resistance movements, what they do, I think is a waste of other victims’ lives. Most of the people who died are civilians; they had nothing to do with the conflict. Ordinary people are the ones who are paying the price.

When I first arrived at camp I was such a closed-minded person. I used to that think violence was the only way to get back our rights. I used to just ignore what the other side said. I didn’t hear anything. I had beliefs that were in my mind since I was young and I couldn’t accept the other side.

But my eyes have been opened recently. I was such a closed-minded person. I didn’t accept the other side. I didn’t accept peace. I thought it was just stupid to have peace with people who wanted to kill us.

But then I realized that they have peaceful people just like us. They were born there. They didn’t choose to be Israelis. And we also were born here, and we didn’t choose to be Palestinians. I believe that at the end of the day we are all humans. We deserve dignity, rights and equal lives, so I don’t care if you’re Israeli or Jewish, I care about what you think, and I care about your humanity.

I just want to let people in the United States and in other countries know that Palestinians are also people who love to live. We’re not terrorists. We’re just looking for a way to have a better future. I’m just looking to have a simple life, like yours and anyone else in the United States.

Interview by Corinne Segal. Names have been changed. Interview was conducted over Skype and the transcript has been edited for clarity. 

For more voices from Israel and Palestine, read our interviews with other students in Israel and Gaza.

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