by Mohammad Joulany, K4P Jerusalem Co-Director
Having a cup of tea on my veranda is the best after a long workday especially when the shades are closed. As I sip my tea, I do not want to look at the road that the Jerusalem municipality built by confiscating land from my village to serve the nearby settlement, Rekhes Shufat. It is a tough reality especially when I compare any of the nearby roads with those poorly maintained ones in my village. The municipality collects housing tax “Arnona” yet until today they did not fix the traffic lights in my neighborhood that angry youth destroyed three months ago following the burning of Mohammad AbuKhdeir alive by Israeli settlers.
Living in Jerusalem is getting tougher day after day. It is hard to predict what will happen next. I no longer hang out at the Western part of the city and my wife’s driving route is work and home. “Settlers are everywhere and I do not want my son to be the next victim,” she says. The daily storming of Al Aqsa mosque by settlers is adding salt to the injury. I have not been able to reach it for the past month or so because of the police policy of barring males under the age of fifty to enter the mosque on Fridays. My right to practice my belief is on hold while settlers are gaining more and more presence in Jerusalem by buying and confiscating lands and houses in and around especially in Silwan.
Last Wednesday was no exception, this time it is a Palestinian youth from Silwan running over a number of Israelis resulting in the killing of the three months baby Chaya Zissel and the injury of many others. The horrible events I mentioned and many others prove repeatedly that the cycle of violence will never stop unless we ourselves work on ending incitement. Incitement happens mainly at educational institutes and media against a certain ethnicity, religion, nation, color, etc.
As the co-director of Kids4Peace movement in Jerusalem, I have the honor to meet Palestinian and Israeli families who meet on a regular basis in order to inspire hope and work together toward ending the current situation and tension. It is difficult to stay optimistic in Jerusalem yet kids4Peace makes it possible. Understanding the other is an important step towards finding a peaceful solution for the conflict. Jerusalem is a dear city to all of us and it should remain open to all religions and nationalities; the chosen people by God are the kindest and most considerate.
Last Thursday was a very powerful evening as eighty Kids4Peace families came together. We gathered with the belief that we can make a difference and we will. We are a growing community that want to see the other as a friend and colleague rather than as an enemy. It takes a lot of effort and courage to make a leap for the sake of our beloved city. The question is if we really will be able to change the situation. In my opinion, there is a growing community in Jerusalem tired of hate speech despite the many powerful factors that are dictating the situation. We continue to fail to achieve peace in Jerusalem because we continue to use the same language of “them” instead of using that of “us”. We will continue to fail as long as we do not recognize the right of everyone to live peacefully in dignity and respect. As a community, we are truly dedicated to change the status quo. We are, in my opinion, a non-violent resistance movement that is not against the States rather against incitement from any side. We do not have to change our belief system in order to succeed; we have to start learning how to celebrate our differences. I want to end with a verse from the noble Quran that sums it all:
“O mankind, we have created you from a male and a female, and made you into races and tribes, so that you may identify one another. Surely the noblest of you, in Allah‘s sight, is the one who is most pious of you. Surely Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (49:13)