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I Found Myself in Palestine

- by Khadija Jones, UK -

Perplexed by an identity crisis as a British born Muslim with a mix of Eastern and Western values and searching for a greater purpose I embarked on my journey to Israel and Palestine. Ignoring resistance in the form of comments such as, ‘Why are you going somewhere which does not concern you?’ from the offset my perception of the world completely changed. Fully out of my comfort zone I was interrogated by Israeli border control for several hours, my privacy was violated and I was accused of having terrorist links at the same time of being a ‘Bad Muslim’ for not wearing a hijab. They told me they ‘knew what type of person I was’. I was the type of person in search of truth, as are many volunteers who venture to the West Bank to experience the occupation for themselves and defy the injustice. I should have been intimidated by this comment, but instead I was proud, proud to be on the right side of history.

I faced humiliation, fear and sadness during my detainment but once in the Holy Land of the persecuted I began to realise my experiences were only a fraction of the discrimination faced by Palestinians every single day. In Palestine I felt ashamed to be British. The Balfour Declaration was one of the root causes of the segregation, a remnant of British colonialism. I was granted the right to walk down Shuhada Street when my Palestinian guide and friend was not permitted simply for being Palestinian. I was allowed into Jerusalem whilst Palestinian I sat with on the bus were removed and denied entry. This was Apartheid. Something I never considered still existed let alone thought that I would experience in my lifetime. I stood on hilltops looking across concrete walls dividing Palestinian land and families. I took quick showers due to the many water restrictions imposed by Israeli control. I experienced every aspect of my movement under surveillance from watchtowers, foot soldiers and even drones by the Israeli military. Roads were closed at a moment notice or I would have to pass through checkpoints to travel to where I wanted to go. I came face to face with armed military soldiers who demanded that we stop planting olive trees in support of Palestinian livelihoods, with only my spade in my hands.

I met extremely brave women and children who had faced arrests, injuries and even lost loved ones to the occupation. I saw strength and resilience; community and I saw love. I found a sense of belonging and self-discovery in the occupation. A place where human connection transcended all other social and cultural taboos. I met courageous Israeli activists who faced backlash for doing the right thing. Labelled as self-hating Jews, but even amongst immense pressure they refused to back down. Placing their principles ahead of their lives. It was easy to make connections with individuals from all over the world when we felt the same indescribable feelings of despair, but together we turned those feelings into action.

One morning at breakfast I sat with a Caucasian lady who blurted out, ‘I’ve never felt so much White privilege in my life than I have being in Palestine’ it had been troubling her. Then it dawned on me, I was also privileged here, but I had that experience of discrimination in the UK. That powerful combination gave me the understanding and motivation that I needed.

On reflection learnt the true meaning of hospitality and compassion. I appreciated my own freedom to a new level, and I felt gratitude in my heart for the simple things in life. conscious of the rights I had taken for granted such as my freedom of movement and ability to work.

Palestine is a place that will change you forever, even when you least expect it. Heavy contemplation after my return was that – I was human. It was my duty as a British citizen coupled with strength from my faith as a Muslim to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine. These traits which were held against me were actually my sources of power. I had found my purpose and I had found myself.

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1 comment:

  1. So well described by you is the true nature of this cruel and bigoted occupation that demeans both oppressor and oppressed. Please also read books by Ilan Pappe a brave Israeli historian especially "The biggest prison on Earth ". Best of luck.

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