Antoinette, from Bethlehem: My Life Story
Contributed by Arab Educational Institute on 25.10.2013:
Interview by: Maria Schmuck
Edited by: Natsumi Morita
Q: Would you please tell me about yourself and your life story?
I: When Israeli army began to build the wall here, it hurt my heart. Before I went to the Anglican church in Jerusalem every day as I was responsible for arranging the flowers for the church with the ladies, guild, and many friends. But now we can’t go there because we must have a permission and with my age of 78 years old it is difficult to go to Jerusalem. Before I went to Jerusalem by my car but now how can I get there? To get to the Jerusalem, I have to walk to the Checkpoint and get on the bus to the Damascus gate. But I cannot walk so I must take a taxi from place to place and it’s difficult.
Even though I am 78 years old, there are no health insurance, health service, facilities for elderly people. And you see that Israeli army took our land but they didn’t include the houses. If they took our home, it means that they must take care of the elderly like me and pay social services such as the health service. That is why they took our land but they left the people.
We tell our children not to immigrate and to stay in the Palestine to take care of our land. We also tell our children how to live in peace for their future. Palestinian young boys throw stones but the stones won’t reach inside the wall because the wall is more than eight meters high. But in return the Israelian throw gas bombs on them. This is really detrimental to our health because when it rains and winds, the gas disperses in the air and when pregnant women inhale it, it affects their fetuses adversary. Women ended up delivering babies much earlier than the expected time so the babies are forced to be in intensive incubator.
Q: How do you deal with this situation that you are living close to the wall and that you can’t move freely?
I: When the Israeli army were throwing gas bombs on us in Beit Jala, they damaged half of Beit Jala. I saw the bombs form the window how they shot them to us. I have the accordion and the piano in my home so I told our children “Don’t worry and don’t listen to the bombs. Come here to sing and dance.” This was how I wanted to change the living situation for the children. We don’t want them to be angry and to be afraid so I encourage them to be happy with the music.
We hope to have peace, but we need peace with justice for the Palestinian people and I am working building a bridge for the peace. We started taking Palestinian ladies to meet with Israeli women in Beit Jala. We call those Israeli women as brave heart women. We meet with Americans as well as Palestinians living in Israel. We organize this so that they can meet each other and be friends like “You are my sister, I am your sister and we are sisters.” As Palestinian, Israeli, Jewish, Muslim and Christian, all of us are women and the women can change the world. We say: The man is the head and the woman is the neck, she can move to change this situation. If all of the women can talk about the peace and the safety of her children, we can find peace to our children.
Also, I take ladies to Haifa. I want Israeli people to see how the Palestinians are educated well and how they work for business, community and so on. They began to change their ideas about the Palestinian and this helps to move forward for the peace. For the Palestinian side, our new generation was born during the Intifada and these children never had Israeli friends. They only know Israeli as a soldier who is carrying a gun and shooting the Palestinian.
Q: What do you think would be necessary that you as Palestinians would be able to close up with the Israelis and to solve problems and to get closer to one another?
I:We hope each government to have peace between themselves. We like to have peace and it has to give us what we have. For achieving peace, it has to be free. Now they are doing negotiations and we are waiting. We are here to buy from Israel. For example, my nephews go every sunday to Tel Aviv to buy a piece of cars. Because we can’t buy anything from our Arab neighbouring countries but only from the Israelian. We are surrounded only to buy from Israel and we pay the tax for them. They occupy us economically and we cannot be separated by Israel.
Q: Is it right that the only thing which you think is hindering you people to close up with the Israeli and the Israeli to close up with you are the politics and the government? So do you think it would be possible to have a close relationship on the small basis like man to man, girl to girl ?
I: The Israeli are not allowed to enter Palestine but they manage to enter with another passport. They came to Beit Jala, the area C. We have many of them who come to Beit Jala to have a meeting with the Palestinian. We do not have a nation for both people but by our work what we need is the mixture of the two people so we go there and they come to us.
Q: Is your family really close to each other and does your family help you as well?
I: There is no social welfare in Palestine like other countries so my nephews ask me “aunti what you need?”. They give me money for eating as well as for my pocket money. All of the Palestinians are the same. The elderly will find their family to take care of themselves.
Q:You say the Palestinian are really social in their families. Does this also help you in the conflict to stay together?
I: Yes it helps us. When there is an old person at home, he or she has great life experiences so we can teach the others to love, to take care of, and to respect each other. We can teach them not to make any trouble and fight against each other. They also go to the church so it is very good to teach your children to go to church every sunday.
Q: Is there something which strenghtens your personality and toughness to face the conflict?
I: I want to build a bridge for peace and I’m not afraid of doing it. I want to help my people and I work for the two people. When I make the two people to face each other, they communicate together. And as we are women, we like our new generation to live in peace so we must meet each other. And first of all we say we like to get know you more and you can get to know about the Palestinian. In this way we respect each other.
Q: It is obvious when you only see soldiers with their guns, you can’t build peace because it’s a gun that does not build bridges. But when you get to know people in another way then do you think people can build peace?
I: When I passed through the checkpoint, I saw a lady soldier sitting in the small cage. I told her I have a permit and my Identity Card and I said to her please tell me how old you are. She told me she is 18 years old. Palestinian girls who finish high school go to the universities and their lives begin there. They share, play and eat together. When I met Israeli ladies, I ask them if their daughters are in the army. They said yes and when I asked their ages they answered that they are18 years old. 18-years-old soldiers are too young. We say “baby” if our children are below 19 years old. It is a pity for a girl being afraid, sitting in a small cage and watching Palestinian going through.