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Sylvana, from Bethlehem: My Life Story

Contributed by Arab Educational Institute on 25.10.2013:

Interview by: Maria Schmuck

Edited by: Natsumi Morita

June-July 2013


Q: Would you tell me about your important life events?

I: During the first intifada, I was 4 months pregnant. My husband Fuad, his brother and I were at the Nativity church for the Sunday mass. While I was going out to take our car from the parking, there was a clash betweent the young Palestinians and the Israeli soldiers. And a soldier started bombing and he bombed our car. I don’t know if he targeted our car or if it was his mistake but the tear gas entered our car. From the gas I fainted and they took me to the hospital. I fainted for more than one hour so the doctor said that the baby was “khalas” died, because the baby stopped receiving the oxygen. But the Israeli said the cause of the death was not related with the incident but there was something wrong with the baby. So we took the baby to “Hadasa hospital” and they examined the baby and we have a paper saying that the baby was mature but he needed to grow up more. After I lost my baby, I was psychologically ill and depressed. I went to see my doctor in Jerusalem for years. He gave me tablets to calm me down but I was participating in all of the demonstrations against the Israeli occupation as a revenge.

One day I saw an Israeli couple with Kippa. They were on the escalator and carrying their baby cart but their baby was untied. And I knew that in a minute the baby would be “halas” as he would have fallen down and crashed into the escalator. One moment I was happy and I said to myself that I want him to die like they killed my baby. But immediately I said to myself as a Christian believer that this is not me. So I began to shout and I went up to help and carry the baby before he fell down. I began to cry and the Israeli couple were surprised what was happening. I told them that your son was about to die and that I wanted your baby to be killed like your soldiers killed my baby. But I am a Christian believer and I prevented him from falling and they thanked me. If their baby had died, I knew that the Israeli lady as a mother would suffer like I did. This incident changed my life completely. When I saved this boy, it meant that I forgive the Jewish people. I will not forgive the Israeli occupation but a little bit from inside I started feel inner peace in my heart.

Before this incident, if I saw Jewish people, I used to shout in their faces. Also if somebody gave me an excuse for the Israeli army I used to get nervous and used to quarrel with the people. But after this event I stopped all these things and I begin to love others. I became a happy person and maybe be god guided me to this event to change my life.

Q: How does the Arab Educational Institute help you?

I: It helps me greatly. We meet people from abroad and we tell them that we are not terrorists. We are people who just want to live and want our rights of freedom. We have nothing here. On paper there is a Palestinian state, but it is not a state. When people comes to our house from abroad, they see how we are living and that we are human beings like everybody. So they know more about us and more about our conflict. And that’s impotant for people from abroad to get more insights about the conflict because there is no strong Palestinian media in the world. Some people say to me that I am not Palestinian because I have coloured eyes and blond hair. I said “No, I am Palestinian.” But they judge us with their stereotypes before they get to know about us. So I think this institute has been doing a great job for the Palestinian people.

Q: What is the meaning of sumud for you?

I: Sumud means for me to stay on this land and to love this land. I think that Palestinian are like cactus because if you throw a peace of cactus everywhere, it will grow up and Palestinians are the same. We are the people who continue our education and we let our children to go to a university to be well educated. Also, to help the other is sumud. I must love myself so as to love the others. And I must reconcile with myself so as I can reconclile with the others.

Q: What strategies or personal competences woul you think helps you to cope with the conflict, Israeli, and the wall?

I: When I participate in a group of Israeli women, one of the ladies said to us “I want you to love the wall.” I became upset and I told her can you love the wall? She said no. So I said to her how come you want us to love the wall? Can you live here under the severe conditions such as not being able to go freely and being surrounded by the wall? I want to make these Israeli people aware of how we are suffering with the Israeli occupation. They must know because they don’t know. Instead they think that we are making the problems for them but it is the contrary.

Q: What do you think would help to be able to cloe up with the Israelis and to get closer to each other again?

I: They need to accept us as Palestinians who have their language, their land and so on. They must give us pieces of our land and open the borders at least. When they open the borders and there will be more interactions. We need to have contacts with each other. But they must give us also our rights, for example, rights for visiting my sister in Benezuela and my sister visiting me in Palestine and so on.

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