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Braveness is not the absence of fear

PALESTINE | Thursday, 15 May 2014 | Views [179] | Scholarship Entry

A few years ago, I wondered why anyone would want to go to the Middle East, especially to Palestine, a seemingly perpetual conflict zone. I felt fear just thinking about it. If someone had told me then that my life would become inextricably bound to Palestine, I would have told him he was crazy!
While doing coursework for my master’s degree, I became friends with a classmate, a Palestinian journalist. He showed us a short film, which changed the course of my life. I was so moved by the children in the film that I committed myself to working for a just peace for Palestinians.
Having had little travel experience, I was afraid to journey alone to Palestine. I was terrified of navigating the checkpoints and Israeli security. As the time approached, I felt more and more anxiety.
As I stood in a crowd of mostly Palestinians waiting to get through the first barrier at the Allenby border, I noticed an elderly man standing next to me. He was holding a little girl who cried and cried. In my bag I had a lovely key chain with brightly colored hummingbirds dangling from it, a memento from a friend in India. I gave it to the child, who was so delighted she stopped crying. As the man smiled his thanks, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would be interrogated because I had been kind to a Palestinian child.
Surprisingly, security was a breeze. I remained calm and friendly as I was questioned and gave my best acting performance ever! When she asked if I planed to visit the West Bank, I looked at her blankly and asked, “What’s the West Bank?” She laughed and asked if I planned to visit Ramallah or Jericho or Bethlehem? I told her that I would like to go to Bethlehem as it was Christmas Eve. What Christian wouldn’t want to be in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, right? I asked her if that was okay. She laughed again, said, “Of course,” and sent me on my way. I wish I could say it has been as easy on subsequent trips.
Once through, I wasn’t sure where to go. My friend’s directions weren’t clear, and not knowing whom to trust, I was afraid to ask the man selling tickets for the bus for directions. The bus dumped me in the middle of a vast and empty desert.
A Palestinian man saw that I was lost. He called my friends to find out where I was supposed to be, then drove me to Jericho where he arranged for a taxi to drive me to Bethlehem. I have been treated with such kindness, hospitality, and generosity. My belief that most people are kind has been confirmed for me again and again.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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