"Fear is the thing that holds us back the most": Sama, 15, Wadi Ara alumna
“I’m from Umm El-Fahm. My family comes from Lod and Umm El-Fahm. My mom taught science at Bridge Over the Valley—that’s why I originally came to Hand in Hand. And my mom thought that it was going to be my first big adventure. Hand in Hand was like building myself, finding who I am. It was more than just learning in school. Being a five-year-old girl who only spoke Arabic, and going to school with Israelis who only spoke Hebrew, and not knowing how to make a connection between the two sides… At first, it was really hard. I felt like it was impossible. I’m a pretty social person, but I still remember the first day—we didn’t speak the same language, so we communicated through body language, through drawings, through tone of voice… It’s everything else, at first.
“My time at Bridge Over the Valley got me really interested in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Let’s just say I’m not gonna be a politician in the future, but I’m very interested in the history of the conflict. I love to hear stories from both Israelis and Arabs. I always want to know what happened there.
“I believe that politics is more of a game, and that politicians are mostly searching for their own good, but the conflict affects the people, and is between the people, and the people are searching for the good of the people. So by hearing their stories, you understand what the aim was of Israelis to come to this land, or why they wanted to be here. And you also understand why Palestinians are so connected to this land and will never give up on it. You understand why both sides are so stubborn.
“There were a lot of problems in 2014, during the war with Gaza. There were a lot of conflicts in our classroom. It was so hard to get over it, because the Palestinians were so hurt that something like this was being done. And the same for the Israelis. Because they felt like they were just protecting themselves. I remember this time when I went to my friend, and her Israeli friends had started to talk about Palestinians, saying they’re bad, that they deserve what’s happening to them. And my friend said, “You can’t talk in general about all Palestinians like that. There are people that are really harming us, but it’s not all of the people.” And that really meant a lot to me, because it showed me that I’m not the only one who believes that a mix of Israelis and Palestinians is possible. It’s really possible. But people don’t know what’s waiting for them. And fear is the thing that holds us back the most.”