I grew up in Jerusalem only 15 minutes away from Bethlehem, which I frequently visited throughout my life. My father employed Palestinians, so they visited our house often, as did my parents' Palestinian friends.
In high school I learned Arabic (as an advanced elective), alongside Islamic culture and religion. Through Arab culture I discovered the culture of my Moroccan and Egyptian family. In fact, by studying the Arab culture, I felt that I had discovered my own origins.
At university, I enrolled to study Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic language and literature, while I worked at a hotel. One of the first courses I took at university was about the Palestinians. I was amazed to hear how different things appear on the other side of the barricade – '48, '67, the conflict – none of these resembled the narrative I grew up on, at all.
At the same time, I was meeting Palestinian workers at my hotel job; my first face-to-face encounter with Palestinian guys, we're all supposed to be doing the same work, we all have the same boss. Those were days of the tractor attacks in Jerusalem and genuine and fascinating conversations between us grew out of the anger and pain. Today I know to call that dialogue. Slowly the condescension and arrogance I had arrived with faded, and friendship grew instead. We talked a lot, laughed together, and they also helped me with my Arabic homework. To this day we have a close and special connection.
From there, the only way to move was forward. I started taking an interest, joined tours in the Territories that were run by all kinds of peace groups, and then I also met Combatants for Peace for the first time. I immediately felt that this was the place for me, where they don't speak about Palestinians but with Palestinians; where people speak to each other in order to change the reality we all live in.