Once, when he was a boy in Jericho, Ayman’s dream was to serve time in prison. That is where he used to visit his brother Ahmed and his uncles during the First Intifada, and it seemed to him that serving time in prison was the ultimate expression of sacrifice for the homeland he loves so dearly.
The pivotal event that changed his worldview took place between the two Intifadas. In the year of 1996, the atmosphere was tense as a group of boys left Jericho to throw stones at the neighbouring settlement. Ayman was not among the boys. His brother, Ahmed, was there. When Ayman returned home he found his father at the steps of their home. “Ahmed was injured”, his father said with a broken voice “he might not live”. When his young son asked, the father explained that he cannot go to the hospital to see his dying son.
Ahmed survived, but something about Ayman, who today owns a clothes store in Jericho, changed completely. The love for his homeland remained, as well as a deep desire to liberate it. What changed was the way to do it. Ayman switched from a perspective that sees violence as the way to struggle for liberation to one that centers around non-violence. “Enough blood shed”, he told himself, “there must be another way”.
In his pursuit of another way, he met Combatants for Peace. In the first meetings, he would argue with his Israeli partners. It was hard for him to understand that there really were Israelis whose approach was similar to his own, that there is a path to a solution on which they can tread together. And still, he admits, it is a complicated situation. In the last intifada, the one called “the intifada of knifes” he found himself thinking that one of his children could be the victim. “I have mixed feeling about such things”, he admits, “but now these feeling are a point of departure into dialogue.”
The change was not easy for him, and even today he finds himself coping with it. But today, every time he marches with Combatants for Peace he is joined by his wife and two children, 12 and 14 years old, for whom he wants a different life than the one he was prescribed.