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The Day When Fear Disappeared
von Anis Hamadeh, July 1, 2005
German Original

Samir traveled through his memory and through Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. He strolled through the Old City, observing the goods of the street-traders, watching the local people, the tourists, the security people. This place had faced 6000 years of history, this was hardly imaginable. There were quite some places here in Jerusalem Samir could remember. The old hippy hostel where he had stayed for a couple of days once. The apartment of the German professor where a group of students had gathered and people talked about the architecture and ornaments of the Dome of the Rocks. Samir also had witnessed the performance of a piece by Kafka, in the Hakawati Theater. Kafka in Arabic, that really was a special experience. During another visit he had sat outdoors with his mate Albert, smoking a water-pipe in the streets of the Old City. Albert's father was a historian of antique times and they went for a tour and had the history of the city explained to them. They had also walked through a subterranean canal construction, barefoot in the water, underneath the city. Samir had intoned "Somewhere over the Rainbow", because the acoustics were phantastic. Then, while Albert and him were sitting in the alley way playing backgammon, Samir suddenly heard a familiar voice calling his name. It was Emma, a Jewish Englishwoman with whom he had studied in Alexandria and whom he had not seen for years. An accidental re-encounter. They agreed to meet in the evening.

Emma took him with her through a narrow path which Samir neither knew nor expected to find again, would he come here another time. They did not walk for long then they reached the western part of the city. There were pedestrian zones, street musicians and western snack restaurants. Until now Samir had not known anything about this world. He did know that there also was a Jewish Jerusalem, but he had no idea of how it looked like. Maybe he had repressed the thought of it, because back then many native people had to go away so that the new state could be created. Today, seventy percent of the Palestinians were living outside the country and they could not return to their homeland, even if international law wanted it so. Therefore Samir was unable to walk the streets of West Jerusalem with the same lightheartedness, even though he found this part of the city fascinating and inspiring. Especially with Emma by his side. She often did amusing things and boldly crossed the conventions. For example, when she as a woman sat down in a traditional Arab coffeshop without turning an eyelid, or when she spoke deliberately positively about her Arab friends in the presence of her Jewish friends. Sometimes she also recounted a joke which risked to evoke some horror in one group or the other.

Walking through West Jerusalem with Emma Samir noticed that the litter-boxes on the pedestrian zone had bars on their tops so that no bombs could be deposited inside. In the course of the years he had learned that the Israeli society, too, not only the Palestinian, lived with severe fears. The many checkpoints and closures were also pointing to this fact. There had often been violent assaults, here and in other cities of the country. The population had become sensitive for every kind of suspicious action. It was the fear of violence and even the fear to lose the existance. Despite this, there was a lot of life in the streets of West Jerusalem and people had their daily routines.

Samir traversed the park on his way back to his apartment, but in his mind he still was in Jerusalem. What was it that kept him away from the country? He became aware of the fact that he had not been there for a long time, neither to Jerusalem nor anywhere else in the country. And this although he knew so many people there: his family in Nablus and all the people who he met over the last years on the internet, Muslims, Christians, Jews. He normally should go there again now, he thought, and visit all these people. Talk with them and write reports, open the communication and bring people together. There were some Israeli Palestinian groups that promoted a peaceful co-existance, peace villages and cultural initiatives, institutions like Givat Haviva. Islands of recounter and artistic exchange existed. There were enough starting-points for progress.

He climbed up the stairs to his apartment and searched for the key in his pockets, although he had just used it to open the latch-door. Why wasn't he attracted to visit the Holy Land again? Did he not miss the country? During the last weeks it had become clear to him that there were invisible walls preventing him from traveling. He had to think about it, because in the weekend he would stand on stage again with Ari and Sarah, promoting the understanding between Palestinians, Israelis and Germans. He wanted the war to end. He wanted that the wounds healed which had come into being in the societies.

With these thoughts on his mind he grabbed the telephone receiver and called Ari: "Do you know this feeling, too", he asked him, "to sometimes be afraid of the own group? I don't mean the kind of fear where you hide under the bed and embrace the teddy bear, but the kind which leads to neglecting the contact to people who originally are important to you. When there are too many things about which people don't talk." Ari thought for a while. Samir did not know exactly why he had asked Ari, but he did not want to ask a Palestinian and neither a German. Then Ari said: "Probably I am not representative, because I, too, have been living outside the country for a long time. But Sarah and I go there almost every year and live with the people there. There surely are such problematic points, especially between the kibbuz movement and the conservative Likud people. I was raised in a kibbuz, my education was humanistic. We learned that people are to be treated with respect and tolerance, no matter what skin color or religion they may have. Therefore, for instance, I am against the settlements and against the occupation. The State of Israel, however, is something positive for me, because it means home and security for me, despite all the problems that surely exist. I see a lot of achievements of my country concerning science and culture."

Once again Samir took a seat in the plane and traveled into the country in his mind. In his hand there was a Geiger counter, a measuring instrument which exerted cracking sounds whenever tension and violence were in the air. The closer he came the louder and more intensive the sounds became. When he arrived at the airport he was almost unable to hear the instructions of the security forces in the noise. Everywhere around there was tension and suspicion. They inquired where exactly he wanted to go and why and what for. They checked him, because he was suspicious, just like everybody else. Involuntary, he also started to suspect and to be distrustful. Those security officers over there may have been soldiers before. Maybe they had entered Arab cities with their tanks. But the Geiger counter did not cease to alert and alarm, even when Samir had entered Nablus after hours of riding through a scent of blossoms. He sensed fear.

Samir was convinced that there was more to achieving peace than a couple of decisions by some politicians. A humanistic philosophy belonged to it, too, a mentality, a readiness. The pain he had sensed under the surface in the city of his relatives was enormous and hardly to be decribed in words. Many inhabitants of the city had to separate this pain from themselves in order to survive emotionally. In this way they lost the contact to their own selves. It was a vicious circle. It was impossible to overcome this circle by concentrating on one single group, it was necessary to bring the principle of fear to awareness in all the groups simultaneously. "It is hard to survive under occupation", the people from Nablus had rightly told him, "hopelessness and poverty are destroying our society. Is it necessary under these circumstances that you criticize the Palestinian society? We have lost so much and are not free now, either. The pressure from outside is very heavy. We are living under martial law and hardly have any choices." Samir knew that. Yet he was unable to ignore these fears, for they were standing for something general, something significant.

With Ari Samir went along the wall. The wall which was built to separate two societies. They did not talk. Together they went, on the one side of the wall and then on the other. When Ari said that he might not be representative Samir thought that he himself might be even less representative. But who was representative in this conflict, anyway? Of course, it was mainly about the people who lived there and who were immediately concerned with the political conditions. But those also saw their respective segments of reality and those also lived with constructions and interpreted the news individually. Besides, they wished that the world contributed to the peace process, for they could not make it alone. At least, this was a view which majorities on both sides could endorse.

When he had arrived in his apartment Samir turned on the television and saw how the Israeli army was dissolving the illigal settlements in the Gaza Strip. When would peace come? What was necessary to happen so that there could be real peace? Opinion was divided on the matter, also between Samir and Ari. Yet there was one thing which Samir thought he could contribute in order to explain what a life without fear could mean and why peace was a situation that meant freedom for everybody. It was a vision, an image that once had appeared to him in a dream and that he could not forget anymore.

It was in Jerusalem. From all over the world people had come together to celebrate the greatest festival humanity had ever celebrated. Not only in the Old City and in the western part of the city, no, the festivities spread over the entire country and were televized into the world via satellite. Everywhere there were bands playing music and poets who read from their works, people ate and drank, had discussions and wrote things down, in the streets people were dancing. It was the day when the security fears were mastered. For again and again some people from each of the opposing sides had thought about the central issues in the conflict and developed methods to solve them systematically and without violence. They had come up with a unitary standard with which the violent extremists of all concerned sides could get back to the center of society and with which people were able to question their fears in a sensible way. Most of the extremists returned by themselves when they saw that they had no more ground for their ideas. Some incurables remained, but they were easy to deal with, due to the overwhelming opinion of the majority. It turned out that less and less security measures were necessary and hence the whole situation relaxed and relaxed more. In this way, the Jerusalem Festival started almost by itself. It was the day when fear disappeared. It fell off from the people like a veil and horizons showed in front of their eyes, horizons hardly imagined before by anybody. The energies, which for decades had worked against each other, would now inspire each other and bring about a new world. For this day, Samir thought, he wanted to prepare himself and start with questioning his own fears. The day when fear would disappear was the day when barbed wire turned to lines of a stave. He wanted to tell about this day, because it was a great day.


Continued in Part 6: "Good Morning, the Human Rights, Please..."

Index page: Samir's Adventures


Book of Micah (ca. 750 BC), Chapter 4,1-5
"But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of Hosts hath spoken it. For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever."
Confer also: Yesaya 2,2-4 / Luke 24,47

Thanks to Reverend Dr. Ulrich Luig from Mainz for the hint.