On the way back from Jalal and his family in Ramallah we were picked up by our friend, the driver Faysel who explained us that we must behave properly at the checkpoint on the way out from section A, because in our visit in Ramallah we broke the Commander General's orders. We behaved ourselves. For a moment we felt what many Palestinians feel when they cross an IDF checkpoint if it's towards Israel from the occupied territories, or in the opposite direction, or from one village to another. It's the feeling that on one moment you are given to the arbitrariness of the checkpoint soldier; if he'll want to be kind and human – excellent, if he'll want to harass the people going by – lower your eyes and beware of what you are saying so you won't infuriate him. This time we succeeded, the check point soldier didn't even give us a second glance, probably thanks to Faysel who was convincing, straight to the point and experienced in identifying the checkpoint soldiers' moods.
It was the finale to a fascinating visit in Ramallah with Jalal and Iman Khudairy from Tubas who welcomed us in the houses of their brothers in Ramallah, as part of the Project: "Knowing is the Beginning".
In the last visit to "Talita Kumi" in Bethlehem, when all the Project participants spoke about their experience during the common visits, Jalal, my Project partner spoke shortly about his visit to our house in Ramat Hasharon and immediately continued and said how sorry he is for not being able to welcome us in his home in Tubas, a small town which is out of reach for Israelis, and that he hoped that Sarit and I will come for a visit at his brother's houses in Ramallah as a default option to coming to Tubas. A statement like that didn't leave us with much of an option, and in spite of our fears, friends who warned us and friendly warnings from Ziv's friends who are commanders in the IDF (Ziv is Jona and Sarit's late son- editor), we decided almost wholeheartedly to accept the invitation and to visit in Ramallah. We came to A-Ram to the Forum's Palestinian office where Jalal and Dr. Omar (another Forum member – editor) waited to smuggle us into Ramallah.
"If there was even a slightest fear for your safety it would never cross our minds to bring you to Ramallah". "Do you trust us?" "There are no IDF checkpoints between A-Ram and Ramallah!" (Well there are, on the way back!). With those messages we started our personal adventure with a slight feeling of a "movement" commitment.
When we left Jerusalem's east neighborhoods and entered Ramallah's area of jurisdiction, we felt relieved. Dr. Omar, in his car and Jalal, arranged for us a V.I.P tour in the city. A lively city with a massive construction boom, multi-story buildings which were built from a Jerusalem stone which was amazingly chiseled, traffic jams like at the entrance to Tel Aviv from the North or the South, crowds of humanity in the streets, especially in the market area and in Manara square, young and grownup women with or without head covers, shops and stands with eye catching goods and a feel of a maximum safety like in a visit to any Mediterranean city.
Sarit told Dr. Omar that next visit she would like to shop; some cloths captured her experienced eyes. We almost scheduled another visit under Dr. Omar's blessed auspices and Jalal's and his family amazing companionship.
After a short visit we came to the house of Jalal's older brother in Bituniya; one must respect the eldest brother and drink coffee with him and with his wife. Then we went to the house of the younger brother (one of eight brothers and sisters), where we met Iman, Jalal's wife and the rest of the family including their sixteen years old daughter Hiba and the two younger sons. The table was quickly loaded with different delicatessen for an extraordinary lunch, in tastes and serving.
I'm sorry to report to the "Knowing is the Beginning" Project organizers, but after a lunch like that we couldn't occupy ourselves with both families' history. We exchanged opinions about our lifestyle, education, religion and tradition and how it controls our lives, the behavior of couples, the relationships between husbands and wives in Palestinian and Israeli society, fashion – traditional and Western, learning new languages (the meeting was in English – also while we spoke with the children), work and livelihood, knowing the other side and mutuality between Israelis and Palestinians.
All the details that came up during our conversation are sealed with us. The exposure and the amazing honesty were only for our own ears and that's what created a special closeness which is hard to achieve in other conditions. We won't expose all the truth, a truth that will remain, at this stage, a shared secret between the two families and Dr. Omar.
Both families and whoever participated that meeting came out with a clear feeling that nothing can replace meetings like that and there is nothing like personal acquaintances. To learn and know the other is a clear necessity and meetings like that are essential for building relationships which are based on trust. Our common goal is to drop of all the stereotypes and accept each other as human beings with equal rights and status. We are different because of our historical cargo, because of our culture, due to the education we received, due to the language we use, since our parents were the way they were and not like the other, since our children will be the way they'll be. But we are entering the 21st century together with the might of our equal pain for our loss, but precisely for that reason the road go be walked is common to all and is filled with hope for a different future for ourselves and all our people.
These aren't pretentious sayings. They were born due to those meetings that were conducted under the headline: "Knowing is the Beginning".
The father of Ziv Bargur who was killed in 1996