It is late July, and I am standing outside the entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem. I am with 20 tourists who have asked me to walk them through the Old City to show them the sights.
“I am not a guide,” I tell them. “If you want a touristy perspective, you can buy a guidebook. I was born and raised here, and I’ll tell you about things as I see them.”
I tell them about the historical and spiritual significance of this church, about the belief that Jesus was crucified and buried here. I tell them about the different rituals and ceremonies that take place inside, and the physical fights that occur outside, especially during Easter.
“Inside, there are spaces for each Christian denomination,” I say. “Despite the façade, you can sense that most of all there is a love of power within.”
And then, an angry man rushes towards me.
“How dare you say these things!” he shouts. “You should be ashamed to tell foreigners about these fights! We love each other—we are all Christians. You should not tell them these things!”
As he walks away he gives me a deep frown. I have to admit his reaction flusters me.
I turn to my group of stunned tourists. “He wants me to tell you that we are all about love and faith and acceptance in the Holy Land, that we have no hatred in our hearts,” I say.
But the truth is that I am not the same person when I am crossing a checkpoint in the West Bank as I am when I’m sipping coffee and shopping in West Jerusalem, because I’ve learned that it is hard to play the activist everyday. A professor once told me that hatred takes up a lot of energy, and that there comes a point when it is too tiresome to keep on arguing.
Still, we are all told that we should keep hatred in our hearts for fear that we will vanish if we do not hate enough.
My friends tell me that I am not to buy from those who occupy my homeland. “How dare you pretend that they are not sending their sons out to destroy your neighbor’s house; how dare you normalize occupation by learning the enemy’s language!”
One of my close friends tells me that the government is planning to take away his identification, leaving him without a nationality. “You can’t expect foreigners to understand,” he says. “They don’t know what it’s like to live here! They don’t have to worry about not having a proper passport—about not having a place to go back to.”
That same week, another household is evicted in the streets of East Jerusalem. I see solidarity groups lying down in the roads; the family who has lost their home with tears in their eyes; little kids with so much hatred in their balled up fists. The resistance is angry and you can see it in their faces. The police officers stare blankly on. They are following orders; their guns pointed at the people who had once lived there.
I hear a young girl scream, “To hell with you Israel! To hell with you for taking down our houses and leaving us with nowhere to live!”
Later, I find myself in a bar in Tel Aviv, Israel. My arms and legs cannot easily dance to the music. Around me, there are men and women with life and sex in their eyes, but I can only envision a dance floor filled with people dressed in army clothes, blowing up the place with their tanks and their guns.
At this point, I am not sure I am wise enough to come up with a solution to any of this. All I know is that I doubt fear and hatred have taught me much.