Crossing Borders

الأربعاء 18 شباط 2009

Crossing Borders CoverWritten By Ali Dahmash

I was at [email protected] Café this weekend and I came across this magazine in the Bulletin Board area. The magazine is called “Crossing Borders.” The magazine has been produced with the financial support of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Crossing Borders is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that provides youth and educators from the Middle East and Europe with spaces for dialogue and media, communication and conflict management skills training. The aim of Crossing Borders is to increase the possibilities for the world peace with special focus on the Middle East.

The issue that I took home with me was about the journey of 28 Journalists from Egypt, Israel, Yemen, Denmark, Palestine and Jordan who met for the first time in Denmark to encounter dialogue and understanding across different cultures. The workshop was for 12 days, the Journalists were asked to share their experiences upon their return, and I wanted to share some of these stories with you that I found conflicting. The group will meet again in Aqaba in Jordan.

Marianne from Egypt, was worried what her family and friends will tell her when they know she was in Denmark the country of the cartoons. She was also worried if she will get harassed and interrogated by the immigration officer in Cairo International Airport. Her worries failed her and she received warm welcome backs from everyone.

Nivine from Palestine, was planning to go to the beach with her in laws on the second day of Feter Feast and the first day of the Jewish New Year. On the way, her first slam in the face was the Separation Wall in the West Bank… “Preventing Palestinian families from visiting each other and celebrating feasts with their loved ones, wither Christian or Muslim”. The second slam was the settlements that prevent people from free access to services and to their olive groves. Then approached by a checkpoint, there was a soldier who wasn’t celebrating the New Year with his family. She waved goodbye to the soldier and said “Shana Tova” in perfect Hebrew so he didn’t check their ID cards. She said “I wondered if he knew we were Palestinians, would he let us go smoothly? Would he great us back a ‘Happy Eid’? What would be like if there was no occupation?”

Dana from Israel, started to understand what was going around her, she felt she was an object of hatred. One Egyptian told her: “We learn at school about your evil ways and we treat you and relate to you as the enemy”. Dana adds: “We never referred to the Egyptian people as our enemy, especially after the peace agreement in 1979 and particularly not in school.” “I was the Israeli, the occupier, the murdered, the soldier, the aggressor. My identity vanished.” “I would say” don’t hate, try to know your enemy. Try to rely on facts, not on stereotypes, and maybe you will see things differently”.

Hakim from Palestine, was in Germany after the workshop. He met a nice women in a Pub whose name was Samira. She asked him, “Are you Italian”, he said “No”. “Cuban”, he said “No”. “Spanish?”, “No”, “Greek?”, “No. Come on, stop it. Are you ready for the answer? I’m Palestinian. How’s that?” She said “Oooooh. And I’m Jewish. So we’re supposed to kill each other now!” Instead of pulling a gun against her, he pulled a chair to the table. “So, meeting a Jewish girl who carries an Arab Name in Germany was one of the first experiences after Denmark. It stirred up again all the thoughts of how illusive the perception of the ‘other’ can be, and how fluid the forms of identity are.”

Miki from Israel, is finally on Facebook. He is devastated that he can’t talk to his new friends from the West Bank in person. So many blocks, physical and perceptual, are standing in the way of meeting them again. So he decided to join Facebook though he refused to do so many times before the workshop. He says: “It may be the most notable one – communicating despite the boundaries. Hopefully, sometime soon, I will despite Facebook again, and we can all meet freely in person.

Mark from Israel, came back to Israel with his new Palestinian friends. In Israel Airport, the Palestinians were taken to a faraway check room where their luggage was searched. He decided to stick to his new friends and take part in this event. He added” I have told people who are interested in my experience that the Arab people are just people like us. They have ears, eyes, two arms and two legs. They have thoughts, humor and feelings.”

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