Christian Palestinian Zack Sabella lives in East Jerusalem. Around him the 21-year old sees the Israeli ‘Separation Wall’ being built higher each day.
The wall, which was condemned by the United Nations in 2004, separates Israel from Palestine and in some sections reaches as far as 6 km into Palestinian territory.
Mr Sabella grew up separated from Israeli’s until he chose to attend university in Israel.
Speaking in Australia as a member of the World Council of Churches ‘Partners for Peace’ program, he has seen how people of different faiths can work together to achieve a common goal.
“I lived in Israel for three years and had the chance to study with Israelis [at university] and live with them normally. That changed a little about how I think and how I perceive Israelis.
“My experience in Israeli society did not change my anger towards the injustice that Israel’s politics impose on Palestinians,” he said.
Mr Sabella (along with many others) continues to strive for peace in an area that has seen little of it.
“Peace today is just a word unfortunately. We tend to talk a lot, and preach a lot and give lectures. Peace is something that is supposed to be there but is not.
“Peace is something that you work hard for. It requires compromises, sacrifices and people are simply too blind, too extreme today to achieve peace.
“You cannot achieve peace by building walls and controlling people and adding to people’s suffering.
“You can’t do that! How do you expect people to react?”
Mr Sabella said Western media is particularly pro-Israel, which makes it hard to see the conflict from all angles.
“You have to ask the question: why are Palestinian 18-year-olds going and blowing themselves up in Israel? I mean, they are human. What they are doing is inhuman, but they are human.
“How would someone get to this point of frustration, of lack of hope, of depression that he or she are willing to go and blow themselves up.
“The West looks at Palestinians and unfortunately generalises and says ‘these are freedom haters, they want to ruin our way of life, the way we think’.
“I don’t believe human beings can hate freedom. Everybody wants freedom. That is why I’m here.
“As an Australian I don’t know if you can really understand this, but you really have to live the experience of a poor Palestinian, under occupation behind the wall who has suffered personal loss as a result of occupation. Then you might understand.
“The war on terrorism which is in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is supposed to make the world a safer place, apparently did not do its job. It just added to the hatred and frustrations.
“When George Bush uses the word ‘crusade’ in one of his speeches, really what do you expect from people? People are very sensitive; they want to keep to their religion and their way of life.
“When one can simply go and invade a country and justify it because terrorists are there or Sudam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction (which are still not there) it just keeps proving to people that the West is not fair, has self-standards and does not abide by international law. That is what breeds what they call terrorism, those acts and those events.
“Because I am a Palestinian and I have lived both experiences I understand it. I don’t justify it, I don’t accept it, but I understand it.”
So while we watch and read news coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Mr Sabella is a reminder of the many people of different faiths not building a wall, but a bridge to peace.
Want to read more? Here are some interesting and relevant websites.
www.fairgoforpalestine.org – Australian based site.
http://electronicIntifada.net – news site dedicated to Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
http://english.aljazeera.net/HomePage – alternative news site.
Photo : Zack Sabella