My Palestinian friend Amar* often talks about how he wants to create change and work toward peace in his region, as well as in the world. Recently, he shared this inspirational story with me and he asked me to share it. Just because political peace talks are collapsing, does not mean that personal talks have to do the same. In fact, it is these personal relationships that will create a lasting difference in the region and the world.
When I was young I was very shy, but when I joined Marg Ebn Amer football club, it turned my life around. Through football I became confident. I learned to take initiative without fear and formed many close friendships. One day, my coach told the team that a coach from the Israel Maccabi Tel Aviv football team was going to observe our practice. The Maccabi coach was looking for talented players to recruit to his team. He watched our training with Marg Ebn Amer and picked some players. I was one of them.
In Tel Aviv, everything was different from Jenin. To be honest, it was the first time I saw Israelis who were not in military uniforms. They were very friendly to us and, even though I did not speak Hebrew, I quickly became friends with an Israeli player Jacob. He was one of my best friends. Still I was worried. I was not sure how I could introduce him to my family and friends in the West Bank. I worried that they would call me a traitor or tell me that I sold out. I was not sure whether they knew that there could be a peaceful solution.
Still, I decided to tell my parents about my friend Jacob. I started by telling them I made a new friend and they told me that this was a good thing. Then, I told them he was Israeli. Suddenly they changed their minds. They told me then that I should not have a friend like Jacob, because he was Israeli. We had a long argument, and I told them I could not judge my friend simply for being Israeli. Sadly, I had to obey my parents and was forced to stop talking to Jacob.
My goals in life are simple, but unfortunately, people see them as being very complicated. I want to tell people that peace is possible and make them understand that they should not judge other people just because they belong to an "enemy" country or because they practice a different religion. In the end we are all humans and we should look out for each other.
I hope to make an impact by helping my country understand the concept of peace. Although my people know the definition, I want them to know that peace means that we should refuse any type of violence. I believe that my voice has power and I want to use my power to work toward the greater good.
*Amar is a high school senior living in Jenin, in the West Bank. His name has been changed for the purpose of this story in order to protect his safety.
Contact staff reporter Melissa Diamond at firstname.lastname@example.org