Bicycle Diaries: Lebanon & Israel ... a little too close to home

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Lebanon & Israel ... a little too close to home

Back in December I had the honor to work with 17 young people from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. That's us to the left. They had gathered together in Bilbao (Basque Country), Spain to be Intercultural/ Interreligious Interns for the 1st International Congress on Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue. The congress was organized by Pax Romana and UNESCO Etxea. Ayelet (to the left of me in the photo) is from Israel. Negin (to my right) is from Iran. Needless to say, the discussions were intense but constructive.

Last week, Ayelet wrote the rest of us to offer her impressions of the new war in the Middle East. She and two others who responded have given me permission to post what they wrote. The rock she refers to is her metaphor for working to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict one small step at a time.

Dear friends,
Hope you are all doing well, each one wherever you are, in your studies, works, traveling (Mathieu I wonder how do you find so much time to travel?)…

Here things are quite tense, as I believe you all read and hear about. My and many Israelis' routine was suddenly shocked by Hezbollah attacks.

It's funny to think that only 10 days ago my roommate had spent the weekend with her friends in Tzfat, a historic city located in the north of Israel, where in the last days had been attacked by dozens of missiles, leaving many dead and even more injured.

If I would tell anyone that this all would happen 2 weeks ago, I am sure nobody would believe me. Suddenly, Israel woke up into a new reality. We are in war! A reality, which started with the kidnapping of 3 soldiers and killing of 4 more and continued with bombs being thrown over all the cities - wherever their missiles can reach. Since this war started, more than 1500 rockets have landed inside Israel, and unfortunately I think there are many more on their plan..

It's not the first time Hezbollah attacked the north of Israel but it's the first time they throw missiles all over, without any limitation or "red lines". Every city within the radius of their missiles is attacked. It includes also one of Israel's central and biggest cities of Israel - Haifa.

Haifa is not only one of the most important for Israel's industry, but also, I am not sure you all remember about what Nava told us about, is also where it is located the temple of the Bahi, where young Bahi spend one year or more doing volunteering work.

And, Haifa is also where my little sister studies. After 4 missiles landed in the city killing 8 people, I succeeded in convincing her yesterday to get out of Haifa. I just couldn't cope anymore with the situation of trying desperately to reach her every time a missile landed in Haifa.

I can't describe the feeling between the moments I hear about the missile till I hear her voice on the phone. Sometimes it gets terribly long since Israel's cell phone network use to crash (from overloading I think) every time an attack occurs.

Thanks God she is now back in Jerusalem, the university closed, all the tests were cancelled and she agreed to come back. She told me that it will be over soon and it would take her a lot of time to travel back home… I wish I could be that optimistic.

These days I feel very bad, I wish there was something I could do to help.. If I could do something that would bring the kidnapped soldiers back, ensure to their families that they are coming back and alive... If I could do something, anything, to stop this stupid guy who decided to start this so unnecessary and unjustified war!

I remember our congress, less than one year ago, so many words and speeches of the way towards peace. Nowadays, more than ever, I wonder where is that first rock? Where is any rock I can move?!

I feel that the only rock in my reach now is pray. Pray and hope that it will all be over soon. That there are more people moving more rocks.. And that no more people will get injured or killed…

Dear friends, I would like to ask you to pray too. Pray that we will be able soon to live in peace. With Lebanon, Syria, Palestinians and all our Arab neighbors. I hope the mountain doesn't get too high…
Take care all. Yours, Ayelet

Dear Ayelet, dear friends...
First of all thank you for remembering us in those difficult moments. The experience of the Congress made of us this strong net of friendship and communication and I´m (we are) really worried about you and situation in Near East.

All our prayers are with your people. With all the innocents involved in this crazy and horrible thing, I’m not able to blame anyone. I’m just asking for Peace in that area and all over the world but, as all of we know, every war have economic or strategic interests behind and civil population is suffering this horror.

Just with the info of the media Israel seems like the stronger nation attacking the weak. Plenty deceases, no light, no water in the occupied territories...more moderns weapons…but guilty are those who don’t mind of lives and only think of power; Not Palestinians, not people from Lebanon, not people from Israel that only want peaceful coexistence. That’s a fact and we know it.

And the rock we have to move is against those crazy politicians, crazy militaries that use missiles to keep the Peace!!!

First is to have information, then we have to pressure on our leaders; Europe seems to be asleep but must do something.
Keep in touch please, take care and have our warmest prayers. Ainhoa

Dear Ayelet, dear all,
That it’s hard to be in the conditions in which you are at the moment. I understand your pain and your embarrassment. You ask us to pray for the end of this war that one could have avoided. You are right. We are making it, of course. Ainhoa also said something about the European countries silence. It is a track not to disregard. The problem as she told it, it’s at the political actors’ level. These are not the restful Israeli citizens who neither began that war nor of restful Palestinian citizens who took in hostages some Israeli soldiers. It’s an armed group. If the Hezbollah throws the missiles that kill restful Israeli citizens, these are not people as us that should be blamed. I’d have liked to really hear the voice or to have the viewpoint of Negin. In fact in that war in this part of the world, our group counts two people who meet in the camps opposed because of their cultures. It’s exactly the wealth of the Bilbao group.

As you probably know, in Democratic Republic of Congo we have a similar problem. The political actors often accuse Rwanda of sending soldiers in Congo in order to attack our country. These political actors want to drag everyone in this stupid conflict. This is how a Rwandan friend based Brazzaville which name is Egide and that Budi and Paul know, had to come to Kinshasa in order to get his visa at the Great Britain embassy.
But the DRC embassy in Brazzaville didn't grant him of entry visa in Kinshasa. Merely stupid!

We are going on in preparing the elections that will take place in DRC on July 30. We wish that the climate is pacified but the political actors don't want so. I’d also like to ask you to pray for us and than you (the European friends) make an advocacy in favor of the Congolese people in your countries that have some interests real or inferred in DRC.

Otherwise, I had a lot of pain in reading either Ayelet’s e-mail or Ainhoa’s reply because July 20 it’s my birthday. It was very hard for. Curiously, it’s also the birthday of an office colleague. We decided to celebrate it together on Saturday, July 22! I’d like to invite you but how can I do for? Who is interested to celebrate it in Kinshasa with me? That’s a pity! Pole sana!
Truly yours

[note: all photos taken by Rakel Bravo]

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