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In Conversation With 2 People On The Ground In Israel06:48
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A Palestinian walks by a building hit by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Tuesday, May 18. (Hatem Moussa/AP)
A Palestinian walks by a building hit by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Tuesday, May 18. (Hatem Moussa/AP)

Amid the latest Israeli conflict with Hamas — in which more than 200 Palestinians have been killed, along with 10 Israelis — WBUR's Bob Oakes connected with two people on the ground there.

Guy Ben-Aharon is an Israeli Jew who splits his time between Tel Aviv and Boston, where he’s involved in the performing arts community. Rana Abu Fraiha is a filmmaker of Palestinian and Bedouin descent. She also lives in Tel Aviv. Both joined WBUR's Morning Edition.

Interview Highlights

On feeling a collective fear:

Rana Abu Fraiha: "So when the sirens started, something in your body and your emotions — we remember those times. So it's not as if we are only in this situation. It takes us back to many, many places in our past, in our parents' past and in trauma.

"Me and Guy, we're in Tel Aviv and somehow we can feel a little bit safe — or maybe safer — than people that don't really have a shelter or any shelter, or people in Gaza, for example. So it's not only that we feel that. I feel the fear at the same moment that we hear the sirens, we feel like the collective fear. It's kind of like this crazy energy; you are not immune to this."

Guy Ben-Aharon: "Even when you know that you're relatively fine, you're afraid. It's around you. The fear permeates within your body. ... You know, we speak about trauma as if it's something in the past, but it's such an ongoing event.

"You know, we speak about trauma as if it's something in the past, but it's such an ongoing event."

Guy Ben-Aharon

"I was getting videos from a good friend of mine who went back to visit her family in Haifa, and she's Palestinian, and videos from outside her window of lynch mobs yelling, 'Death to Arabs. Death to Arabs. Death to Arabs.' And she said to me, 'I'm not sure, should I come back to Tel Aviv? It's going to be safer here in those terms, but then there'll be rockets here.' And then she said, 'And when I was in the bomb shelter here, I found myself fearful. I couldn't pick up the phone and tell my mother in Arabic that I'm fine, for fear of people hitting me.' The fear that I feel is permeating and building is the fear of people choosing separateness, choosing the 'them and us,' as opposed to trying to imagine a 'together.' "

On placing blame:

Ben-Aharon: "I want to put it in context first. You know, the goal here of many governments and of many of those in power is to stay in power and they want us to feel isolated, everyone who lives on this land. I think with that, there's a Paolo Freire quote which says, 'Never in history has violence been initiated by the oppressed.' And when people speak about two sides in this region, it is hard to not look at an oppressor and an oppressed, an occupied and an occupier. And I also want to say that as a Jew, and as a third-generation Holocaust survivor, I am horrified. I am horrified and scared of going from 2,000 years of wandering and being oppressed — my family was never in one place for more than three generations — to becoming oppressors. And I do not say this lightly. I say this as a Jew, understanding that my mother grew up without grandparents, without uncles and aunts because of similar laws somewhere else."

Abu Fraiha: "I don't see these sides anymore, Palestinian and Israeli. I maybe see sides in governments that really want to just keep their control over us through fear. And we need to find our common ground, which is not those definitions.

"I lived through these definitions for so long, you know, because my my life story is very complicated, and my father is a Bedouin. My mother was a Palestinian from the north, and they chose to raise us, me and my siblings in a Jewish Ashkenazi place. So for many years, I was, you know, I'm supposed to be that, or that or that or that. And now I know that I can be this and this and this and this. ... I feel like our total identification with those words is actually dangerous. It's not really a game anymore. It's not really a political game. ... And we need to find our common ground, which is not those definitions. We are so similar. We talk about fear. We talk about how we feel it in our body.

"When I hear people who use violence, for example, what I now know is that they have an immense amount of pain and trauma, and they don't have enough courage to really look at it. The moment you start to look inside the trauma and the pain, and to really dig in deep — and it's not easy — but when we choose, each one of us, when we choose to dig in and to look in the trauma and to understand it with compassion and love and hugging, then we start to connect differently with each other."

"We know how to treat our traumas better than generations before, and we know we don't really want to live in violence, and we don't really want to live in games of power..."

Rana Abu Fraiha

On looking to the future:

Abu Fraiha: "It's very new to me, but it's been only for a few months that I'm very optimistic, so I'm holding on to this, you know, belief that we're going to a good place. And actually, it's because of how much pain and trauma we see right now. We cannot do it again. I feel like this is the money time, and maybe the boiling point that we feel — that everybody feels right now here in Israel-Palestine, because all the last year that we've been through in 2020. And again, the power is also in each one of us, and his own journey towards the trauma. Because we know how to treat our traumas better than generations before, and we know we don't really want to live in violence, and we don't really want to live in games of power, and we don't really want to live in an abusive relationship. Again, the story of Israel-Palestine, but in a metaphorical way, it's a reflection of something that happens all over the world. And it's time for us to look at it, and recognize it, and treat it with as much compassion and love as we can. For ourselves first and foremost, and then for many, many other people."

This segment aired on May 18, 2021.

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