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  • Writer's picturecharlie kesem

It’s Good to Be Home

Updated: Jun 28, 2020


Being in Israel these last 4 months on a coexistence programme suddenly is put into very (su)rreal context in light of current affairs.

Coupled with my feelings of helplessness, mild panic and gentle heartache, I feel somewhat encouraged by many articles that express an outright intolerance of murder against Arab, Jew or any living being, as well as a growing number of organisations and initatives working towards peace and coexistence.   Call me naïve, but this gives me hope.  Because without hope, what else is there in Pandora’s disease-ridden box?

Just this week we visited the Arab village of Ein Hawd, which is situated adjacent to the Jewish village of Ein Hod.  Ein Hod was formerly a Palestinian village until the residents were displaced after 1948; they settled nearby, thus creating Ein Hawd.  We sat and heard the personal story of one man and his family over coffee and baklava – “that’s our house”, his father still points out to this day across the village.  There is something in his eyes – I can’t quite perceive if it is sadness or perhaps a kind of numb frustration or acceptance of what has come to pass.   He told us that when it comes down to it, he doesn’t care about the house.  But the Mosque is a “holy Place from God” and has since been turned into a restaurant that serves pig.  When he shares this, it is now tangible in his eyes just how deeply offensive this is and I can see how easily disrespect and hurt could turn to anger and violence.

Ein Hawd, in addition to many Arab villages, including Ka’abiyye (the Bedouin village in which I have been teaching English the past 4 months – more to come on this next time), was only recently officially recognized by the Israeli government and therefore only recently received basic infrastructure such as electricity and water.  This never ceases to astonish me.  For some, this may be old news, but I still feel quite new to the nitty gritty details of what’s really going on over here in Israel.

At the ripe age of 27 years, I am not a very political person, I’ll be the first to admit it.  Being an experiential learner, I was bored stiff in fact-pumping history lessons at school and furthermore, circumstantially, I wasn’t raised in a “current affairs around the dinner table” type of family.  So it was only when I was 19 and left home for university and the big, wide world that I began to really ask questions about life.

Slowly, as I fill in the gaps of missing knowledge and understanding, slowly, slowly, I piece together the jigsaw puzzle of life, through a range of means.  The one that I find some of the most truth and simplicity in, is the oral tradition – the story.

Not just the shenanigans of Adam and Eve (though I must say I would invite them to my “dead or alive dinner party”), but the stories of you and me, the fly on the wall, the stranger in the café and the man from the tiny Arab village that most people haven’t really heard of.  And so, I write from this small place of sharing my experiences and the stories of others that fascinate, intrigue, scare and inspire me.

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden exhibited 1936 by Charles Mahoney 1903-1968

Painting: Charles Mahoney, 1936

I don’t like to take sides, but let’s be honest, there is a line. There are several in fact.  And what I do know is that some of them guard Palestinians from gaining access to their agricultural land in the West Bank.   I know this because I joined a demonstration about a month ago in the village of Ma’asara.  This was the first demonstration I have been to and I was particularly drawn to it because it was a creative partnership between Combatants for Peace and Bread and Puppet Theatre – activism meets peace meets puppetry.  I went mostly out of curiosity and it was fascinating and inspiring to be part of such an event.

To be honest, I’m more of a sit in a circle and sing kind of peacemaker.   Not that this was far off from the event in Ma’asara, just a different approach.  One of the main projects I had the honour of being involved in over here, was writing, acting and co-directing a play in English, Hebrew and Arabic, with young people from Shefa’aram and Tiv’on, as part of an intercultural festival.

I believe in the power of creativity, collective prayer and creative grassroots activism.  I believe that we must “be the change you wish to see in the world.” Working on this coexistence project has certainly been challenging and has brought to light a fundamental belief – only by meeting each other as human beings, with respect and I daresay curiosity, can we begin to fulfil the commandment of “[loving] your neighbor as yourself.”


The sound of firing from Ka’abiyye is common.  “Don’t worry, they are fireworks!” I’m told, not long after arriving here back in March, “you can tell the difference by the way they echo.” This evening, the pine forest silence is punctuated by short blasts and rumbles in the Sky, and whether or not it’s fireworks from the World Cup, I can’t help but fall prey to fear and worry.  My face falls and my fingers begin to tap urgently on the keyboard.

May we have Peace.

Please, May we have Peace, for All Our Relations, down to the Ant.

This is the real kavannah (intention) or sub-text of my written word today.

In our tradition (by our, I mean the Jewish tradition, the Storytelling tradition and anyone who resonates with this idea!), the world is created through speech and speaking, and so by praying through speech with real intention, we may manifest new realities and ways of being.

Sometimes the words don’t flow out of my mouth like the waters of life, as easily as they may flow through my fingers.  I pray that my prayers will still be heard.

May we have an end to violence and oppression in this lifetime.  May we have peace in our hearts and minds and may we treat each other with kindness and respect.

This country is mathroub (Arabic: crazy), let’s be honest, and yet, why do I feel more at home than ever?


Map: Jennifer Thermes


Sha’ar La’Adam Bab Lil Insan –

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