When I was working with preschoolers, we always advised them to “use your words” when they were frustrated or angry.
Well now I’m taking my own advice. I just need to find the words to express how I’m feeling upon returning home.
I hope that you’ve gotten the feeling that I absolutely love my host family over there in Palestine. They were sweet and caring and went way too far out of their way to be accommodating.
I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I went to Palestine through a program called the Holy Land Trust (www.holylandtrust.org). I paid about $2000 for a month there, and about a quarter of this went to my host family for food and rent. The rest went to programming: invitations to speakers, tours around Palestine and Israel, etc.
But after I’d been with my host family for 3 weeks, I found out by speaking with my roommate there that my host family had not been paid for our food and living expenses. So for three weeks a family that had no running water, that lived in a refugee camp, that had to take their oldest child out of university because they couldn’t afford it, they were feeding me and giving me a place to live out of their own pockets. They weren’t upset about this, at least not to me. They didn’t take it up with the Holy Land Trust. But we had to straighten it out immediately – and we did, relatively speaking. In the end, they got the money.
But here’s the thing that gets me. They didn’t have to love me. They didn’t have to be kind or caring. In fact, knowing how Palestinians are treated in America, and how relations are between America and the Arab World, I was surprised how kind and loving they were. In fact, they had so much more reason to hate me than to love me.
Accept they don’t. They didn’t know me. And i had to swallow each time I said, ‘I’m an American’ because, based on what they see on television, and based on the Israeli occupation and America’s support for Israel, they have good reason to hate Americans.
So why don’t they? Because they realized that I’m not my government. They realized that I’m just an individual.
The real kicker for me, though, is the fact that Palestinians and other Arabs in America don’t get the same benefit of the doubt. Rather than being treated as individuals, they are hated and persecuted for being part of a collective – not by choice, but purely by geography and skin color.
What if Americans were as welcoming as the people in Palestine? What if we didn’t judge people based on their skin tone, name, ethnicity, or religion?
There are one and a half BILLION Muslims in this world. Yet how are we still associating and stereotyping all Muslims?