I'm a 32 year old Orthodox Jewish man living in Haifa, a city in northern Israel. I live with my wife, Chaya, and my two daughters (Miriam and Leah).
I work as a tour guide and have been to 33 different countries in my line of work. Most of the guide work I do is taking Jewish groups abroad to learn about Jewish history in a particular country.
My mother is from Iran. Like most Iranian Jews, she moved to Israel following the Islamic Revolution in Iran. She met my father during her university years.
I wasn't brought up to hate Arabs or Islam but my views on both were dim if for no other reason than I had no exposure Arabs or Islam. No positive exposure anyway.
Oddly enough it wasn’t until I did my three years mandatory service in the Israeli army that I had positive experiences with Arabs and Muslims. Your mind is made up the first time you are tasked with manning a checkpoint in the West Bank or Gaza that it will be horrible. The people will hate you and you will be in danger all the time. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Most of the Palestinians that came through the checkpoint had no intention of harming us. And it wasn’t always tension and hatred. A man used to come through every day at our checkpoint between Gaza and Israel to work at a construction site in Israel. His name was Abed. I used to talk to him often. We talked about soccer, our families and our dreams. He, a Palestinian raised in a refugee camp and I, a soldier in the Israeli army, could find common ground.
When I got married I moved with my wife to Haifa. Haifa is unique in that it is a mixed Jewish-Arab city and we have many Arab neighbors here. I cannot imagine living anywhere else in Israel. Its like the conflict doesn’t exist here when my wife and I have dinner with our Arab neighbors.
Why I want peace:
My faith demands peace and demands justice from me in order to achieve it.
I lost two cousins. One in the war in Lebanon in the 80s and one in a suicide bombing in 2002. I miss both terribly and I would give anything to have them back. I know this cannot be and so I intend to so my part so others will not have to suffer losses. Not just Jews and our losses, but Arabs and their losses as well.
The world is screaming to be better. Who listens? The Middle East could be a paradise if we had peace.
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Waleed M. Hammad
Inspire area's leader, a moderator in the website and