I was in a convenience store yesterday in the minutes before my Arabic class to get a caffeinated libation to help me wake up a bit. The owner, a dark haired, Middle-Eastern looking man with a gold cross around his neck, said hello when I walked in and I smiled a hello in return. As I was buying my drink, he asked me if I spoke Arabic. I said that I was in the process of learning. He then asked if I was Arab and I said no, parents originally from Pakistan and all that. Y’know the drill.
So we started talking about Arabic and he asked about what I thought of it. I told him it was hard but that I was having a really good time learning it. He said that when he was little, his dad moved his whole family back to their home country and he had to start from scratch, speak in Arabic, and become accustomed to another country. I asked him where that was. “Ramallah,” he answered. In Palestine.
And then we started talking about the conflict. I know things are bad over there but I still try to have at least a bit of optimism regarding Israel and Palestine that maybe one day, things will be ok. This guy doubted that things would ever get any better. He even said that the way things are heading, he wouldn’t be surprised if that whole area was nuked out of existence – Palestine, Israel, all of it. He cited Iran’s nuclear weapons and how things could just get out of hand.
I was just… flabbergasted is the word I would I use. There are so many obstacles in the way for peace between Israel and Palestine but one can’t just write it off as a lost cause. “You can’t really believe that,” is what I said to him. Because you can’t. Once you do, once you believe that there can’t be anything done to ever achieve peace, then it’s all over.
He just shrugged his shoulders. We talked for a bit more and said our goodbyes as I went off to class.