I have written reports about Palestine before, but this time I became full of a feeling that my efforts are useless.
However, please read this report. I hope you will come to realize that the same thing could happen to you, and you’ll be able to think about what can be done, and won’t treat this as “somebody else’s problem.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has been reported all over the world, and Toronto, Canada, where I live, has been locked down or under restrictions since mid-March.
Places all over the world have become locked down or restrictions on movement have been imposed. I think I read in someone’s post that it said all the world is in a Palestinian state.
I unknowingly assumed that the world was locked down or restricted evenly for all people.
Around August, when the lockdown and restrictions in Toronto were gradually being lifted, I received a message that made me realize how irresponsible I am, and I became ashamed.
The sender was a Palestinian who lives in a small village on the West Bank in the Jordan Valley.
He was born and raised there. For the sake of his privacy, we’ll call him Adam.
He has many relatives in his small village, and it’s a village society, for good or for bad. While they do help each other and unite with one another, they show no consideration to those who don’t follow their rules.
When Adam was a child, a kind and friendly neighbour was unfairly arrested, assaulted, and died. Adam had thrown a stone at Israeli soldiers in protest. No Israeli soldiers were injured, but Adam was imprisoned. He was forced to stay in captivity for about two years.
After Adam was released, he could not get a formal education because of financial issues, so he apprenticed in a trade, got married, and was able to support his family.
Despite much suffering caused by Israel’s occupation of his village, Adam protested peacefully and disseminated news about Palestine’s situation to the world in order to try to regain Palestinians’ right to live freely.
However, due to the current pandemic, the Palestinian Authority won’t let Adam or any others protest. The demonstration activities were his spiritual support, and taking part in peaceful demonstrations enabled him to maintain his beliefs.
Also, the fact that he was arrested more than 20 years ago has had a lasting effect — Adam cannot even enter the Israeli side.
There is no work in his small village, and even a neighbouring big city is full of unemployed people.
Prices in Palestine are as high as in developed countries, and he is in extremely needy circumstances because there is no support, such as subsidies from the Palestinian Authority.
On the other hand, there are still jobs in Israel, so some of the villagers go to Israel and make money to live on. This results in a big gap between the people in the village: there are those who have, and those who don’t.
And those who have the resources to go to Israel and earn money find those who are protesting against the occupation by Israeli forces to be extremely annoying.
People that Adam thought were his friends have abandoned him and he is isolated because of his protests against Israel.
There is no work, daily life is very difficult, and even protests against Israeli forces to regain freedom in their own country are not allowed.
When I heard this, I asked him to tell the world about the current situation in his village, and I was trying to think of what he could do.
It might be a simple idea, but I thought it would be good for him to become a YouTuber so that he could tell about what is happening in Palestine and earn a living by doing this.
However, I got a reply from him that said, “I cannot say anything about the Palestinian Authority. If I say something, I’ll be arrested.”
I felt as though someone had hit me in the head with a hammer.
It seemed similar to the way it was in Japan during the war, and I felt as though I were being shown the situation that Japan and the world might be heading for in the future.
It sounds like Japan during the war, which makes me fear for the direction that Japan and the world are now heading in:
• Those who disagree with the government are isolated from their communities.
• The gap between those who have and those who don’t is widening, with the result that some people will end up in extremely difficult situations.
• Relationships are broken, people become isolated, and there is no one to ask for help.
• People have to obey the government against their will.
Looking at the current state of the world, there are various opinions on Facebook regarding COVID-19, vaccines, masks, and other topics.
Many comments are left on social media that are meant to defeat and deny opposing opinions, and I think that an atmosphere of “If you and I disagree with each other, you are no longer a friend” is spreading swiftly.
I think people may be feeling pressure to conform with everybody else on a subconscious level.
Isn’t it countries and companies that we should be facing as our opponents?
People who are led to rush in directions where they dispute and hurt each other become isolated.
It’s natural that we have various different opinions, but how can we listen to each other’s opinions and get closer to each other without making the other side feel scared or hurt?
How can we reach a place where we respect each other?
Although we should be thinking about how we can unify with each other instead of becoming separated, people cut off relationships and become isolated.
People become full of fear and are obedient to authority figures without realizing it.
They might suddenly find themselves thinking, “I will be OK if I do the same thing as everyone else.”
When Adam said, “I cannot say anything about the Palestinian Authority,” I couldn’t properly respond to him because of his loneliness and difficult financial situation.
I keep thinking about what I would do in his situation.
I haven’t found the answer yet.
However, I think that we can still do something to help.
Instead of rushing in the direction of separation, we should do something to resist it …
I think we can unify with the person next to us, and even with a person who is just passing by.
When another person feels joy because of something you do, the person smiles at you.
And that brings you joy.
Speak to others with a smile, and when you pass by people, smile at them.
Even such small things can change people’s feelings.
Won’t you please talk to the people you meet with a smile on your face?
This way, we can proceed not toward separation and loneliness, but toward unification.
Eiko Mogi (Toronto, Canada)
The Earth Caravan is a global interfaith pilgrimage dedicated to peace, healing and justice for the most traumatic places on our planet. Since 2015 the Earth Caravan has travelled from Nagasaki to Hiroshima, from Auschwitz to Srebrenica in Bosnia-Herzegovina and to Serbia, and from the First Nations of Canada to Israel and Palestine.