The following is an e-mail sent by Asel Asleh to Seeds of Peace on March 31, 1998.
30/3/1976. Nothing but anger that day brings to my people’s mind. Youm El-Ard they call it in Arabic, or “Land Day.” Nothing but memories from that sad day when a group of Israeli soldiers tried to kick the local citizens out of the village. What village was that? It was my village. “Arrabeh” they call it. But back then, people knew nothing but bloodshed, and losing those who are close to them.
As this day has come like any other year, I should fulfill my duty as an Arab and bring their memories to life. We should never forget, but we should forgive. Twenty-two years since it happened, and each time, people know nothing but madness, and violence of that day.
As for the years I saw, this anger came from the fathers to the fathers of those people. For somehow most of us don’t know what happened that day. Like I said, it became a duty. And it’s our job to be there when they bring their memories to life. We should never forget, but we should forgive. They will say they fought bravely. They protected their land. They died for a reason. But I think nothing is worth dying for. But sometimes it’s the only way to save others. What can I say for a mother who lost her son, or a sister who lost a brother? I stand worthless to bring them back, but powerful enough to bring their memories back by not forgetting them.
Eight months ago I went to this camp. It was nice: Jewish people, Arabs from some countries, some Americans too. During those 40 days I spent there, those people became my friends—not for what they are, but who they are. I didn’t see them as Israelis, or Jordanians, but as Sa’ad, and Ned, and Tim. They became my friends and a heart is where you keep them. For 40 days I learnt who those soldiers were who tried to kick us out, and I learnt who these people were that I lived with for 40 days.
Now I know who my friends are. In a few years from now they will become soldiers. They will go to the army to protect their families. But will they stay the same? Will they be the same Edi or Tzakhi that I knew? Will they be the same? What will happen if they become like those soldiers? And duty will call them for what they call “protection”—what then? Will they be the same? That’s an answer that only time can answer. But until then, they will be the same for me.
The same people I lived with for 40 days. The same people I played with. The same people I shared my thoughts and feelings with, and so they did too. What I learnt in camp was priceless; we were all the same, so nothing else matters. But what I learnt in camp only showed up here eight months later: today on Youm El-Ard. Today I will know what Seeds of Peace really gave me. I will know what to do when someone will call my friends “killers” or “murderers.” No friend of mine is a killer, and I’m not a friend of one either.
Today I will be asked to choose between what they call “protecting and remembering” and between what they call “forgiving.” I will be asked to choose. And I will.
Will my choice be the right choice, be the right thing to do, or will it be the wrong thing to do? Well a friend of mine once said: “Out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” And I will be there, and I will see you when you get there. For the thoughts that are around me and the feelings that guard me, I won’t forget a friend’s words, and I will remember his words, by making others remember mine.
I will go on. I will make this planet a better place to live and I will go on. For all the souls who only saw pain and sorrow in their eyes; for the souls who will never see a pain of another soul, I promise you I will go on. Until we meet in the field, my friend, take care.
Asel Asleh SOP 1997 Bunk 17 nick name: slider
Watch people around the world, including Asel’s Seeds friends, reading ‘Peaceful Thoughts.’
The following are other messages sent by Asel to his fellow Seeds.
July 29, 1999 | My worst dream is to wake up some day and to know that no one remembers Seeds of Peace anymore. We are not just another case walking by. Keep it alive back home—the meetings, emails, phone calls—your voice is always wanted in seven different countries.
January 28, 1998 | Imagine that someone trained you to hate someone so much and that someone that you call an enemy suddenly becomes a friend. There is no such thing as an enemy it’s just a word that everyone uses, an excuse for hate. I just want to change my world so it will become a better place with no need for such a word. With Love Slider – @sel 31
December 1997 | Every time I think about those moments in camp, even the sad ones, I am afraid that maybe someday we’ll lose each other. Every time I think about camp, I realize that the spirit that we always talked about in camp exists and I know that I brought it with me and now I know that it will always stay there every time I need it. I think and I know that Seeds of Peace is the best thing that happened to all of us.
When we became a Seed we took to our hands a responsibility, and it is our job now to do it in the right way no matter what. A job that we all made a commitment to do. Not because we have to, but because we want to.
December 3, 1997 | Anyway, I send you these e-mails just because I care for you and I love you. (crossed fingers) So anyway, there are two things left to say. First, “enjoy living in this life as long as you are still breathing, after all you live only once,” and second, “be someone, and not just any one.” With Love Slider – @sel