It was 1:30 am, on a still and quiet winter’s night. I lay awake in my Jericho home, nervous and restless. I couldn’t sleep. I had been trying for hours but it was useless.
Eventually, I got up and headed to a coffee shop, where one of my friends works, north of the Dead Sea. The small cafeteria called Lido is connected to a gas station and acts as a stopover for travellers and visitors passing through. It is a place fully secured and controlled by the Israeli authorities.
That night in Lido there were no visitors and it was very quiet. I sat alone drinking coffee and looking at the stars. Suddenly, I noticed a religious Jewish man carrying a bottle of gasoline beside the station. He seemed tense and worried. I looked at him, knowing that if I was to approach him, he may feel afraid because I am a Palestinian Arab… but I couldn’t ignore his obvious struggle! I couldn’t leave without knowing if there was something, I could do to help him.
I waited for a while, then I went over and spoke to him in Hebrew.
“Brother, are you okay? What do you need?”
As I imagined, fear overcame him as he gave me a short dismissive answer, “No, no, I’m fine” he said.
I told him what I knew. “I know that you are afraid of me,” I said, “and I understand the cause of your fear – and to be honest, I also feel the same fear of you! But let me help you. My name is Muhammad Jamous, a Palestinian peacemaker from Jericho”.
Something changed in his expression as he responded, “My name is Abraham and I am from Jerusalem.”
After a few minutes I tried again to speak with him, I wanted him to let me help him, but I knew it was a very sensitive issue.
Eventually, he opened up to me and said “I need help. My car ran out of gas at the Ein Gede Israeli Checkpoint, which is about 40 minutes away. I am waiting for someone to take me there.”
“Brother, it’s 2:00 in the morning!” I said, “You won’t find any kind of transportation now, and you won’t find anyone to take you there for free at this time, let me help you – for free!”
He took some time to answer, signs of fear, and anxiety marking his face. Finally, he agreed – “Ok yes, let’s go!”
Here in Israel and Palestine, taking a Jewish man like him in my car is very dangerous for me. I am Palestinian and my vehicle carries a Palestinian plate, so I knew that I was putting myself in real danger. If any Israeli police vehicle stopped me and saw a Jewish person in my car, they could arrest me, so I prayed to God for everything to be OK and off we went.
We started our drive from the Lido station toward Ein Gedi checkpoint, where his car was waiting for him. The entire way, Abraham praised me for being his angel, and a good, kind, and benevolent person amongst so much fear.
All I could do was tell him that this was my calling, that I was born to help all people regardless of their race, religion, color, and nationality. I know that in the Holy Land we face a lot of fear and tension due to the permanent conflict between Arabs and Jews, but on the other hand, there are people from both sides whose hearts radiate faith, light and piety, people whose presence and purpose in life is to create a beautiful reason to live and overcome struggles.
I continued, “I started my life and my work in making peace from a young age, and I did not speak English or Hebrew at that time. But I knew that there was great positive energy inside of me and that this energy needed to be directed towards peace work. My purpose was clear, I wanted to create a better life for all people.
At the beginning of my life I worked with many peace organizations and societies as a volunteer, as a participant, and as an organizer, and today, I work as the director of the Abrahamic Reunion in Palestine, which is a grassroots organization designed to overcome the problem of segregation and separation in Israel and Palestine by bringing together small to large groups of people from the four major religions to spend time together, work together, study together, and create an atmosphere of trust and understanding.
The basic premise is that religion has been used to divide people in the Holy Land, and it can also be used as a force to bring people together, while still respecting divergent points of view and cultures. The attempt to bring a political solution without having the support of the people has not worked for 70 years, and the Abrahamic Reunion, recognizing this problem has removed itself from any political posturing. We consciously implement the contributions of women, young people, students, and religious leaders to develop a network of understanding and to train people in conflict resolution and interfaith dialogue.”
We talked a lot and laughed a lot, the time passed very quickly, and something magical occurred. Abraham’s tension and fear transformed into hope, peace, and love within 40 minutes. That this could happen between myself, a young Palestinian Peacemaker and religious Jewish man was a miracle.
We arrived at the location of Abraham’s vehicle, at the Ein Gedi checkpoint, and I dropped him off at his car with gasoline.
Whilst he was filling up his car, I walked over to the Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint to introduce myself and explained the situation. I wanted to dissolve any potential danger for myself should they ask why I was with him. I returned to Abraham after talking to the soldiers and told him to let me know if he ever needed anything. He turned to me, looked me in the eyes, and said “One day please come to Jerusalem, and meet my family, and stop over for a coffee! I will never forget this beautiful moment, and your great, courageous, and generous act, for the rest of my life.” We swapped phone numbers and I promised him that one day I would visit him at his home in Jerusalem. I bid him farewell, my heart was full of hope, and my eyes were welling with tears.
I believe that there is a reason for everything, and maybe, just maybe, the cause of my nervousness and inability to sleep that night, was because Abraham needed my help and the flame of hope in the Holy Land needed to be kindled.
Driving home to my house in Jericho, a giant smile crossed my face the entire way. My heart was so full of joy, and I thought to myself that perhaps now, I would be able to sleep. And sure enough, I did.