So tonight was the AWARE thing that I've talked about. We had an Israeli boy, Haggai, speak.
God, just the amount of hatred. Bitter and ... just hatred. People came in with the purpose of tearing this kid apart, because he believes in peace and they believe in Israel.
His main point that I saw and heard was that no one is to blame for the violence. No one specifically, at least. Palestinian suicide bombers are raised to hate the Israeli's, not because they are taking their land, or because they are from Israel, but because that's what they see. It's all around them in occupied territories. They see hatred, they see the Israeli Army raiding their villages and taking relief food and aid.
He talked about a vicious cycle. Israel feels the need to protect itself against these attacks, but the attacks are sprung from mistreatment of Palestinians by Israel.
The actual presentation went relatively well. AWARE decided to have any questions submitted on a note card to avoid an "interrogation" or debate. It helped the emphasis to stay on his ideas of peace rather than defending political standing. We only had a couple incidents of yelling out, mostly by this one woman, who basically scared me from the beginning. Just so set in her ways.
At the end though, half the audience (which was about 1/3 of our auditorium - well over a hundred people. Maybe two) basically rushed to the stage.
It was an angry mob out for the kill.
Once those dissenters were given the chance, they said horrible things. "I hope he doesn't think he's getting out of here alive". Fuck people. What the hell? This one woman spoke directly to Haggai, saying that her son was in the Army and was going to die for selfish people like him.
He was talking about peace. That's all he wants.
Eyal was our AWARE member to pose questions to Haggai, and frankly, he was pretty harsh. Obviously, which questions he asked was up to him, and out of the list of 30 some, he picked political ones. Eyal is an Israeli-American Jew (which he didn't fail to mention a couple times) and also openly stated that he was against Haggai's decision to not serve in the Army.
When we started bringing audience questions in, we took Eyal off and rotated between Steve, Steph, and Betsy, who all did wonderfully. Betsy was the last to speak and gave a small closing thanking everyone for their respect and questions and for coming out tonight. The problem woman started to yell something so Betsy repeated "THANK you for being so respectful."
After a couple minutes, we had security guard Pete (huge ripped guy, very nice too) come and escort him out. All that did was take the attention off Haggai directly and parents and students just started yelling among themselves and talking and arguing. Israeli support was definitely the majority, and those defending peace struggled to keep away from the conflict.
As part of AWARE and being a peace supported, I honestly felt like the bad guy. Like I was wrong and I too should be hated. It was exhausting.
As a side note, Haggai is one of the nicest people ever. I mean, he's 18, the age of most of my peers, and is completely a normal person. Except that he is standing up for what he believes in. He goes on convoys to occupied Palestine areas and stands up against the injustices there by not joining in the Army. But he's just such a normal person. His convictions have just taken him farther than most.
It was an incredible evening, and I'm so glad I got to go. I'm even more glad that I went as a member of AWARE, and was able to talk in a more intimate setting for an hour before he spoke in front of a larger audience.