By: Phillip Nagler | Features  | 

My First Fight

It was a bright and sunny day in Northern Israel. My friends and I had a vacation day from our research labs, so we decided to travel to Gan Hashlosha, a national park. The park was beautiful. We swam in various natural springs and waterfalls and took plenty of cool pictures. People filled the park from corner to corner, both Jews and Arabs.

In the late afternoon, we moved to a new location to go swimming. We put our things down next to a group of Arabs, who were around the same age as we were. One of my friends started a conversation with one of them, and we all introduced ourselves. He was a really friendly guy; he told us that he was from Nazareth and that he was Palestinian. He had a big scar on his back. I found out later from my friend that he got the scar from his father, who held a knife up against his back. When he was a teenager, he didn’t want to be a religious Muslim anymore, and this is what led to the knife incident. He told my friend that his relationship with his father is better now.

We swam for another hour and a half. There was a large and cascading waterfall that was a 15-minute swim away from where we entered the water. After returning to shore, I was completely tuckered out from swimming all day. I decided to head to the showers and change, while the rest of my friends decided to stay in the water for a little longer.

Upon return, I saw that most of my friends were still in the water. One of my friends in the water was still talking to the young Arab man who he had met earlier that day. I had flip flops on, and I wanted to change into my sneakers. I sat down and started putting one of them on. Before I could tie it, I heard two Arab teenagers yelling intensely at each other. They were less than 10 feet away from me. Next thing I knew, one of them punched the other in the face, and they started to fight.

Two other Arab teenagers joined in on the fight. It started to get very intense. Many people were a few feet away just watching, including me and my friend who was also out of the water. The Arab guy who my friend was talking to got out of the water and tried to break up the fight. He was not able to overpower the four of them and ran to get help.

I was petrified. I thought that I would get dragged into the fight, being that I was sitting a few feet away. One of my shoes was still untied, and the other one wasn’t even on my foot. I tried moving my hands to tie my shoes, but they were paralyzed with fear.

One of the Arab teenagers started lobbing any objects he could find at the other two teenagers. He first picked up a large branch and threw it at them. Then he whacked them with a spatula that he grabbed from a nearby grill. Not long after, he lifted the entire grill and launched it at them.

The fight moved a few feet away from where I was sitting. I mustered the courage to put on and tie both of my shoes. A security guard arrived, his face with a grim and nervous expression. He called for backup on his walkie-talkie.

My friend and I got up and started to leave the area. As we started to move away, we saw about seven or eight security guards running in the direction of the fight. At this point, I felt safe and started to calm down. We went back to get the rest of our friends a few minutes later, and everything seemed to have settled down. It was getting late, so we gathered up all of our things and headed out of the park back to Jerusalem. Suffice it to say, we had a good story to tell everyone when we got back.

This whole experience made me think a lot about Arab life in Israel. I’ve had a few interactions with Israeli Arabs, but I don’t think I had ever spoken to someone who identified as a Palestinian. When the whole fight was happening just a few feet away from me, there were all of these voices echoing in my head. Some of these voices were educators from middle school and high school. They were telling me that Palestinians are taught to hate Jews in grade school and that they are cruel people who use human shields. These voices were also telling me that I was in danger and that these teenagers were about to attack me. Then there was another voice in my head, the voice of mainstream media. It spoke to me saying that Palestinians are people too; that they are oppressed and live in a poor economic society. This voice told me that this fight had nothing to do with me and that I had no reason to be scared.

Part of me at the time of the fight wanted to get up and run away with only one shoe on. I felt that it would be naïve of me to stay so close to a potentially dangerous situation. Another part of me felt that I would be safe since this wasn’t my fight. After all, why would they attack me? It turned out that I got out of this situation completely unscathed, but I wondered: was it right of me to not get up and move away immediately when the fight started?

Ultimately, it is foolish to shape an opinion on a group of people from one bad experience. However, it made me realize that I never really thought about the Palestinians who are living in Israel. Some of them may be violent like these couple of teenagers who got into a fight, for whatever reason. But some of them are nice and friendly people, like the guy that my friend was speaking to. After this experience, I view Palestinians as human beings, rather than as a political concept.

Photo Caption: Reflection

Photo Credit: Google