Sometimes love can blossom even across the Middle East's physical and cultural divides. It did a year ago, between two 29-year-old men, one Israeli and one Palestinian. Here is their story.
They've asked that we not use their real names to protect their safety. So we'll call the Israeli "David" and the Palestinian "Ibrahim."
David: Well, the first chat with [Ibrahim] was like any other chat on a dating website.
Ibrahim: His profile said he was in Jerusalem. He messaged me.
David: He was a very good-looking man. Very charming, very intelligent, intriguing.
Ibrahim: He was white with blue eyes. Innocent. He was not the first Israeli I talked to. But they all had a problem with meeting Palestinian guys. Some of them thought it was dangerous to meet a Palestinian guy. Like maybe it's a trap or something.
David: We were chatting every day, getting to know each other.
Ibrahim: And it didn't take long time before he suggested meeting the next Saturday. I told him, you are in Jerusalem, I am in the West Bank, and there is a wall between us. It's not a good idea to draw expectations. Like, we cannot really go far with it. But he was so excited, and he really wanted it. And I also wanted it. I invited him to come to my house.
David: Strangely enough, it was the only place where we could meet legally.
Ibrahim: And he met my family. They were surprised in a nice way. Like, wow! You are Jewish. Hahaha! He was like part of the family, you know? We felt that they knew, but they didn't know. I am very sure that they never thought that we are in a relationship. I know that I live in a big lie, which is hiding my sexuality, you know?
David: I told my parents a few months after we started going out. They were very against it. They said that I should think about myself. And if I want to mess up my future with this. I was smuggling him to Jerusalem almost every weekend, just driving through the checkpoint with full confidence. If you look Israeli, they let you go. If you look Palestinian, they stop you and they check for permits.
Ibrahim: Of course, he had to smuggle me because I didn't have permission to enter Jerusalem. Everything in the city was new to me. I loved meeting people and being myself with them. You know because I have been hiding it most of my life, it's the time to use to make up those years of hiding.
David: It was supposed to be the first time that he would spend the night in my house. We were very excited about that. Then, all of a sudden, we saw a police car going towards us. And the police officers went out of the car and asked for IDs. They usually do stop people in the middle of night, usually looking for drugs. I think they were a bit surprised to find an illegal Palestinian.
It was less an interrogation and more a warning, like, "You can be friends, you can be whatever you want. Talk on the phone! Go to see him in his house. But why bring him to Israel? No, you can't do it."
Eventually, I was released and he was taken and dropped at the checkpoint to go back home. We knew that there was no other way. So I would bring him to Jerusalem again.
Ibrahim: For me, it was basically love. I didn't want to hang it on the wall that, "Oh, we are a Palestinian and an Israeli, guys who are in love." But it also made me happy, that we are doing something special. At some point, I thought it would last forever.
David: Yeah, we broke up a few days ago. It's very confusing. I cannot really separate the situation, the political situation, from our personal situation. The fact is that I am the one responsible for having this relationship because if I don't come to his place, or bring him to Jerusalem, then we won't be together. And that creates a very uneven relationship.
It affirms the power relations that we have as two sides of the conflict. To bring it to a relationship, it's not what I want to have. I don't want to reaffirm a situation that I am against.
We had a very big love and that's a very meaningful thing in everyone's life.
My hope is that he gained something from this relationship… that now he believes that love is possible in his life. And change is possible in his life. And new opportunities are possible. But I think it can happen only elsewhere. Not here. And I really wish that he can find his way out of here.
Ibrahim: Of course, Palestine is my country, and I was born here. But for me, my home is where I am myself. I really don't feel that Palestine is my home. I feel like a stranger in this place.
I don't want to be confused, if I broke up with my boyfriend because we just had issues, or because of the political situation. I want it to be more clear to me.
David: My intention is to leave the country. Because I've had enough. Everything is against you. Everything. The law is against you… the situations of gays in Palestinian society is against you. The cultural differences are against you. Your parents are against you.
This separation is so deep. And when individuals try to break it, they wear out. And I am all worn out.
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