How two women — an Israeli and a Palestinian — forged a friendship that endures through war

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Marco Werman: With the Israeli Palestinian conflict as intractible as ever, we want to hear now from two young women, friends, both from Jerusalem, but who live on opposite sides of the divide. Rawan is Palestinian and Muslim, Gal is Israeli and Jewish. They first met more than a decade ago in the United States through a U.S. based organization called Building Bridges. It brings together Israeli and Palestinian teens. Gal and Rawan became friends while in the U.S., and they're still friends today. Rawan was in Jerusalem until very recently. She's currently in Turkey. Gal is still in Jerusalem, and Gal says having a real friend on the opposite side of the conflict changes everything. Gal: For example, if I want to know what things are like on the eastern side of Jerusalem and I live in west Jerusalem, I have someone to ask. And so many people don't have the ability to ask questions, and the only way, or the only method they are able to get information is from the media. Werman: Rawan, this is the third war, and Gal, you too, that you've both lived through in six and half years. I mean, in terms of fear and your ability to even think about the future, a future without this violence, does this round of shooting and rockets feel scarier than anything before? Rawan: I don't think I've ever felt unsafe in my country as much as I feel today. I think partly because the manifestation of hatred and violence has gone beyond any imagination. I mean, I don't want to think about the numbers, but the numbers are there. It's not a comparison of who's getting more pain. The matter of fact is the only thing that would make me feel safe is knowing that I have on the other side people like Gal I could have a conversation with. And also knowing that with people like Gal on the other side, there is possibility of not only seeing the conflict from someone else's perspective, but also seeing that there are certain things that are wrong. Werman: Like what? Rawan: Do I believe occupation, one example, violence in my opinion and that's a very personal opinion obviously, is in my opinion very, very wrong. And many people resort to it, and I understand that. I don't condone it and I don't support it. I seek justice, and to me, what's happening in Israel and Palestine now is not just. Werman: Gal, I'm curious to know, in the pursuit of that justice, what do you think are the questions that do need to be asked? Gal: I think, at least on the Israeli side, we are not sure about the answers. Our society is really divided, and in a way that's something that makes the conversation really difficult. If you ask religious Jews or right wing Jews what is just in Israel, they will tell you it's the land we got from God and what is just is that we'll be controlling all of it. And if you ask Israeli's from the more left wing side of Israel, they will tell you that a just solution is more democratic, is leaning more towards civil rights, maybe dividing even Jerusalem. For me, I think, as a person who sees 'the other,' we need to ask ourselves what 'the other' gets from the policy that we're creating. Werman: Again, I mean, these are points of view that are really refreshing to hear and it occurs to me that, do you feel like these concepts, these thoughts are actually being put out there right now? Are they being marginalized at all? Are they being silenced in any way? Gal: I think in a time of war, there is a phrase in Hebrew, you say 'Sheket, yorim,' Quiet, there is a shooting. In times of war I think it's, I understand that it's hard to voice these type of voices, and is Israel they are definitely being silenced. There is a strong support to the operation that is going on. I think there is a very strong fear right now of what has been going on in Gaza and the tunnels, and when people are scared they are becoming angry. And it's hard for them to see the other side. And it's hard for them to see the 1,200 Palestinian dead on the other side. Werman: Rawan, what about you? Are you worried that these points of view about justice and dialogue, are they being suppressed? Rawan: I do think that in times of violence it is hard to listen to a different voice. It's hard to see, or it's easy to make invisible any voice that is not in support of let's defend ourselves, and if that cost is killing everyone else let's do it. But unfortunately it's a common feeling. It's like survival mode at this point. And that is very, very frustrating and it's also very, very sad. I know that having conversations with my own mother, and Gal and I had an opportunity to share these conversations together, my mom's only thing was like, she's like I lived through multiple wars and I just would like to die maybe one day with living in a time with no war. I think leaders and I think individuals, and I think us as people who are really caring and loving for this world and loving for humanity, and loving for life, we have a love for life. I think I would say I would like to listen to my mother and I would like to be one of those people that might be able to one day give her a few years of no war. Werman: I gotta say, that is a very poignant wish. Rawan and Gal, what about you two. Do you think your friendship is unshakeable? Gal: I can tell you that I love Rawan dearly, and most of our conversations don't even touch the conflict. She knows my family and my partner for life, and I know her family and we go really long back. I don't think that political issues will break our friendship. Werman: Rawan, what about you? Is your friendship with Gal there forever? Rawan: I mean, I think that's the simplest question to ask. From all the questions you asked it's the easiest one. I mean, we made friends and I think we made friends for a very, very long time. And I think a big part of it is because there's a huge space for honesty and for us both to be ourselves, and for us both to be able to be like we are angry about this. And I am angry about this and this is very frustrating for me, and feeling very safe in that place that we could have these conversations and be absolutely open and be absolutely people with each other. The political lines... Gal: Listen to her. How can I not be friends with her. She is great. She's wonderful. Werman: Well, Rawan and Gal, thank you both for your honesty today and for this conversation with us. Really appreciate it. Gal: Thank you for letting us voice another voice in Israel and Palestine. Werman: Friends across the divide. Gal is Israeli, Rawan, Palestinian. You can hear more from them in a documentary called My So Called Enemy. Check out the preview at Facebook.com/pritheworld.