„Where are you from“, said the Israeli guy in a small souvenir shop in Tel Aviv conversationally as he put my set of kitschy postcards into a bag. I gave him an awkward smile. Hesitant, apologetically.
„Germany“, I said.
„Germany!“, he repeated and handed me my change. „You don’t look deutsch, though. You look Middle Eastern. You sure you not Israeli?“
„Well“, I said, my awkward smile becoming awry, „that’s because I am Middle Eastern indeed. Not Israeli, though.“ I thought he could figure it out himself by now.
„So you’re Arab“, he inquired, his face becoming stern. This conversation was getting weird now.
„Palestinian“, I said. „Half of me.“
„Wow“, the shopowner said. „Wow. So you’re German-Palestinian.“
Go figure. I sighed.
„That’s weird“, he said. I know. I fucking know. „Your folks from here?“, he asked casually.
„Yeah. Left in ’48“. I wanted to say flee but part of my conflict-fearing nature made me say left. As if my grandparents emigrated to a UN refugee camp for fun. „They fled“, I clarified, clearing my throat.
„Shame“, he said. I didn’t know if he meant me, the war, the politics, or the Palestinians in general. „First time in Israel?“, he then wanted to know, avoiding my eyes.
„Nope“, I said. I was coming here almost every year but maybe he wouldn’t understand. I wasn’t in the mood to explain my peace work and the reasons I come to Israel every year. I was exhausted from speaking to students and journalists about the conflict and about my mixed identity. A bloody tourist, that’s what I wanted to be for the rest of the afternoon.
„So“, he said and handed me my bag, „welcome home, then“.
As I stepped out onto the street, the light looked brighter than it did before.
About the author
Joana Osman is a German-Palestinian writer, storytelling coach and peace activist based in Munich, Germany.
Joana was born 1982 as the daughter of a Palestinian father and a German mother. Since her family had been severely affected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she has always felt the urge to work in peace activism and intercultural dialogue. In 2012 she became active in the viral movement “the Peace Factory” a Facebook based dialogue and friendship project between the people of the Middle East. There she opened the Facebook page “Palestine loves Israel” where she advocates a peachttps://www.facebook.com/palestinelovesisrael.peacefactory/eful dialogue and friendship across borders.