Just a simple question by Kaja Roscher

Posted: October 10, 2018

It was just a simple question.

Maybe it wasn’t that simple.

But it was just a question.

Five months ago I visited Israel and the palestinian territories. I spent  11 very impressive, intensive and emotional days there. It was a special time, not only for me, also for the people who lived there. Israel celebrated its 70th anniversary. But there are two sides of this story.

While I was sitting in an israeli school and watching all this happiness and proudness they feel about their state, there were palestinian people dying because some protests escalated. Just some kilometres away people lost family members while I was having fun. Everything happened at the same time, under the same sky.

I visited both parts, so I tried to start a conversation with my israeli exchange partners  by asking this question:

“Do you understand that the day you celebrate as your country's birthday is the day the palestinian people call catastrophe?”

Eyes looked at me. Looked at me as if I said something in a different language, something that doesn’t make sense at all. They looked at me as if I suddenly became a different person. I felt like I didn’t belong to this place anymore. I just felt wrong. In this moment we drifted away from each other. It felt like there were hundreds of miles between us. My words couldn’t reach them anymore. We were no longer teenagers who had a great time together. We became foreigners.

I tried to explain that 70 years ago when Israel was founded the people who lived there before (palestinian people) lost their homes. I saw their keys. They kept the keys to express that some of them are still waiting to return to their homes.

My exchange partners just looked at me while I was talking. I wanted them to understand me and my question. And this 15 year old german girl I am, didn’t realised that there was someone behind her. Someone who heard my question and my words.

The day after that I went to school in the morning with my exchange partner. As I arrived our teacher told us that she wants to talk to us. It sounds cliche, but I seriously already had the feeling that I got into trouble. And I was right…

The israeli school didn’t want us to ask questions like this.That’s what they said.
We were there as germans. And almost every family living in this country can tell you the stories their parents and grandparents told them. Their parents and grandparents were people who physically survived the Holocaust and lost people they loved because of it.
And I listened to these stories, because I know that it is my responsibility. It is not my fault what happened, but I have a responsibility.

But it is still my right to ask a question. It’s a human right. There is nothing wrong about asking a critical question in a respectful way and that’s what I did.

I didn’t ask this question although I am german, I asked this question BECAUSE I am german. Because I want to be a critical person, a person who thinks, makes up their own mind. Why? Because my country has a story. And I learned from that story. That’s why it’s not only my right, but my responsibility to ask critical questions.

But it doesn’t matter where you are from. You just have to think about where you want to be and how you want this world to be. And I want this world to be a peaceful place, as all of us hopefully. That’s why we have to fight for the freedom of speech by asking critical questions and writing about things people don’t talk about. ALL OF US.