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A Shot of Reality
The day started just like any other. I awoke to the deafening blare of an alarm clock, and groggily rolled over to slapped at the snooze button. I took a minute to adjust to my surroundings, as the eerie, mysteriously beautiful wail of the minarets reminded me of where I was. We had arrived in Israel’s biggest city, Jerusalem, the night before, and that day was my 5th day in Israel. Our new hotel was massive, and our balcony overlooked the Damascus gate area of the Old City. This gorgeous, ideally located view would change my life in ways I could have never imagined.
After eating, touring the city, grabbing some shawarma, and returning to my hotel, I was exhausted. The television had hundreds of channels, each clearly labeled with incoherent scribbles of Hebrew and Arabic. After a futile channel surfing session, I decided to retire to the balcony. Turkish coffee in hand, I sat overlooking the Damascus gate. The city was bustling, an intricate system of tourists and merchants combining in the streets. Everything was perfect, and then suddenly, nothing was. Screams erupted from the crowd; I looked over the railing towards the source of the commotion. Three Israeli police officers struggled with a young man, maybe a year older than myself. The fight was intense, but short lived. The man wielded a blade, and swung violently at the officers. The air shattered with a loud crack, as 2 inches of metal was hurtled through the air at 3,100 feet per second. It was unlike any noise I’d ever heard. I’d been around guns before, but a bullet sounds different when it’s intended for human flesh. Countless cracks rang out immediately after the first, and the suspect fell, life fleeing from his bloodied body. The coffee dropped from my hands as I sat in complete and utter shock. The silence was deafening. For the first time since I had been in the city, the bombardment of audio stimulation ceased entirely. It didn’t last long, however, as chaotic screams shortly followed. Loud Hebrew shouting blared over speakers installed by the government throughout the city, instructing citizens on proper terror attack protocol. Police rushed to the scene, and two Cobra attack helicopters circled overhead. Then, just like that, it was over. In just 30 seconds, I was introduced to poverty, desperation, and death in a way I never had been before.
This experience changed me. I saw someone, a Palestinian, who was suffering under political oppression, whose human rights were being denied. I saw how that deprivation of basic human dignity can push someone to violence. Now, I know true suffering. I know real injustice. To watch a man’s life leave his eyes is something that stays with you. It haunts me, it inspires me, and it drives me in all that I do. My passion is to prevent injustices in this world that would lead anyone to believe violent backlash is the only resort. Oppression of an entire group of people based on nothing more than nationality and geographic circumstance breeds this increasingly destructive mentality . Policy changes are needed now more than ever in the United States, if not to defend the oppressed, then to at least stop funding the oppressors.