What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Cayce Pack. 

Coming back to the United States, people often ask me if I was afraid. Afraid of terrorism, of jihad, of living in a land that hates the Jewish faith. Afraid of bus-bombs, afraid of rockets, afraid of riots, afraid of being a blonde American girl in a city of hijab-wearing women.

I typically shake my head that I don’t feel afraid, and add with a smile that I was always relatively safe, surrounded by a strong network of Palestinian friends.

I say this because it’s usually in a church pew, or grocery store checkout line, when it’s typically not the best time to say what I really fear.

I want to tell them that I am afraid nearly each time I open my mouth to say where I work, because saying that I work for the independence of the Palestinian people is so often followed by accusations that I’m anti-Israel. I want to tell them that as a Christian, I do deeply agree that Judaism represents the chosen people of God- but I do not believe my God would choose such suffering or conflict for anyone. I want to tell them that I love the Israeli people, and love their country, and I love the idea of a two-state solution. I want to tell them it is possible to have both Israeli and Palestinian friends, as I do. I want to tell them that I know peace will only happen this way.

I want to tell them that I’m afraid to watch CNN or Fox, or really any news outlets, because I can’t bear to hear just how warped this war is portrayed in the media, how the lives of people that mean the world to me are reduced to numbers that never really had a place in this world. I want to tell them that I’m afraid they’ve been highly misled if they believe that Palestinians hate Jews, or that Gaza is a city solely ruled by terrorists who dig tunnels to harm Israelis. I want to tell them that there are very bad atrocities committed by both sides in this battle, but there is disproportionate suffering on behalf of the Palestinian people, if we’re talking about death tolls and grave injuries.

I want to tell them that I am afraid of hearing the wails of another bereaved mother who lost her child to missile fire much more than I am afraid of hearing the screams of an air raid siren that a rocket’s crashing toward me.

I want to tell them that I am afraid for the children in my neighborhood, sweet little ones born into sixty-year-old refugee camps, inheriting only the world’s most unresolved conflict. I am afraid for them today, as their tiny lives cope with military raids each night, and I am afraid for their tomorrow, as politicians from both sides have failed for nearly seven decades to give them a safe future.

I want to tell them I am afraid for the boys, the boys that throw stones and strap the traditional keffiyehs around their faces as masks, whose images and acts of horror are broadcast around the world. I want to tell them that they are highly-misguided kids who were searching for dignity and power after incessant emasculation at checkpoints, struggling to find meaning after being told by most of the world that you aren’t worthy enough to even have a country. I want to tell them that I do not agree with violence of any kind, but I believe deeply that where there’s life, there’s hope- and branding them terrorists before they’re out of their teens only keeps us trapped in this angry reality.

I want to tell them that I am afraid we can no longer ignore the growing movement of Israelis that are desperately urging their country to uphold its democratic standards, activists and everyday citizens with more courage than I’ll ever have and hearts that will truly change this world.

I want to tell them, most of all, that I am afraid of what happens if we think ceasefires are the real solution here, if we believe that all is mostly well in Israel and Palestine just because rockets aren’t raining down on both sides. I want them to know that hope must be kept alive here, hope that involves the creation of something new, instead of the keeping of the status quo.

I likely won’t meet most of you in a grocery store checkout or in a church pew beside me, but I want you to know that I value your perspectives on this place, and I’m not attempting to convert anyone to a certain agenda. I’m not a politician, and I’m not a preacher. I believe deeply that the Holy Land is humanity’s land, and I believe in human rights. I believe Israelis and Palestinians- Jews and Muslims and Christians- have valid claims to the region that the international community must honor. More than that, though, I believe that now that I have seen, I am responsible- so if I do run into you in a coffee shop or carpark, I might be talking a little bit more now.