"Your friend is an ignorant anti-Semite."
The comment was from a stranger, a friend of a friend who had shared my last post, and though it upset me, it also got me thinking - what is anti-Semitism? Where is the line between a government and its people? And had I crossed that line? I entered this country of conflict already on the Palestinian side - was I responsible, then, for my interactions?
An acquaintance wrote to me on the same post, expressing that he hoped I knew those two conversations did not represent the feelings all Israelis. I had trouble responding, baffled by the assumption that I could even harbor that thought. But when a stranger (who is Israeli) said the same thing to me, I responded that no, of course not, I would never presume that. I just became very afraid to talk to people after that because if they found out I was spending time in Palestine . . . so I had shut myself off from other people . . .
Damn. Their hate had won, even if only for a few days. Two individuals. I did not have other experiences with Israeli men and women because I was afraid. For three days, I allowed two interactions to create fear of an entire group of people. It is right there in the word - xenophobia. Anti-Semitism. Fear. Hate.
But this post is supposed to be about the last week of my trip. A wonderful week with Cherif in Barcelona, Berlin and Copenhagen.
As I stood on the roof deck of our hotel in Barcelona, awaiting my beautiful boyfriend's arrival, I found myself nervous. Not about our relationship - the magic of Skype and Viber meant we had talked or texted almost daily, so I knew our relationship was solidly in tact. I was trepidatious because I had learned to function as a loner, solitarily roaming the world and fending for myself. Did I still know how to be part of a team?
There were no worries. Cherif is an adventurer, too, and off we went into the city knowing only the direction of the sea.
Barcelona was lovely and we were, I am equal parts and ashamed and proud to admit, two picturesque homos wandering that fantastic city. From fountain to street cafe to castle, Paella and tapas and cafe solo y cafe con leche. It is a glorious city with beautiful streets and beautiful people.
We wandered throughout, climbed the mountain to Montjuic to view the city and stopped wherever we liked after our Gondola ride back down. We stumbled upon an entire street, closed off to traffic, filled with one-Euro tapas restaurants, overflowing with Spanish laughter and all vaguely underscored by the scent of marijuana. And we talked, a lot about my experiences and his time in Copenhagen, but at one point Cherif asked me stop talking about Palestine. "I can't," he explained, "Just for a little bit. It makes me too sad."
And we boarded our flight to Berlin. Staying there in another gay hotel, I must say I was again relieved to be able to be a free-roaming homosexual. Berlin, believe it or not, is even more gay than Barcelona. Again we walked for miles, knowing only our general direction and seeing whatever came across our path.
Berlin is a terribly modern city, with most of its more classic architecture having been destroyed in the second World War. In addition to the myriad of gay sexual options, there are many monuments and museums, testifying to Berlin's rich and complicated history. Almost accidentally, I found myself in an outdoor memorial to the Gypsies killed in the camps, weeping uncontrollably. Did I feel some ancestral connection to these people? Or was it just their wandering souls, slaughtered for their lifestyle in a time when millions of others were also killed for no reason? I'll never know, but I wept for these nameless undocumented victims, lost without note in a time when so very many were also lost.
And off to Copenhagen . . .
The Danes are beautiful people, and Copenhagen is a clean and lovely city. Thousands of bikers line the streets, zipping along with the assurance of their free education and health care, happily gay-married and often riding with a beer in one hand and a phone in the other.
But I was not there, really, to see Copenhagen. Or at least not the sites. I was there to see where the man I love spends his days. We visited his home, his library, his favorite coffee shop . . . met his friends and his roommate . . . I was there to see his life. Home, now, it is so nice when he calls to be able to picture him where he sits.
On our last night together, we had a little couple spat. It was a stupid and short-lived argument that I started, and I will not bore you with the details of my idiocy. For it came down to one simple thing: I was afraid he might love me less than I love him. Is that not, always, what it is really about?
Fear. It is a powerful force. Many people have told me they think me brave for taking this journey, which I find embarrassing and untrue. But fear of the unknown, fear of getting lost, fear of strange different people who eat different food and speak different words - these are seemingly monumentous obstacles that serve to keep us in place, ignorant and still and unconnected.
Fear had kept me from learning and speaking in Tel Aviv. Fear of loving had caused me to create distance between myself and the man I love on our last night together. Though the distance between he and I was temporary and we came back to each other in the same night, the other chasms of fear are still quite wide.
"The conflict will never end." I was told by Israelis and Palestinians alike, and it may be true. For both sides are terrified of the other. And everybody, on any side of any conflict personal or international, is afraid to lose.
When did we become this world? Where to love more than the other is to lose, and to hate more is to win?
Five weeks and six countries. French, Arabic, Spanish, German, Hebrew, Danish, English, customs and families and art and love and homes and monuments and fences . . . and everyone, myself included, wants to know what it all meant. And I have no idea.
Except that I am, hopefully, a little less afraid to love.
- - Adam