“Go home! You can’t enter Jerusalem! Go back!” the soldier at the checkpoint screamed at me. This soldier who had invaded my country was now telling me that I was denied access to the city of my birth. I tried to form angry words to respond to his unjust act but was halted by the words of the Savior echoing in my ear: “Love your enemies.”
Memories flashed through my mind of times when I had seen these soldiers demolish homes of my relatives, beat people until their bones were broken, arrest family members, and prevent me from going to church in Jerusalem and partaking of the sacrament. Images came to my mind of those soldiers invading my sister’s home in the middle of the night, terrorizing her children, and arresting her husband and keeping him in jail with no charge for months.
Another distinct picture then formed in my mind. This picture was of Isaac, a fellow student at Bethlehem University. I saw him right after he was shot by an Israeli soldier. I saw the bullet hole in his head. All of a sudden, I was again able to smell the tear gas in the air and feel the sad atmosphere at the university that day in 1987.
Anger and hate filled my soul, and I thought, How could the Lord expect me to love these soldiers? Is that even possible? After what I have seen some of the soldiers do, He could not possibly expect me to love them! The words came again, now more real to my mind: “Love your enemies.” The Lord’s voice was clearly directed at me.
I am a Palestinian Arab. I was born and raised in Palestine, a place of constant conflict.
When I graduated from high school in 1987, the Intifada (the term Palestinians use for “uprising”) started. Young Palestinians went into the streets to protest against the Israeli occupation.
Anton was one of those young men. He was attending Bethlehem University at the same time I was, and he was my cousin’s classmate at the university. Anton was killed by rubber bullets that were shot into his body by an Israeli soldier. A magazine report describes what happened:
“As Anton left a steep path that ran down into a street leading to his house, he was stopped by the two border policemen and shoved against the wall of a neighboring house with his hands raised. Two women eyewitnesses, one at her door a few yards away and another on a balcony across the street, saw one of the policemen thrust his automatic weapon into the young man’s back and fire three rounds of rubber bullets into Anton’s body. The Makassed Hospital report . . . described extensive injuries causing massive internal bleeding, the blood eventually flooding the lungs. X-rays revealed square-shaped bullets in Anton’s body, the rubber thinly coating their metal cores.
“Seizing Anton, who weighed only about 130 pounds, the Israeli border policemen dragged him down a flight of stone steps to a concealed balcony adjoining the house below. Without calling for an ambulance or medical help they then disappeared, leaving him bleeding to death. Later a small private car took Anton to Jerusalem, where doctors struggled in vain to save his life.” (Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 1992, 38, 87)
After Anton was killed, we walked in a demonstration protesting his murder.
Read more of Sahar's remarkable story in Peace for a Palestinian:One Woman's Story of Faith Amidst War in the Holy Land.
Sahar Qumsiyeh was born into a loving Christian family in Jerusalem and raised in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem. Growing up in a country torn apart by political upheaval, Sahar struggled with feelings of hopelessness and anger as she watched her people being persecuted, tormented, and even killed.
In Peace for a Palestinian, Sahar shares her experience desperately searching for peace and joy only to find that true peace lies not in external resolution but in following the Savior. As she explains, "We may live in a place with barriers, checkpoints, and restrictions, but we can feel liberated by His Atonement."