I write to confess that I love you. Although you are sitting in Ofer military prison and might not be too happy, I want to persuade you that I am your own true love. Prison may give you time to think about where your affections can best be directed. You will come to love me too.
Let me explain. I first fell in love with you when my army unit and I arrived at your village Nebi Salih during the weekly demonstration. I saw you over there shouting in protest and you attracted me immediately. I realised that you were shouting only because it was your family’s reputation at stake. I fired some tear gas just to play my role. When you slapped my friend, I was jealous. I knew you really wanted to slap me.
We each have our public roles, but I dream of another story. You are Juliet Capulet, I am Romeo Montagu, and our families have a blood-feud. Yes, we shot and hurt your cousin Mohammed badly but he did not die. That’s better than what happened to Mercutio. So if Romeo and Juliet could love each other so much despite that killing, we are in an even better situation. What about all the other deaths and the occupation, I hear you asking? Are we responsible for the state of the world? How can our world improve if you do not love me? When you love me, then you will be free and no longer in prison.
Yes, our worlds are different. Do you remember the Disney film where Pocahontas learns to love John Smith? It’s a little like that, but I’m from here and not from England. ‘But I’m not Jewish and we can’t marry’ you say? Don’t worry. You’ve probably got more Jewish ancestors than some of the new immigrants we’ve been recruiting. True, your family might disown you, even call you a collaborator. You’ll gain a new family and once we have children they’ll come around. Maybe a building permit or two will help improve matters.
Love changes minds. We start with slaps and end up with kisses and hugs. You are such an admirable model! Once you set an example with kisses, hugs, and love, then other Palestinians will follow. We can change places. Instead of standing on the roof watching over the village with my weapon, I can stand on the ground and secretly call up to you on the balcony like Romeo and Juliet. Remember the part on the balcony where Juliet says that for Romeo’s sake she would no longer be a Palestinian – sorry! – a Capulet? That’s it exactly!
You need to love me, and the sooner the better. The longer you stay in prison, the longer you resist loving me. You will love me in the end, though, so why resist? I almost do not want to say this, but I find you even more adorable when you disagree and resist. It makes me anticipate when you will decide to love me, to love soldiers in the village, to love what you call occupation and we know is liberation. Loving me will be your liberation, I promise.
You might think me mad for writing this letter. I’m not. I’m a clear thinker. We can make peace once you decide that loving me is your best choice. No more slaps for soldiers. Just kisses and hugs.
I adore you.
Photographs courtesy of Joel Schalit. All rights reserved.