My Dear Ahed

My Dear Ahed,

I will not begin by asking if you’re well. I certainly hope you are but I also know that things are difficult and lonely in your cell. You turned 17 two weeks ago but I am sorry you weren’t home with your parents for your birthday. I know you are angry. And in part, you are angry with people like me– people like me who say they support Israel’s right to exist but often don’t say loudly enough that your rights are equally important too.

Well, I am saying it now. I support your freedom. I support a free and independent country for you and your people where you will not have to worry about soldiers, guns, bombs, and prisons. It makes me sick to think that you are only a year younger than my sister and you have grown up in the shadow of war. It bothers me that you have been made to face judges and soldiers and policemen. It frightens me that your trial has been delayed twice now. People say you are hateful. I say you are hurting. And understandably so.

Contrary to what a lot of people say, I don’t think your anger comes from a place of hatred either. I think, and maybe you will agree, your anger comes from a place of frustration, fear, and helplessness. In all likelihood, if I were in your place, I would have picked up bricks and stones too.

There is not much I can say to make you feel better. Your situation is difficult. You are being misunderstood. And you a live in a reality far, far away from the safety  the rest of us take for granted.

Some are hailing you as a heroine. Others are calling to punish you for a crime that you never committed. You are still a kid but people all across the board want to claim you as their own. They see you as an icon. They see you as a martyr. They politicize your pain and your suffering.

On the other hand, all I see is that you may be facing up to ten years in jail. I cannot romanticize that. For me, your life is not the currency to be used in the Monopoly of politics that has become the norm in the Middle East.

Speaking off-hand, slapping a soldier is not a good thing. They serve because they must. They don’t have a personal agenda against you.  But again, I am no one to say that to you. You saw your cousin getting shot. You live at the edge of conflict. For you, those soldiers represent everything that has made your situation so abnormal and far-removed from the life of an average teenager in more stable countries. If anything, slapping the soldier was an entirely natural response in your situation. I cannot even imagine what you go through everyday. And so, I will not be the judge of your actions. All I know is that your anger is justified.

I want you to know that there are people all around who care for you and who want to see you freed. I want you to know that I, along with several people– Jewish and non-Jewish, Israeli and non-Israeli– are fighting for you and for all the children like you who are languishing in Israel’s prisons.

I am praying for your release and your safe return. Take heart… because you are a brave girl and you are not alone.

Love,

Ankur

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