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Palestinian Woman Fights Cycle of Hatred and Violence With Message of Peace


Sawson Samara, Palestinian peacemaker
Sawson Samara, Palestinian peacemaker

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one that seems to have no end in sight. For generations of Palestinians, the occupation and violence have often bred hopelessness and anger that lead some young people to commit acts of terrorism. Sawsan Samara, a young woman in the West Bank, is taking a stand against violence and is showing others - younger than she is - to do the same. We introduce you to her in the latest installment of our series, Making a Difference.

"When somebody slaps you in the face, the easiest thing is to slap them back. The natural reaction, I mean, it's the first thing that occurs to you," Samara said.

Like millions of other Palestinians, lives with the pain of a seemingly endless conflict and occupation. But she refuses to be angry.

"In reality, it's so much harder, and so much stronger, and so much more effective, if you actually find a way to negotiate," she stated.

It is an attitude that has drawn scorn and fierce criticism from others who wish for an end to Israeli occupation.

Sawsan works through Seeds of Peace, an organization based in the United States, to promote dialogue and understanding between Palestinian and Israeli teenagers.

On this day, Sawsan visits Suleiman Assad, a 16-year-old son of farmers outside the West Bank town of Nablus.

Suleiman has lived with violence and hatred all of his life.

He speaks of how Jewish residents of a nearby settlement have seized lands owned by his village and how an Israeli soldier once harassed him while he was harvesting near his home.

"And I asked, 'What are you saying? Speak in Arabic because I do not understand Hebrew.' He took his M-16 rifle and put it on my head and then shoved my head on the front of his jeep," Assad said.

Stories of anger and resentment are common in Nablus, where posters praise young militants for attacking Israeli soldiers.

Some young Palestinians throw rocks at Israelis to relieve their indignation.

Sawsan has helped Suleiman find another way.

"(She is taking) Palestinians and helping grow peace among the Palestinians. She is taking Palestinians who want peace overseas and helping the peace process," Assad explained.

With Sawsan's guidance, Suleiman attended a camp in the United States where, for the first time in his life, he met Israelis his own age. "I went there and came back with the same feeling that I wanted peace," Assad said. "Now, I want peace even more because I heard the views of those on the other side who also want peace."

Sawsan Samara is proud to have shown young people like Suleiman that there are options to violence - options that she says bring empowerment and - above all - hope. "Throwing that rock might make the settler go away at this point, at this moment, but it will not stop the settler from coming back the next day, or an hour later, or coming back with the army even," she said. "But, with what he's doing, I think feels the same way that he can actually make the settlers stop forever. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but maybe in a year or two, or Insha'Allah [if Allah wills], in his lifetime."