Content for this article originally appeared as blog posts on the Israellycool website.
During the years Linda Todd, the newest blogger at the Israellycool website, worked as a peace activist in Canada,she had been taught that Palestinian Arabs were the victims of a brutal Israeli “occupation”, and that Israelis, and Jews in general, were the incarnation of evil in the world.
Later, in 2009, Todd traveled to Gaza to volunteer teaching English to school children. In many ways, it was the fulfilment of an activists’ dream: She tried hard to give hope to Arab children mired in the poverty brought on by the lack of a Palestinian economy, the theft of international aid money and chronic mismanagement, first by Yasser Arafat and Abu Mazen’s PLO.
But as her time progressed in Gaza, Todd says she began to notice “inconsistencies” between the stories she’d heard about Gaza and the experience she’d had living and working in the Strip. First, she found out her Arab husband and his family planned to prevent her return to Canada. Later, school administrators at the American International School tried hard to keep anti-Israel attitudes out of school, but ultimately to no avail.
For Todd, the low point came when she assigned an essay project to a group of students from affluent families, on the topic of “My Hope for the Future.”
“My intent was to capture the bright hopes of young people who are cut off from having a normal relationship with most of the world,” Todd told the Israellycool website. “My intent was to let their voices be heard so they wouldn’t feel so oppressed by the forces at work around them. Even two-and-a-half years after Operation Cast Lead, these children had not received the post-trauma care that many of them needed, having been eye-witnesses to the horrors of war.”
Even given the trauma of having experienced Operation Cast Lead, Todd was shocked at the essays the students wrote. Having come to Gaza as a well-meaning “peace activists,” she had believed that Arab hatred of Israel was based on Israeli policy and military actions, not actually a hated of the people themselves.
What a shock she received.
“The most greatest thing I will do I will free Palestine because it is in an occupation and the stupid Israelis. WE HATE THEM they suck.
First thing is: am gonna to go the Israelis with some friends and with us lots of gun like fire arms, lots of them. We will kill the President then we will kill all of the Israelis and have no one I mean no one at all and of course, we get the other Peace of the city of Palestine. So we go everyday to this city and go to the mall and let all of the poor people to get the homes of the Israeli people and their money and all the poor people will be rich,” wrote one eighth grader.
Meanwhile, in Israel…
Eventually, Todd says her exit from Gaza came thanks to encephalitis, a serious brain infection that left her in a coma, barely alive and not expected to survive. She was evacuated from Gaza in an ambulance and hospitalized in Tel Aviv. But in contrast to the horror stories she’d heard about Israel and Israelis, the medical staff there worked around-the-clock as they tried to save her life and nurse her back to health. Nurses, doctors, physiotherapists who never gave up – and refused to let her throw in the towel – showed a different picture of Israelis than she’d harbored.
On the other hand, the treatment Todd received from her husband was not quite as thoughtful. During her convalescence, he became abusive, and blamed his abuse on the “occupation.” Todd found herself trying to make him happy in order to limit the abuse.