My family and I arrived as citizens of the nation that robustly defended and advocated for the Israeli occupation, and our Palestinian neighbors knew this. The biggest potential concern was that we could be spies — informants for the US or Israel, there to collaborate with the Israeli military. Since the homes of known or suspected militants were routinely destroyed, the community’s unease was understandable.
That our neighbors still chose to get to know us for “the content of our character,” to quote Dr. King, is remarkable and humbling. They didn’t do so because they were naive or ignorant. They did it with their eyes wide open. I know without a doubt that people had to do a lot of soul-searching, muster a lot of bravery, and have a lot of hard conversations with one another about whether it was worth the risk to extend their hospitality to us. But all of this happened out of our view.