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Amira's story...

I was born here in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem. I first started going to Musalaha Women's meetings seven years ago, an still go to monthly meetings. 

I went to Cyprus with a group of Israelis at the end of last year. It's not easy to meet Israelis. It takes courage. When I meet them, I just tell my family, no one else. My sister doesn't like me doing this. It's not easy because of the culture we live in. Some people close everything and just want to hate. 

But if there's a problem and you don't talk, then the problem stays. It is good to talk together, us Palestinians and Israelis. When we talk we each know how the other feels. They are women, they are mothers and sisters. So we are all human.

When I was growing up, I didn't understand but now I understand more about how some Israelis feel. I want to learn more about the situation and how the other side thinks.

When I first met with an Israeli, I didn't know what I was doing, but slowly Jesus opened my heart and I saw that this woman was human. I saw that she was my sister. The best thing about Musalaha is the friendships we make and we recognize things we didn't know before. Before I was afraid of Israelis, but when I met them and talked to them I realized that they are kind. They saw our hearts and saw that we were suffering too. When they listen to our stories, they cry.

Last summer in Gaza, when we saw children suffering it was hard. The work stopped here - nobody built houses, and many times they closed the checkpoint. It wasn't easy. We learned how to live with not much: we didn't have water, we took one shower a week. Often we didn't have the money to do anything to help. 

Sometimes it feels like it's too much. The pressure on my children. Sometimes you feel depression. Sometimes you need something to pick you up and that is what Musalaha does. 

I think that we all need to practice forgiveness. I teach myself how to do it every day. People think I am weak for practicing forgiveness but I am actually stronger. 

I believe in reconciliation, that's it. Not fighting, not war. People and policy are not the same thing. If we just see the news, it is very bad. But when you meet real people, you realize what is actually happening. 

And so I have hope. Every time when I feel dark, I see a light. And when I smile now, I smile from my heart, not just my head.

People need to hear our story to know we are still standing.

*Amira's name has been changed for confidentiality reasons.