My name is Raanan Paz, and I'm 26 years old. I grew up in Moshav Orot, near Ashdod, and today I live in Tel Aviv. I spent my army service as a paratrooper in the Orev Brigade. For these three years I interacted daily with Palestinians. After I was released from my army service, I flew abroad immediately in order to forget everything through travelling. Something inside of me told me that I have to escape from Israel. I have to clean myself, to forget.
Yet I was so confused that I didn’t even know what it was that I was trying to forget so much. What did I do? Where have I been? Why do I have nightmares? Am I a bad man? Did I hurt someone? My way to deal with those questions was very simple – don’t talk about it and everything will be just fine.
When I returned, I realised that I'd rather deal with what I went through than attempt to forget it. As a result of my combat service, I suffered problems with sleeping and communication; I was frightened easily, and received psychological treatment. During this time I participated in a journey to Holland with Bishvil Hamachar ("for tomorrow"), an organisation that helps released soldiers deal with difficult memories from their service. This journey helped me realise that it is possible to speak about these issues, and to confront them. At the same time, I also started to study drama and theater.
Having completed my studies, today I act in a play at Tel Aviv's Cameri Theater called "Shooting Squad" that tells 11 stories about young Israelis and the influence of the conflict on their lives. I'm also a playwright and musician – having written several plays about the conflict for children and adults. Five years ago I couldn’t even dream that one day I'll get to speak with Palestinians without holding a gun in my hand. But recently I returned from a trip to Germany with a group of Israelis and Palestinians who participated in an encounter programme.
I know deep in my heart that both sides are tired of fighting. I know how complicated the conflict is and that it will not end in one day. I know it is possible to live together, this is not a dream, it really is possible and we all must believe in it. Both sides must know the suffering of the other – Israelis' fear of terror attacks and Palestinians' fear of soldiers and yearning for independence. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to tell my story and for reading it.
Raanan Paz is 26 years old. He grew up in Moshav Orot, near Ashdod, and served as a paratrooper in the Orev Brigade of the IDF. Raanan is an actor, playwright and musician. He lives in Tel Aviv.
Views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Elders or The Elders Foundation.