I would like to present to you the Jerusalem Innovation Park, she said. Although Jerusalem and most of my country is still under occupation, I don’t want to talk about that, We will create the park in the part of Jerusalem that we can. Even though my country isn’t free, it’s mostly occupied and suffering, we don’t have money, we have refugees that we need to take care of, we can’t move freely and have checkpoints, it takes years to receive building permits. We must discuss our narrative that isn’t being told correctly and that some are trying to tell different things...But I won’t talk about all that. I will talk about our plan to build the Jerusalem Innovation Park for science education, so we can teach critical thinking, democracy and question asking, all the skills of science and what science represents.
The speaker, a young and eloquent Palestinian, talked about the importance of such a place that will be a hope for a better future. There were 50 people in the room and it was a session about challenges that can be dealt with by partnerships between science centers at the annual European science centers conference.
At the end of the session, I approached her, introduced myself and handed her my business card.
I agree we shouldn’t mix politics with science education, I said. I believe that science can be a perfect bridge for mutual discussions that can bring us together. Let’s talk and think how we can do it.
She rigorously refused.
I can’t speak with you, she said. First we need to solve the problems between us.
How will we solve them if we don’t talk, I asked. You live in Ramallah, I live in Modiin. It’s a tiny distance. If we talk, maybe we can find a better way to deal with things. Maybe even begin a small, initial collaboration.
Maybe when we have two countries we will talk. I won’t discuss anything as long as we have problems. She continued. A small crowd was listening. I am rebelling against the problems you are doing to us. Why do I need to wait five years so you will give me a building permit?
I couldn’t help laughing. Do you have any idea how many years it takes us to get a building permit in Rehovot?
So you should rebel too, but I won’t talk to you.
The best rebellion is to talk, I insisted. You said we should put politics aside. Let’s do exactly that, ignore our leaders and go bottom-up. Let’s see if we can talk about science education for the benefit of our people.
She was no less determined. Talking will lead to collaboration, she said, and I can’t agree to that.
I am very sorry you feel this way. If you ever change your mind, please give me a call. I will be delighted to talk to you, was all I could say.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
I am waiting for her to will it as well.