Interview with Lara by EC ’24.
Lara is a 22-year-old student from East Jerusalem, studying at North Cyprus University to be a filmmaker. She is determined to use the platform to “share the experience, share the feeling, share the eyes of Palestinian people who can’t express their message” and already has several films on YouTube and in film festivals. As a resident of a city under Israeli occupation, every aspect of her life—from her big life choices to her small, everyday experiences are impacted; during our interviews, Lara described the grueling bus rides in Jerusalem that led to her decision to study in Cyprus and the Palestinian passports that limited her movement during Israel’s coronavirus lockdown.
Lara’s experience in Palestine not only reflects her struggles under the Israeli occupation, but also her position as an Armenian-Palestine and identity as half-Christian and half-Muslim. Her favorite memories are celebrating Christian and Muslim holidays together with both sides of her family, but Lara doesn’t shy away from the struggles of coming from a multi-religious background as well—facing prejudices in the community, ignorance in schools, and the difficulty in reconciling her two identities into one.
For me I’m a Palestinian-Armenian woman living in Jerusalem, and I’m a filmmaker. My mom is Christian and my dad is a Muslim, and that’s what’s important for me. The things I love, are my countries, and my name, my family, and the thing I want to be in the future.
My grandpa’s ancestors came, like, one hundred years ago. He used to live here and then he moved to Cyprus. And then he went to Lebanon, and he met my grandma there, and then they came back here. Grandpa was working in the United Nations and Grandma was working at—she was a nurse, actually, at a hospital in Jerusalem. And they lived in the Armenian quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem.
My mom didn’t know Arabic actually until she was five years old. And when she grew up she met my dad where he was working in a hospital, and they said they—[laughs] they want to get married. My grandma was sick when she knew [laughs]. Because it’s very hard, you know? The traditions are different, the religion is different, the…background is different—everything is different! People who will look at you, they will look in a different way. Just like, wow, they did something unusual. They did something weird.
In our family we celebrate the Four Feasts, every year. Two of them are for the Muslim religion and two of them are for the Christian. One, uh, is called the Eid al-Adha and the other one is called the Eid al-Fitr. Uh…actually, every year, all of us—we put the Christmas tree together. Even my dad shares with us this thing, and it’s like a tradition. Every year we have to put it, we have to light the…house, we have to put Christmas music and every Christmas we celebrate Christmas nights are the best thing I have ever done in my life. So, uh, I think it’s the best thing—[laughs]—that we celebrate these things, because you feel like, uh, you’re—you’re free, you can do whatever you want, you celebrate any feast you want…and, uh, looking at my grandparents, they have cross on the wall and when I go to my uncle’s house, they have the holy Quran, you know?
I can’t hate this religion and I can’t hate this religion and I can’t love this religion more than this religion because I’m half-half. I’m here and here.
There is harmony here, between the two religions. But, for both religions you can find the people that are racist. For me, when I sit with my Christian friends, they say racist things about the other religion and when you sit with the Muslims they say other racist things about the other religion. So it’s very confusing, you say, why—why are you doing things like that, why do you feel this way? It’s like, if you say something about the other religion you’re saying something about me, cause—my mom is Christian. We love the both of these religions, why don’t we have this in our country?
So, that’s my opinion, I think it’s very stupid to…to be racist to anyone—not only for religion, for…everything, for color, for, uh, nationality, for race, everything. That’s not nice at all.
Of course, as for Palestine I hope we have a peaceful future—without wars, without prisons, without checkpoints, without—without soldiers, without anything…and I told you I wish for an everlasting peace settlement. And for my future, I’m, um…hoping that everything I had in my mind and everything I want to achieve that I do achieve and I will achieve—that’s what I always say to myself: no, you will achieve. You will do something, you will be something in the future. You will be the voice of these people. That’s what I hope for in my future and for my country.