Pakistan and peace

“When are you coming to see me in Karachi?” asked one of the Pakistani journalists as we said our formal farewells at the conference on Press Freedom in the Digital Age in Egypt.

“Karachi?!” I responded.  “I don’t think I will ever make it to Karachi… not on my Israeli passport anyway and my British one was issued in Tel Aviv, so it’s is not looking likely.”

Despite my protesting and the obvious barriers, the journalist was insistent that our new found friendship could survive, even flourish, and that one day, at least, I would make it to her home town.

No Common Ground

Before the conference in Alexandria the idea of meeting Pakistani nationals was daunting. Perhaps it was ignorance or being realistic that Israel could have no common ground with this majority Muslim country. But, after spending three days with a group of eight journalists from Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi, my belief that the political stance of leaders is not necessarily the way the people think, rang true from conference’s opening session.

From the minute they met me Monday morning until we said our goodbyes on Wednesday evening the Pakistani journalists were warm, friendly and wanted to know everything about me as a Jew and an Israeli.

They also shared with me stories about their lives and struggles — the frustration of living in a male dominated society, the high rate of illiteracy and poverty in their country, and, of course, their limited press freedom. Our exchanges were fascinating and we even agreed to explore the opportunity of writing stories together.

Friends on Facebook

One of the journalists, a TV presenter, she said she would befriend me on Facebook because she wanted to “learn from me” as a female journalist.

After agreeing to look me up on that famous social networking site as soon as she got back to Pakistan, I smiled at her and said hopefully: “If I can’t come to Karachi, perhaps you could come to Jerusalem?”

“I doubt that will happen,” she smiled. “Pakistani passport lists all the countries we can go to and Israel is the only one that is banned to us.”

“Oh, well, maybe one day things will change,” we both said almost simultaneously and hugged goodbye.

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