What was it like living with your host family, who were Christian and Jewish?
Living with the Chakours changed me too. They weren’t just my host family, they were my family. That’s what I call them.
Jews, Muslims, Christians, we lined up to the bathroom together, helped with the dishes, we got along. It changed things for me; how my family lived, how they treated each other. If we can share that tiny house, why can’t we share a country?
What are your two favorite places to travel to in Massachusetts?
Puffers Pond in Amherst. I liked to swim out to the dock and sleep. Once the cops, they saw my car and came out with flash lights, yelling to me. I told them I was swimming with the fishes, and you know what they say, there are a lot of fish in the sea!
And Provincetown. I go there in the winter, during Christmas when no one is there. I’ll stand on the beach and go down to the water even if it’s freezing cold. I don’t care. It’s beautiful.
How has living in the U.S. changed you?
In America I learned to be more calm, no more violence.
I love America as much as I hate it, because I am always homesick, I always miss my camp, but I’ve never come to a person who understood that. I still feel alone and cold, but coming to America changed a lot of things in me. Sometimes I feel like I am the saddest candle in the house, that lights but nobody sees the light.
What is it like traveling around the U.S. to talk at schools? Where have you traveled?
I’ve been a lot of different places in the U.S. and I get a lot of offers from students and teachers that want me to come talk at their schools. I’ve been to places like Virginia, Vermont, California, Wisconsin, and here in Massachusetts. I loved Vermont; all that grass, the cows. It’s not like Deheishe!
What do you hope to accomplish by sharing your views on peace with students?
I look at a group of high school kids, who don’t even have their licenses, and I say to them, you can’t start by making a difference in Israel or Palestine. There is no way. You have to look at your own life to make peace. Instead of yelling at your mom, asking her if she has washed your clothes yet, say thank you and ask if you can help. Instead of complaining to your friend that your teacher gave you too much work, think about how that teacher is just trying to show you many things, so that you get an education. Don’t call people by names: niggers, head towels, or rednecks. We are all people. In order to understand peace, we have to first make peace with ourselves, then make peace with our families, then our communities.
When I step on the stage of a high school or a college to speak about peace I feel like a sun whose light everyone tries to use. But after I step down I feel everyone shaking my hand and supporting me in what I do, but thousands of them, they don’t know who I am inside. I’m not a hero or a movie star, I’m just Faraj being Faraj.