The first protest my son attended was a Free Palestine protest in Prague when he was eight months old. We marched up through the Old Town, his buggy bumping against the cobblestones and a kind man put a Palestinian flag into his chubby, baby fist. I’ve attended a lot of rallies and tried to stay up to date with the news from a country that, until very recently, was largely marginalised by mainstream media.

The reason for this is because, many years ago, I travelled to Palestine. I went to visit a partner who was working for a newspaper there. I had no idea what to expect, I’d very little understanding of Palestine or Israel, only that my girlfriend was Jewish and had lost family in the Holocaust and still believed passionately in the Palestinian cause.

She was living in Ramallah, a relatively stable town, during a relatively stable time in the conflict. I was deeply, deeply touched by the humility, kindness, warmth and irrepressible hopefulness of every single one of the people I met.

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To get there I'd had to travel from Jerusalem, I’d been interrogated at the airport (though at least not strip searched as I was on my return journey…) and then took a series of mini-buses through several intimidating checkpoints like cattle grates and had my documents scrutinised by armed Israeli officers ten years younger than me.

What surprised me about Ramallah, and Palestine more generally, was no matter how great their oppression, their desire to live fully was so much stronger. That waking to the call to prayer over the golden slightly barren landscape was one of the most emotive things I would witness in years of travelling the world. Indeed, though the horizon was littered with construction sites, future hotels to be filled with journalists and aid workers as though there was no end in sight to the conflict, the Palestinian people lived as though at any time there might be peace even under the weight of decades of instability.

In the centre of Ramallah, there was still shopping in a bustling market, beauty parlours, a packed shawarma hole in the wall, coffee and gossip in a cafe called Stars and Bucks, each mug resplendent with their own green and black logo. The supermarket by my high rise, which had no hot water and a tenuous electric connection, sold, among more traditional products, Oreos, Pringles, Devon Artisanal Muesli for the ‘internationals’ as foreign workers were called.

There was a ‘famous’ hip-hop DJ, a basement club, there were parties where Italians made negronis in tupperware and everyone danced to Spice Girls, the next morning everyone would recover from their hangover in a French-themed cafe that always played Guns N’Roses.

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People were kinder than I could have ever imagined under such extreme, daily duress. ‘Thank you for coming to see what is happening. You tell people,’ I heard that over and over again. Along with, ‘Freedom! Braveheart, Scottish, good,’ when I told them where I was from. Palestinians loved Braveheart and the story of William Wallace, there were screenings in community halls where Mel brought the house down and the audience’s cheers and tears had the full impact of surround sound at the Imax Cinema.

On the same trip, in Tel Aviv, after going through several metal detectors, I watched a slight Israeli girl with chipped purple glitter nail varnish and friendship bracelets stacked on her slim wrists waiting for her chicken burger at a fast food joint in the train station. She could have been any teen, except she was wearing army fatigues and had a gun over her shoulder. I don’t know what she felt about her uniform but I did know that conscription to the Israeli Defense Force at 18 was mandatory, that consequences for refusing the draft would have been alienation from her community at best and at worst savage beatings and potentially even jail time.

I knew this because I had met young conscientious objectors on protest lines against Jewish settlements displacing Palestinian families, where children banged drums and locals came out with wide trays of glasses of mint tea to warm everyone up in the cold February sun. I can tell you that my short time in Palestine was one of the most heartbreaking and life affirming I've ever had. It has stayed with me all of these years and is with me daily now. I never once heard a Palestinian person speak badly about Israelis as individuals or civilians.

Like most people, I want to express support, to feel less helpless, to decry injustice. I’ve seen a lot of slogans and infographics shared on Instagram, X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook. And all the while life here still goes on, between the images and words of horror there are still birthdays with helium balloons floating up into the sky, pumpkin patches, trick or treat costumes and, possibly the most uncomfortable of all, fireworks displays where luckier children in woolly hats and wide toothy grins gasp with excitement at explosions in the sky.

The subject feels too horrifying, too nuanced, for our Insta grids and 280 character messaging. It almost transcends language. Like many of you, I imagine, I find the dissonance of trying to show solidarity and make positive change on social media while also reflecting our own, privileged, safe lives increasingly complex and full of pitfalls. I do not yet understand how we can hold both the horrors we are witnessing with gratitude and joy for our own present lives, though of course we do and we will.

Try as I might, I simply don’t have the right words. The innocent lives of Israelis, 10,000 equally innocent civilians killed in Palestine, each a person with love, fear, ambitions and joys. But I do think often of Ramallah, of waking to the call to prayer, of whole families sitting in a community hall watching a projector whirr out images of Braveheart, weeping and cheering in recognition, repeating the word, ‘Freedom’.