Forbidden Encounter (?)

Solo expedition might have become one's spiritual climb too.
A Solo expedition might have become one’s spiritual climb too.

Under the waving Tibetan flag that afternoon, he solemnly recited his manuscript. It was a humble leaves of off-whited papers in a binder. Some pages were seen to be dust-stained. He raised his head off that papers intermittently, tried to catch the incoming wind breeze whenever they came thru, touched his face gently. Silently.

It was a spiritual moment, to me. On a solo expedition, such manuscript might have been his sole companion for weeks of a long enduring expedition. He was alone. And as a solo trekker myself this time, I shared the same thoughts and feeling. Therefore we, somehow, felt connected.

He said hi, smiled.

I introduced myself as an Indonesian, on my first leg of three-week long Langtang expedition. Looking at the kippah capped on his head, I have guessed that he was a Jewish or someone from Israel. He nodded and confirmed, dressed with an inquisitive face expression.

“Indonesian?” “Yes, I am”. Then we shook hand. “I couldn’t enter your country. It’s forbidden, hahaha. The closest I can go was Singapore”.

Having no diplomatic ties, Indonesia does not welcome Israeli visitors, unless they have second Citizenship. And here, at 3,000m above sea level in the Himalayan mountain range, two representatives from politically-enemy countries were met on a “forbidden summit”.


Born in a predominantly ultra-conservative Muslim community, it was my daily bread to hear hatred speeches about infidelities of other believers. A point of view that I personally denied.

My private spiritual journey has brought me to an experience about humanity, compassion and kindness, above personal glam of mainstream religiousness. It’s about the core principles of everything that matters in life, rather than dogmas they preached in the congregations.

Today, my encounter with an Israeli ‘soldier’ (every adult person in Israel goes to military service) has put me into a Eureka moment. I felt like seeing a Pandora box awaits to unfold its hole-and-corner.

And he told me his stories.

“We are the loneliest yet most resilient nation in the world” he started. “I am only 24. But I have CV like no one else at my age”.

“Tell me about it”.

“My childhood days started like any other kids in the World. Going to schools and playing with classmates” he remembered. “But that was it. When the air-raid siren was sounded, everyone took shelters in the bunker. My childhood was full of frightened moments, and somehow traumatizing. And it happened for the rest of my life. Until one day, I went to military service and assigned as an artillery group leader. I fought the militia, the one who launched rockets to our homes. This time, I want to defend my neighborhood, offering safety to thousand of kids like I was”.

“What did you learn from your childhood time?”

“Resilience. As a nation, Israel must be operational, no matter what happens. I went to the battle at day time. Once I took off my combat uniform, I returned to my lab continuing my research and papers on nanotechnology. And that was what everyone doing in this constant war zone”.

I was stunned. Back home in my “prosperous and peaceful” country, a five-inch flooding during monsoon can halt the economy, shut the entire city.

“Now, tell me something about the future”. I questioned.

“Well, living under isolation has made Israeli excel in almost every fields. Since you cannot trade with your neighbors, you must be able to sell products to far away continents, makes every Israeli entrepreneur become an efficient World trader at once. This is a shared vision. Nanotechnology, biomedical science, defense system and artificial intelligence became our obsession. We are talking about the world in fifty and one hundred years from now. We are talking about legacy and existence of our nation”.

His words made me recalled, Israeli seemed to make impossible things possible. Of every technology that we use today, Israeli tech or invention might be in it. Many of them have made mankind’s live easier. Some of them are used to kill people too.


I sipped my lemon tea, it was blended with Yak milk. The air was getting thinner as the sun skid to the Western hemisphere that late afternoon.

“Do you hate Muslims, my friend?” I brace myself to spit that words.

“Do I look like one?” he reverted. “No, of course you are not”. I prompted. “Even to me, you looked like an old friend whom I know for ten years or so”.


Using certain mainstream ideology, I might have been authorized to kill him now. And declared myself a martyr, with a guaranteed one-way ticket to “heaven”. Yes, it’s a one-way, because if the “heaven” is not there, I can’t be deported back to Earth, right? What a loss.

“Then why are we fighting each other? What’s your soldier perspective tells you about it?”

“Do you know why our soldiers are called IDF?” (Israel Defense Forces). “Because we want to defend ourselves. Can you imagine, you have to live under all missiles warheads of your neighbors pointed to your homeland. Not to mention sporadic militia rockets that keep on firing day and night. Not from one, but all countries in the region. We need to defend our tiny piece of lands, the place we built, where our fellow citizen can call it home”.

“With all that happened, do you believe that, somehow in the future, you can see permanent reconciliation?”

“Yes and no”.

“What do you mean by yes and no?”

“Yes, if we see ourselves as fellow mankind, living under the same aging roof and ailing Mother Earth. If we dare to kill parts of our own egocentric DNA rather than killing other people, under one-eye-for-one-eye resentment ideology. Yes, if we secure humanity over political greed, power and money”.

“And for the ‘no’ answer, my question goes back to you. Can you paraphrase the book written some four thousand and fifteen hundred years ago?”.

It was a long silence.


2 thoughts on “Forbidden Encounter (?)

  1. We are indeed forced to believe that Israel is bad and Palestine is good, while the truth is far more complicated than that. Both have their own stance for what they are fighting for, but both have done things that killed the prospect of peace themselves. The thing is to gain international support it’s so easy to use religion to stir sentiments beyond nations’ borders. But one has to dig much deeper before coming into conclusion of who’s right or wrong.

    1. Indeed, the situation is getting more complex when multiple interests are involved at state level. Therefore, I personally believe that promoting people to people diplomacy and connections are better alternative when the two opposing nations are not (or never be) reconciled.

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