A Leauki's Writings
Israeli Arabs, Druze, Jerusalem, and the old city (a mixture)
Published on September 10, 2006 By Leauki In Fun destinations
One of the strangest discoveries I made in Israel was not the conflict between Israel and several terrorist groups that want to destroy it but the way that Israelis of all types live together.

I have seen racism about which I wrote earlier. But I have also seen synagogues, churches, and mosques standing in the same city, and I have seen the religions live together in peace. I have seen Muslims and Jews interact in ways which are completely impossible in Europe.

It is perhaps difficult to imagine Israel as a haven for inter-faith tolerance if all the information one has is about Israel’s borders, but within Israel, this is really the most striking oddity.

I shared a dorm in Haifa University with an Israeli Arab. He is a great guy. A student in Haifa he is fluent in Arabic and Hebrew and he speaks very passable English. I can only admire anyone who speaks three languages with such proficiency.

Generally, and judging from a small group of Israeli Arabs I interacted with, it seems to me that Israeli Arabs from the north have a very neutral attitude towards the state. They want to live in peace, they do acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state and themselves as a minority, and it didn’t seem to me like either fact creates a bigger problem for them than for any minority in any country.

The Israeli Arabs of East-Jerusalem seemed like a completely different group. Their loyalty apparently lies with whatever group currently claims to represent “Palestine” (”Palestinian” here being anything in Palestine that is not Jewish) and I ate in a restaurant with a picture of Arafat on the wall. (How an Arab would feel in a Jewish hotel with a picture of a famous Jewish murderer I do not know. And no, I am not being neutral here. I am not a neutral observer. And I don’t think there ever was a Jewish terrorist of Arafat’s calibre.)

I met a Druze. The Druzim are a distinct ethnic and religious group who live in Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. They are known for supporting whatever country they live in and they are one of the typical targets of discrimination in the region. The Druze I met was the most right-wing person I have ever spoken to, with a hatred for Hizbullah that I didn’t find among Jewish Israelis (not as clearly expressed anyway). He fought in the last Lebanon war and told me stories about Hizbullah and where they hide and how difficult it is to root them out without hitting the people who hide and shield them. His report totally re-enforced my opinion of Hizbullah and Israel. I had never heard the whole thing put as clearly as when he told me about the war.

Most of the time I was in Israel I spent in Jerusalem. I was a student at the University of Haifa but because of the war, the campus was evacuated to Jerusalem where we suffered the Hebrew University, the most outrageous dump of an institute of learning I have ever seen in my life. Why Israel is proud of the university I cannot understand.

I have met Arabs from the territories, but not many. My impression was that they were considerably less hostile towards Israel than the Arabs of East-Jerusalem, but that impression is obviously based on the fact that I only met those non-Israeli Arabs that had applied for a work permit in Israel, which I think weeds out those who are openly hostile.

It was my overall impression that East-Jerusalem’s population are nice people. Although everything seemed a bit dangerous. What I found very odd is that they had no problem with being extremely friendly and considerate with me as an individual visitor while openly subscribing to an ideology which wants to throw me into the sea in the worst case and would not allow me anywhere near the old city and East-Jerusalem in the best case, should it win the war. (I remember that the old city and East-Jerusalem were off limits to Jews under Arab rule.)

Perhaps I am not getting something here, but I think these people really do not realise whom they support when they think that they support themselves (or “Palestine”). But if East-Jerusalem had been under Arab rule, even if things were different now compared to 1967 (and they are not much!), I would never have dared come there, let alone spend several nights.

I made my way through the old city to the Kotel (wailing wall). The old city of Jerusalem is, and I don’t know how to put it differently, a shopping mall. (It even has opening hours!) The streets are small and there is shop next to shop with almost no exception. It looks like a shopping mall built of rocks and it mainly sells t-shirts. (DO NOT go into a t-shirt shop. Trust me.) It was pathetic.

I found out that the temple mount is run by a Muslim organisation and is basically off limits to Jews. (What did I say about racism in Israel, it does exist, but do people think of Israeli racism as something anti-Jewish, in this case it is.)

At the Kotel I considered that when my father was in Israel, before 1967, he could not go where I was standing. I don’t know how a Muslim would react when the Islam’s holiest place would be off limits to Muslims because of some conquest, or what Muslims think about not allowing Jews to the most holy place of Judaism, but I know what I felt at that moment.

This article is also filed on http://www.mideastyouth.com/ as http://www.mideastyouth.com/?p=332

on Sep 10, 2006
Interesting perspective, pre and post 1967.