Confusion in the West Bank

I lived in Israel for 12 years, and returned to visit only twice. That was a long time ago. On one of those visits, I decided to reconnect with a close friend. He, along with his family, lived in Kiryat Arba, the largest Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

Back when I lived in Jerusalem, I’d visit this friend frequently, so Kiryat Arba was almost like a second home to me for a while. Hence, the recent news of a 13 year-old girl’s murder, in Kiryat Arba, sent shivers up my spine and gave me nightmares. How could the citizens of Kiryat Arba have let this happen? Have they allowed their security to become lax over the years?

The last time I was in Kiryat Arba, my friend had to do some shopping in nearby Hebron. Of course, this was done at the suq (Arab marketplace). When we were done, my friend had to interact with an Arab from the window of his car, and he did so with such hatred and contempt that it made me squirm. I’d seen this before from other Israelis. I couldn’t help but wonder what they hoped to accomplish through this behavior. Maybe it was to avoid any signs of what might be perceived as weakness. What we Westerners consider common courtesy and respect can be construed as an invitation to be taken advantage of in the Middle East.

But still, I could never bring myself to treat a stranger this way. For all I know, he could have been Islam al-Bayed. He and his wife stopped to rescue an Israeli family trapped in their car after a terrorist attack. What if one of the rescued children grows up, treats a random Palestinian like shit – and then finds out that the target of his disdain was the same man who saved his life years earlier? How would he feel then?

That’s why I’ve always maintained that it’s best to be nice to people (in most situations) unless you have specific reason not to be.

Blanket hatred for Arabs is the norm in the settlements, or at least it was when I was there. I know that the hatred is reciprocated by the Arabs. This is one reason I no longer call Israel “home.” I could never bring myself to hate Arabs. A couple of times I even rebelled against such hatred.

I’m not saying that such hatred doesn’t serve a purpose; it can help reduce miscegenation, and it can remind people to be wary. But there must be a middle ground, where boundaries are respected, but so are people.

Psychologically speaking, it’s a lot easier to lump all Arabs together and to hate them all. This is especially true when you’re constantly threatened by surrounding Arabs, constantly hearing Arab propaganda against you, and sometimes losing a loved one to Arab terrorism. This is why I’m not so quick to judge the Jews of Kiryat Arba. On the other hand, It’s a sad state of affairs.

These must be trying times for what remains of the family saved by Islam al-Bayed. They grieve for their husband/father. They’re angry at those who attacked them, and those who encourage such attacks. But they must also be grateful to the Arab who saved them. Their world view is now challenged*, and they can no longer be psychologically lazy. Every time they’re tempted to hate all Arabs, they’ll remember al-Bayed. Personal growth could spring from such confusion.

*Assuming, of course, that they’re like so many other Jewish settlers.

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25 Responses to Confusion in the West Bank

  1. Robert Marchenoir says:

    Jay, you know more about Israel than I do. But I don’t think Islam al-Bayed did anything out of the ordinary. He is no hero. He did not risk his life. He did what any ordinary human being would have done. Indeed, he did (I think) what Israelis do far more often than Palestinians.

    Israelis routinely care for wounded Palestinians in their hospitals who insult them and promise to kill them before they even set foot outside. Who kills 13-year old girls in cold blood ? Babies, even ? Not Israelis. Unless you correct me.

    Speaking badly to people is obnoxious. I don’t defend it. But who’s the agressor there ? Unless you consider the very existence of that tiny sliver of land named Israël as an agression. Which is obviously the Palestinians’ point of view.

    By the way, when did people start to speak about “Palestinians” ? That’s a real question. This writer wants to know. “Palestine”, before Israël came to exist as a country, was used to mean the ancient land of Jews. Not the land of “Palestinians”. Wasn’t it the Soviets who invented the “Palestinians” ? They trained Yasser Arafat, that’s for sure. Before that, he was trained by former Nazis. The real sort, not “neo-somethings” with a creepy liking for swastikas.

    • jewamongyou says:

      I’m not saying he was a hero, but against the backdrop of mutual hatred, what he did was exceptional. Of course many Israelis would have done the same, and they do treat injured and sick Arabs in Israeli hospitals – as professionals.

      My use of the term “Palestinian” has no political insinuations; it simply refers to the Arabs who inhabit the land of Israel/West Jordan/Palestine or whatever you choose to call it.

  2. Rona says:

    But there must be a middle ground, where boundaries are respected, but so are people.

    It hard to respect boundaries and people without having clear borders and knowing what belongs to whom. That situation doesn’t seem likely to change.


  3. Lon Spector says:

    The “Palestinians are NOT Arab. They are Muslim. They have been historically mistaken
    for Arab. Again, it’s Western ignorance.
    A couple of years ago, a customer at a gas station got into an altercation with a Pakastani
    cashier and called him “______ Arab. People think Iranians are “Arabs.” They are
    Persians. There are more Muslims OUTSIDE of the Middle East then inside it.
    The Palestinians are the desendents of the ancient Philestines. Thats where the name
    durived from. They were called “Sea Peoples” and Ber Bers in North Africa. The Lybian
    people were desended from them. When the Jews were driven out of Israel by the Romans
    they took posession of the land.
    A new Palestinian state will be created. It will encampass the Gaza Strip and some more
    land along the coast. Israel will never give back the West Bank.
    Interesting times are ahead, with Queen Hillary as President unfortunately.

  4. A. Alexander Minsky says:

    I think the late and very controversial writer Joe Sobran put it best when he stated that there should be two rules for dealing with people from other races: Be wary, but look for the angels. Sobran felt that folks had to be on the lookout for the inevitable hostility that would accompany multiracial interactions. At the same time he cautioned against missing out on what he called the goodness and friendship that one could find across the border (the border being defined as race, language, religion, and culture). Sobran reminded his listeners that there are wonderful people within all groups, and that you cheat yourself if you deprive yourself of their company and their warmth.

    Not bad advice. Not bad at all.

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  6. Yonatan Ilan says:

    I don’t believe that most Israelis feel such immediate hatred towards Arabs. It’s probably more of a Judea & Samaria thing. Personally, I live in Haifa and deal very well with the many Arabs who live around me; I actually live in an Arab-majority neighbourhood at this point.
    I also served in the IDF and had to deal with my share of actually belligerent Arabs. That doesn’t mean that I lump all Arabs together as hostile belligerents, and neither do the vast majority of the Israelis I served with. I think you’re overstating the kind of hatred that we have here… Maybe you should visit again.

  7. Lon Spector says:

    Did you FEEL your religion, or was it simple “programming?”
    If you REALLY FELT the presence of God in your life, then you would know that
    It is TERMINAL and beyond recovery. It must be sacraficed in the most horrible way so
    Europe can come back. (Israel is also “safe” because of the huge natural gas find.)

    • jewamongyou says:

      I saw it on Amren. Since I wasn’t there, and the media is so biased, I don’t even pretend to know what happened exactly. My initial thoughts are that a good dose of pepper spray would have been a better solution for him. Speaking of which, did you get my email?

  8. Lon Spector says:

    What a farce! We used to call it a “black comedy.”

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  10. The author claiming that 12-years spent visitung friends who live in Area C, what he refers to as “Settlements,” imagines that he has enough knowledge to condemn 350,000 Jews. First, a history lesson.

    Hebron was the sovereign capital of a Jewish State almost half a milkenia before Arabs appeared IN Arabia (853 BCE for the birth of the Arabs) makes the term “Settlement” especially ignorant. In fact, until 1948 Jews lived in the so called “West Bank” continuously for 3,500 years. Hebron though was not as lucky. After Arabs slaughtered 67 Jews in 1929 the Jews were Ethnically Cleansed from the town. My own family lived in Hebron since at least the 4th Century CE and probably since the Biblical Era.

    22 Jews out of the 67 were murdered in my family’s home. After the Ethnic Cleansing 119 properties were looted and stolen. In 1993 I was the first of my family to return to Hebron District and now people like the author claim I am a “Settler.”

    As for hatred of Arabs, exceedingly few Jews in Area C feel the way the author imagines. We live next to and and a good many of us work with Arabs. The fact of the matter is that Palestinians launched their organised campaign of terrorism with genocidal goals on March 7th, 1920. Since then Palestinian society has become inundated with Anti Semitism. Recreation centres are named after Jew Killers. Palestinian child programming on tv teach young Palestinians to hate and do violence against Jews. Jews on the other hand simply want to be left alone.

    Lastly, blaming the emotions of others for your decision to move somewhere is childish. Assuming you are an adult why would it matter if other Jews feel a certain way? All you have done in this post is spit on your own People and that is pathetic.

    • jewamongyou says:

      Yes, I wrote about the Hebron massacre here.

      Aside from that, I think you’re overreacting to what I wrote. I wrote of my OWN EXPERIENCES; I don’t claim to be an expert – and it’s entirely possible that my assessment of the majority of those Jewish settlers (or whatever you prefer to call them) was wrong. Of course this was many years ago and, as I already hinted, things may well have changed.

      I’m not sure how you can write that Jews lived in the “West Bank” for 3,500 years when Jews didn’t even exist prior to matan Torah, which was around 3,330 years ago according to Jewish tradition. After that point, it took generations of conquest to acquire the Land of Israel more or less in its entirety.

      As for using the term “settlement,” I meant nothing in particular by it; as far as I’m concerned, it’s a neutral word. People can be settlers in areas where their ancestors once lived, or they can settle entirely new areas. Either way, they’re settlers, and their cities can be called “settlements.”

      Regarding your family’s history there, I’m curious how you traced your lineage that far back, and specifically to Hebron. Clearly, you’re Ashkenazi.

      The hatred, and bloodshed, directed against Jews by Palestinians is an ugly and terrible thing. This being said, Israeli Jews have been very successful at adopting European/American ways. Modern Israeli “Hebrew” is a heavily Germanicized jargon that only weakly resembles the Hebrew of ancient Jews. The Israeli government only subsidized European style bread, but not pita bread. Arab Jews, who were brought to Israel to populate the land, were forced to give up their traditional clothes, and often even forcefully estranged from their religion. Polygamy (regardless of how we personally feel about it) is illegal in Israel – because it’s not compatible with European standards – even though Mizrahi/Sephardi Jews permitted it.

      Since Israel is so obviously an extension of Europe (culturally and politically), it’s not hard to see how some view it as a European colony. I’ve already written about this, but, in a nutshell, I do believe Jews have a right of return, but we also have an obligation to return to our Middle Eastern roots, at least in those matters that are morally neutral.

      • Robert Marchenoir says:

        “We also have an obligation to return to our Middle Eastern roots.”

        This is fascinating. Why do you feel this way ? And how can possibly Jewish immigrants return to roots which are so remote ? European settlers who colonised America did not try to mimic local mores. They brought their own culture with them and built something entirely new, even if the analogy is not perfect.

        Besides, Arabs in the Middle East also have absorbed Western culture to a point. They certainly wouldn’t like to be parted from their motor-cars, cell phones — and maybe even Internet porn.

        • jewamongyou says:

          I knew I’d take some flak for that comment. But the fact is that the early Zionists agreed with me to a certain extent. This is one reason they tried to revive Hebrew. It’s also the motivation behind trying to reconstruct Israeli music based mostly on Lebanese and Greek models. This is why many European Jews discarded their Germanic/Slavic names and took on Hebrew names. But as time progressed, this ideal lost steam.

          Many of us get upset when we see Mideastern migrants in Europe failing to adopt Western ways, even in things as harmless as dress or language. We even see this as a form of colonialism and an imposition. We expect Mexicans to learn English when they come here.

          So I’m looking at the Middle East as a wider nation in this sense. To settle there and bring European/American culture by force (which is what Israel has been doing) does seem to be a form of colonialism to me. As for Arabs taking on Western culture, they’re doing so, at least to a certain extent, willingly. I’m not sure how much of it, among the Arabs, is a matter of government policy, and how much a matter of personal choice. As for Israel, it’s definitely a matter of policy.

          European settlers who colonized America didn’t try to mimic local mores because they were indeed colonialists and conquerers.

          • Robert Marchenoir says:

            No flak from me, Jay, sorry if I came across this way. Just sincere curiosity. Thank you for the insight.

  11. jewamongyou says:

    Re: Robert, I admit that my position on this matter lacks any evidence. It’s not the sort of thing you can prove or disprove, so I did expect some criticism. Hell, if I heard someone else say it, I might have criticized it myself! But no worries my friend.

  12. Mohamad says:

    Interesting to note that outside the middle east, Arabs and Jews are often business partners and friends. I saw this often when I lived in New York

    • jewamongyou says:

      Even inside the Middle East.

      • Mohamad says:

        Money is a hell of a motivator. I heard there was a scandal about some secret trading between an Israeli and an Iranian businessman

    • Robert Marchenoir says:

      French Jews who settled back from Algeria or Tunisia have lived for decades in the same neighbourhoods as Arabs, mostly getting along well, some of them even speaking Arabic. Now they are fleeing those areas in order not to be killed, in a sort of domestic aliyah which is at least as important as the foreign one.

      There is a Jewish school in a synagogue, in the greater Paris, which is protected by 20 soldiers. Not police, mind you : soldiers. The Jewish writer who reported about this mentioned that this would not be needed in Israel.

      So the bare facts are that France is occupied by a Muslim army. Islam is a virus which may lay dormant for years ; but it can reactivate any time and turn deadly again. Because it’s in the Book ; because Mohammed himself was a killer and he’s supposed to be a saint, whom every Muslim must imitate.

      That’s the reason Islam cannot be reformed : it’s wicked from the start.

      Islam is not always “Islamic” and murderous because not all men are murderous (even Muslims). But being born into Islam is a curse for Muslims and non-Muslims alike (the latter more so). If you’re born into a murderous culture, it cannot but taint you.

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