An Unexpected link - An Israeli student made an unexpected friend at a Norwegian summer school.
Our personal experiences of the conflict and of loss shape who we are and how we view the conflict and life.
I can relate to your problem, can you relate to ours?
Excerpted from a Personal Exodus Story of a Jew from an Arab country... Israel Bonan
The episode I am about to recount occurred after I was deported from Egypt, as a result of the 1967 Six Days War and the government of Egypt having either expelled or incarcerated its Jewish citizenry. I had already arrived safely in Paris, and a month later I was reunited with my parents, who until then had to liquidate their affairs in Egypt before joining me. This event occurred while in Paris, a few month later.
.... I came in one day, in our Paris' pension, and I see and hear my mother crying. Big tears, heavy hearted tears, the ones that are gushed remembering where you've been and where you find yourself...
I asked her what's the matter, and she started telling me that she could not find a clothes pin to hang the clothes she had just washed to dry; back in Egypt she had had everything she needed.
After our harrowing collective experience just to get to this safe haven, my mother was crying over not finding and missing a clothes pin. That last reflection was left intentionally without a question or exclamation mark to end it.
I am not going to deny that my first reaction was to display my total callousness then, I could not and would not allow myself to see her point of view. It took me the better part of thirty years to ponder what she could have meant saying what she said, and empathizing with the tears she shed that day and the few more that followed.
In a nutshell my mother left behind, in Egypt, her clothes pins. We were not the richest folks while in Egypt, we were a middle class family of modest means; so I will not speak of riches or wealth or any such things, I'll only stress that she left behind her 'clothes pins', and that she cried her heart out that day remembering, and missing them.
How many other Jews in all the Arab countries combined that also had to leave their cloth pins behind?
How many of the Jews that left all their wealth behind are today clamoring for its return from the Arab countries? How many of us are asking for their 'clothes pins' back?
It was a saddening circumstance, when after a majority of Israelis, influenced their government and its leaders to push the formula of peace and advance it with their Palestinians neighbors, only to have their hopes dashed when the Chairman decided not to accept the Israeli prime minister's give all proposal, because the Chairman wanted his people 'clothes pins' back.
Mr. Chairman, do you really want a peace negotiation, where accountants sit down to arbitrate your losses as well as ours (because you could rest assured we will clamor for restitution of our losses now as well, it's only fair) so we can reach an equitable solution. Do you Mr. Chairman, want to take that chance in allowing the counting of wealth left behind on both sides to take place, in front of the whole world to see and judge.
That being said, I not only can understand what my mother was crying about then, but I can also appreciate what any Palestinian must be longing for; because to understand one event is to understand both.
If this was the only road block to peace, I'll say the day will come when leaders from both sides and not accountants will move the cause of peace forward.
By A. Miko Peled
In 1948 many Arab families left West Jerusalem as a result of the war, fully intending to return once the hostilities were over. However, as the Jewish authorities took control of the Western City Palestinian’s homes and property were taken and distributed among the Jewish population. My mother Zika, being the wife of an officer who was fighting in the front lines and the mother of two young children was offered such a home, but she refused it. She refused to live in the home of a family that was now displaced and homeless. Her decision exemplifies true Jewish and Zionist values. Her father was Dr. Avraham Katznelson, a signer on the Israeli Declaration of Independence and a member of the National Council, which was the de facto Jewish government at the time.
The Jewish people in Israel developed a society and a culture they believe to be one of democracy, free speech and the rule of law. The revival of the Jewish State and the rebirth of the Hebrew language were tremendous achievements that brought hope for a people who were persecuted and without a homeland for nearly two millennia. Generations of Israelis like myself grew up to believe in the democratic character of the State of Israel and the just character of its armed forces. We admired the myth of the Israeli soldier: young, proud, idealistic, and willing to sacrifice himself to defend his nation. But we were also taught that there are orders that are inherently illegal and must never be obeyed. These orders include harming innocent civilians, killing women and children and we believed, as many Israelis still believe today, that Israeli military commanders would never demand that their troops carry out such orders. Sadly, Israeli policy toward the Palestinians casts serious doubts as to the character of the Jewish State and its armed forces.
The willingness to engage in self-reflection and self-criticism is a slow and painful process. For Israelis, to learn that their government is engaged in committing grave injustices is even more painful. But while some feel that Israel’s intolerable actions against the Palestinians are somehow justified, there are others within Israel who are engaged in exposing and condemning these actions.
A close look at Israeli society reveals two major flaws: first, the military and other security forces are trusted and admired to an exaggerated degree and are therefore held above reproach. And second, Israeli Jews are isolated from the Palestinian Arab population and no serious attempts have ever been made to break the isolation and engage in dialogue. These flaws are largely responsible for the ease with which the dehumanization of the Palestinian people is accepted among Israelis.
Jews and Israelis around the world who care for the democratic nature of the Jewish State, need to condemn the current Israeli government in the strongest possible terms. They must make clear to the world that this government and its policies do not represent Zionist ideology or Jewish values. Those who do not condemn it will surely suffer the shame of having stood by grave acts of injustice were committed.
At the same time, claims that undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish State or that equate Zionists with the Nazis work directly against the legitimate Palestinian cause. Palestinians who insist on displaying the Jewish Star next to the swastika or speak of eliminating the Jewish State will have to answer to the Palestinian children who will inevitably pay the price for such folly.
But there is nothing inevitable about this conflict. The Israeli Palestinian conflict is not an existential one between cultures or people. It is a political conflict that was nearly solved two years ago and is now being exacerbated by an extreme right wing Israeli government. Peace for Israeli and Palestinian people will be achieved when moderate forces of Palestinian and Israeli patriots engage in dialogue.
For the sake of Israeli and Palestinian children, the camps need to be redefined. Instead of Israelis and Palestinians opposing each other, people from both sides need to find the courage and to see each other as allies for peace.
Miko Peled is an Israeli living in San Diego. A suicide bomber in Jerusalem killed his niece, Smadar Elhanan in 1997. He is a member and facilitator of Jewish Palestinian dialogue in San Diego.
I am an Israeli who has more than once escaped, just by chance, from being a casualty of an act of terror. I thought I had learned to live with these calamities and trained myself to consider them as just another of those accidents of life, which happen from time to time on land, sea or in midair. It was, most probably, the satanic character of the act of terror of the 11th of September, which got me off balance. In other words, its devilish nature expressed in the atrocious contrast between the focused destiny of the assassins and the unawareness and the plain bad luck of their victims. This was evident, on one hand, in the long range of manipulation and planning of every detail to make this killing happen, and on the other hand, in the sudden death of a multitude of innocent people, who woke up on the morning of this fatal day for an ordinary day of their ordered life not having the least idea that it is their last day on earth. Nor did it occur to any one of their families that at the end of the day they will be living in another world, that of agony and longing.
Such a traumatic event brings up to the conscious mind many questions as for instance, what is the root of such a devilish way of thinking and planning? On the other hand people ask themselves, how and why did this terrible death befell on these people while others were saved? In the mind of many people a censored general query came up asking whether human life is decided by fate, that is, by destiny or by chance luck?
My personal background brings me, again and again, when extraordinary events take place, to ponder the problem of fate versus luck, or destiny versus chance. This is my story. I have heard it many times, because my mother used to tell everyone who was ready to listen. It was about how this one year old child (namely myself) saved the life of all the family by getting the mumps. It was just two days before my family was scheduled to travel and spend a long weekend at the home of my parents' friends the family of the Makleffs, at the village of Motza in the close vicinity of Jerusalem, that the enigmatic virus causing Parotitis epidemica (mumps) decided it is time for a general attack. My mumps cancelled this vacation. It was the month of August of the year 1929, after the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el Husseini preached in the Haram el Sherif that the Zionists plan to take control on the mosque of El Aqsa. This brought to severe riots by the infuriated Arab population of Palestine. Just on the same night, on which we were planned to stay with the Maklefs, the Arabs from the neighboring village of Colonia , attacked Motza, they massacred all the family of the Makleffs, except one baby who was hidden somewhere, so the murderers did not notice him. This baby named Mordechai, grew up to become the chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Army. When I met, my future wife Margalit twenty years later, I learned from her that many of her close relatives, uncles, aunts and cousins were massacred at Hebron during the riots which took place at the same time in 1929. Her mother was the only one of a Sefaradi (oriental Jewish) family who did not stay in Hebron as she married had a young man from Jerusalem, and moved there.
Prof em. Arieh Issar
This happened onthe 20th of June,1939. In those days, the Zionist movements struggled and fought by all means for establishment of a “Homeland for the Jews” in Palestine. My father, who was a stonemason, was in his way to work early in the morning. He passed by the city-market of Haifa, and decided to buy some cucumbers for his breakfast. While he was picking cucumbers from a box, a huge explosion occurred, in which eleven people were either wounded or killed. My father was severely wounded and died three days later, leaving a young widow with five little children and a baby in her womb. That baby was me. I was born as an orphan six months later. Although my family and I managed to survive, there are no words to describe or express how great were our sufferings and how difficult were our times. The irony is, the man responsible for that terrorist activity, Mr. Isaac Shamir, became by the years the PM of my government!
We live in a an area where one man’s meat in another man’s poison. Let’s gather and unite all our efforts to feed the new generation just with love, justice and reconciliation.
I remember the day I became fully aware of my identity as a Palestinian...
It was 1970 and I was in third grade. I had been in the U.S. for a little over a year. My 3rd. grade class was asked to fill out a survey for the government. Amongst the usual questions such as age, date of birth, and such, was a question of COUNTRY OF ORIGIN AND NATIONALITY...Since I was not yet a U.S citizen, I naturally wrote in the box : Palestine and Palestinian...
After about 15 minutes the teacher came around and collected the forms that we had filled out. There were kids from just about all of the countries of the Middle East as well as Europe. The teacher went through them as they were collected one by one to check if they were complete. When she approached my desk, I handed her my paper. She took one look at it and let out a nasty groan. I was informed by her that I had made a mistake. I had wrote in a nationality and a country that do not exist. She made me stand up and asked me in front of the whole class what my nationality was.
I said, "Palestinian."
She replied, "Nonsense, there is no such thing."
She then handed me back my form and told me to correct it. I was confused. Exactly what was I supposed to write? She erased the words Palestine and Palestinian and told me that I had a choice. I could be either Lebanese, Syrian, or Jordanian. I informed her that I was none of those. To no avail. She wrote in the words SYRIA and SYRIAN on the form. She then scolded me in front of the whole class as someone that did not know his nationality. Of course all of the kids made fun of me and had a laugh at my expense. The cruelest ones were kids from other Middle Eastern countries. They so desperately wanted to be accepted, that they chided one of their own. This episode occurred about around the same time that Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister, made that infamous speech. In it she said that there was no such thing as Palestine nor a Palestinian people. That episode only made me more aware and proud of my heritage and helped shape who I am.
I was listening to the radio the other day during a long drive, when I heard people relating greetings to fellow co-workers and friends... My thoughts went back in time. Back to the time when I was a child in Palestine. Back to the time when there were no telephones or electricity in most of the rural villages. This was the time, just after the 1967 war. There was no cell phones, TV's, or computers. Also there was no regular mail service between Israel and the Arab countries.
We had an old radio that was sent to us by my father who was in Venezuela, South America at that time. This radio was our prized link to the outside world. We used to listen to the broadcasts from the surrounding Arab countries. These included news, music, and other forms of entertainment. On Friday afternoons, there would be broadcasts of taped greetings. Palestinians living in the refugee camps outside of Palestine, would go to the radio stations and tape a short greeting that would be broadcast back to their relatives. Sometimes they knew where their relatives had ended up, other times they were more of a plea for information.
My mom and the other woman would sit silent and listen to these taped greetings with tears pouring down their faces. I will never forget my mother sitting there and crying along with our people on the radio. These people were usually women sending greetings to mothers, fathers, and other siblings. There was also sons and daughters sending greetings to their parents. Most of these people had no contact or any other means of contact with their loved ones. So they would go and record a short message in the hope that their loved one happened to be alive and listening.
These messages were absolutely heart wrenching, especially when a mother would come on and start saying," Ya Ibni Ya Habibi" ( My son, my love) and then they would start crying as they say how much they love him and miss him. Or when a daughter would come on and start by saying," Ya Oumy ya rouhi " ( My mother, my soul) and start telling her mother how she misses her, loves her, and how her kids keep asking about her and so on. These people usually broke down in tears as they were delivering their message. The emotions were just too much. Being a child of 6 years of age, I truly didn't understand nor fully comprehend the importance of what was happening. I hated these programs because they made my mother cry for hours on end. I blamed theses poor tortured souls for causing so much sadness to my mother. Not until I was older, did I fully comprehend the pain and anguish these refugees were going through. This was their only way of trying to contact long fractured families. This was their only outlet to send a message to their loved ones. They were in essence casting a bottle, filled with the message of their loneliness and hope, into the sea of their exile from their native land and the people that were left behind, or exiled elsewhere...
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