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Sunday, October 03, 2010

Not knowing what to think

Who knew... me... without an opinion.  Go know!

Having moved to a somewhat contentious part of Israel while the 2nd Intifada was still raging, I tend to take the nostalgic reminiscing of my neighbors for 'the good old days' with a pinch of salt. 

Why? 

Because even as our Arab neighbors were busy trying to kill us just about everywhere/anywhere we gathered (buses, cafes, night clubs, stores, etc.), many of my neighbors were pining for the good old days when they used to be able to ride on Arab buses, shop in Arab stores and hire Arab workers... all without a second thought or worry.

But what I've only recently been able to internalize is the fact that the goal of the Intifada was not to kill Jews (although it accomplished that quite ably), but rather to drive a wedge between the Arab and Jewish communities of the region... a goal that they accomplished even more thoroughly.

The status quo today is that there is now so much distance and suspicion between Arabs and Jews, the propaganda machines on both sides can work virtually unopposed.  After all, it is far easier to vilify someone if they exist only in theory... 'those people over there'... than if you see them up close on a daily basis.

This isn't to say that Jews and Arabs don't see one another or interact within Israel.  They do... to a limited extent.  If I go to the hospital or to a Jerusalem Supermarket, chances are that many of the people I see there (workers and visitors) will be Arabs. 

But this is mainly the Israeli Arabs and Jews... not the P.A. Arabs.

But because the 'West Bank' (Judea and Samaria) is made up of insulated/insular pockets of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, and because there are both physical and legal constraints to where each group can go, there is almost no opportunity for the typical Jew and Arab to find themselves close enough to interact.

Then along came Rami Levi.

Rami Levi is a very successful chain of supermarkets that have popped like mushrooms after a flood.  Their prices are very competitive, and both their clientele and workers tend to be a mix of Arab and Jew.

Recently Rami Levi opened a store at the Gush Etzion junction about five minutes from my house.  The selection of this site for the store is interesting for its central location outside of any town or municipality boundaries, which makes it accessible to both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs.

Add to that the fact that the store employees are also a mix of Arabs and Jews, and it makes the shopping experience somewhat eye-opening for people who may have forgotten that 'those people' at whom we've/they've been so angry, and of whom we've/they've been so frightened, also need diapers, milk, apples, shampoo, etc..

For me, it is especially jarring to have a near miss with a deadly terror attack, and then on the same day, find myself squeezing melons or ordering chicken cutlets next to someone in Arab garb who, for all I know, could be related to the terrorist (if not the terrorist hem/herself. 

Personally, I find it reassuring to see Arab families at the store (and to let them see me with my family), because on some level, once you see the human side of 'those people' it becomes harder to hate/fear them. 

But what worries me is that if too many people come to feel as I do, it won't be long before the terrorists will step in and create a new reason for fear and hate (i.e. another terror attack).

I guess what I'm trying to say is that (for a change) I really don't know what to think.

However, if there are any sociologists out there at a loss for a good PHD dissertation topic, the interactions between Jews and Arabs at the Gush Etzion Rami Levi store would be make excellent subject for study.

 BTW, lest anyone think this is a new topic or that the Gush Etzion Rami Levi is the only one with this mix of people, a couple of my neighbors, as well as my friend Jameel have already brought his own unique worldview to the topic.

Posted by David Bogner on October 3, 2010 | Permalink

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Posted by: antares | Oct 3, 2010 10:42:54 PM

I am sorry this post got so few comments as it is a good one and I admire you for writing about this and acknowledging that you have no satisfactory answers. Maybe this is what your readers thought too hence the lack of comments.

Posted by: Ilana-Davitata | Oct 6, 2010 1:34:40 PM

I am sorry this post got so few comments as it is a good one and I admire you for writing about this and acknowledging that you have no satisfactory answers. Maybe this is what your readers thought too hence the lack of comments.

Posted by: Ilana-Davitata | Oct 6, 2010 1:34:41 PM

Ilana-Davitata... I apreciate the sentiment. I do enjoy reading comments and getting feedback on my posts. But the truth is it is that writing these posts is theraputic whether I get a response or not.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Oct 6, 2010 2:01:03 PM

Regrettably, not everyone is quite as enlightened as you; I was convinced that Nadia Matar was going to have a heart attack when she saw how many people, Jews and Arabs, were enjoying shopping at Rami Levi...

Posted by: Mike | Oct 7, 2010 10:29:31 AM

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