An Egyptian writer tours Israel and reports on "The Israel That Arabs Don’t Know"

  • mwolverine

    Posts: 5685

    Oct 24, 2017 6:32 AM GMT
    The Israel That Arabs Don’t Know

    By Ramy Aziz

    Located in the heart of the Middle East and one of the region's central and enduring conflicts, Israel receives a large amount of attention from neighboring peoples curious about the state itself and its management. Although major developments in international communication and accessibility of knowledge have transformed the world into a connected community that now sometimes resembles a small village, Arab media coverage of Israel continues to be characterized by a lack of clarity and misrepresentation, making it difficult for Arab citizens to truly understand the country. The persistent and recurring problems in the West Bank and Gaza are of major concern to many Arabs, but media sources often conflate the State's controversial foreign policy with life inside the the country itself and produce dystopian visions of life inside its borders.

    While not an article or analysis, the following is an honest testimony of what I saw during my visit, without influence by any person or institution. I hope to present an alternative perspective from other Arab media outlets that I have found to exaggerate and mischaracterize the realities of Israeli life.

    On my flight from Rome to Tel Aviv on Israel’s El Al airlines, I thought about what awaited me and what I would see. Although I had an idea of what Israel was like and friends who have told me of their experiences working there, memories of the accumulated assumptions about the place that I had gained throughout my childhood in Egypt presented a conflicting counter narrative. I wondered which was the truth: what I now knew, or what had been instilled in us Egyptians as children. Do the “Jews” in Israel actually hate Arabs? If they found out I was Egyptian, would treat me poorly? Would I be verbally or physically abused if Israelis heard me speaking Arabic?

    Halting my train of thought, a man sitting next to me with his wife asked me something in Hebrew. In English, I explained that I didn’t understand the language. The man then apologized and asked in English, “Where are you from?” When I answered that I was from Egypt, he and his wife smiled genuinely and welcomingly. These were not the fake smiles our schools, society, television, and film had attributed to Israelis and Jews.

    When I arrived in Israel’s financial capital, Tel Aviv, the airport’s clean atmosphere and facilities left me wondering whether I had left Europe. Its modernity left little doubt that I had entered a developed country.

    On the road from the Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem (al-Quds)–Israel’s political capital–I saw wide, clean roads, filled with trees and captivating natural scenery. I took notes on everything, in line with my mission to relay the truth of life inside Israel. Once I had arrived in the political capital, I visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Knesset, and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.

    I met with both Arabs and Jews of Arab origin, and they recounted their memories of life in Iraq, Egypt, and the other countries from which they had come. I listened to how they had left those countries after bitter experiences of incitement and hatred. Life had brought them to a place where they peacefully coexisted. Unfortunately, the truth of coexistence has been muddled with the help of many media organizations.

    In another repudiation of another false claim, my visits to places of worship were not stopped or barred from entry by either the Israeli army or police force, as they have been rumored to do, despite the escalating incitement and violence in the city. Life in the holy city goes on, filled with vitality during all hours of the night and day. It is a city that does not sleep, filled with people from all over the world.

    After spending two days in Jerusalem (al-Quds), my journalist colleagues and I headed to Tel Aviv, a capital of technology, money, and business. I was astounded by the presence of such a huge number of both local and international communications and technology companies, whose numbers have helped the city earn its nickname: Israel’s “Silicon Valley.”

    Besides the bustling business, life in Tel Aviv is filled with activity. In the morning, people walk, run, and ride bicycles in designated bicycle areas along the many beaches of the Mediterranean, all of which are equipped for people to enjoy their time there. At night, restaurants and cafes are filled with both city residents and international tourists. Like Jerusalem, Tel Aviv is an international and welcoming city that blends a variety of cultural influences. Tel Aviv-Jaffa is not only a center for trade and business, but also a city of relaxation that offers the pleasures of the sea, the balmy weather, and modernity.

    In the beautiful coastal city of Haifa, I visited the large educational edifice of the University of Haifa. Its towering buildings and libraries hold over two million books and periodicals, and the university has departments for the disabled and the blind. What caught my attention was the children’s library in its center. Children pay visits to the library in order to learn how to conduct research and to be instilled with a love of reading and discovery at a very young age. The University of Haifa is considered a model and reflection of Israeli society. Within its walls, students of Jewish, Arab, Druze, and Circassian origin study together. It appeared to me that Muslims, Christians, Druze, Baha’is, and atheists are all given equal opportunities based on the principle of equality and without discrimination or segregation based on race or religion.

    In Haifa, I also visited the village of Daliyat al-Karmel nestled on the al-Karmel mountain, where I met with Druze elders. They recalled the experience of Druze integration into Israeli society and informed me that they now preferred to call themselves Israelis instead of Arab citizens of Israel. Because they hold Israeli citizenship, enlist in the Israeli Defense Forces, and are treated as full citizens with equal rights, they have no reason to deny their Israeli nationality.

    In the evening, I found dinner on Ben Gurion Street, which looks out onto the magnificent Baha’i gardens on one end and leads to the famous port of Haifa on the other. The street is filled with Arab cafes and restaurants, identifiable by the songs they play and their customers’ conversations. I struck up discussions with various restaurant patrons and employees regarding life here in Israel, and I asked them whether there was differentiation between citizens of non-Jewish origin and Jewish citizens. In every instance, I was told that this was not the case, and these Arab Israelis informed me that in Israel, the law is equally applied to everyone without distinction or discrimination.

    At the end of my trip, I had spent five days between Jerusalem (al-Quds), Tel Aviv, and Haifa. I had visited official state, national, social, and educational institutions and heard from Jewish, Arab, Druze, and Bedouin segments of Israeli. After my experience there, I can now say that in my eyes, Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East, and is a country open and accepting of religious and ethnic minorities. I heard the call to prayer from mosques in various cities – a religious expression that is banned in Europe. I saw Christians with crosses on their chests who had no fear of exposing their identities, a marked contrast to some neighboring states. I saw Baha’i gardens and memorials the like of which exist nowhere else in the world.

  • mwolverine

    Posts: 5685

    Oct 24, 2017 6:33 AM GMT
    Through these experiences, I saw a recently formed state that has become a democratic institution rivaling the oldest democracies in the world. Despite the youth of the new Israeli state, I saw, without exaggeration, a bright flame in a pitch-black region. I realized that without a doubt, the secret to Israeli’s existence in spite of all the dangers and controversy that surround it is the democracy and freedom of Israeli society, a society composed of so many different yet coexisting segments and components.
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    Oct 24, 2017 6:59 AM GMT
    I kinda came to the same conclusion after I visited there. As I've said before:

    "...during somewhat of a multiple religious observance near the end of my visit, [I was] seated at a Friday night shabbos dinner in a penthouse overlooking the golden Dome of the Rock and [witnessed] the most surreally beautiful and improbable view I'd ever seen. Across from me beneath a darkening purple sky Arabs streamed across the green parklike grounds of the Temple Mount [which remained under their authority] in response to the Islamic Call to Prayer; below, Jews prayed at the Western Wall (at the former site of latrines during recent Arab occupation) without fear of being pelted from above by stones or garbage as had been the custom before they fled East Jerusalem in 1948; and in the plaza, European Christian pilgrims enjoying modern conveniences and full access to the restored holy sites freely criticized the spectacle before them. It all became startingly clear - where else in the world would such a scene be tolerated, let alone possible?"
  • mwolverine

    Posts: 5685

    Oct 24, 2017 9:25 PM GMT
    AyaTrolLiar founcer/JTheM barfed
    Aziz> I can now say that in my eyes, Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East

    Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat [five days ago]> Arab residents don’t care about democracy. They have not the tradition there.


    There is no contradiction in these statements, but the joke is in the desperation of the AyaTrolLiar to make noise.
    Resorting to his usual warped methodology of twisting and lying.

    Let's view what the mayor is saying in context:

    the Arab residents are my residents, their children are my children. I have to take care of them in the same way that I take care of everyone else. That’s my vision of the city of Jerusalem. And I don’t face any opposition to that philosophy in the Council. We have 31 Council members and when we allocate capital to East Jerusalem nobody argues that we are giving too much. In terms of allocation, I make sure that East Jerusalem gets a fair share of investment. A lot of this is not on the physical side, but in developing schools.

    ...Decade after decade, tax collection in East Jerusalem has not existed, and what you really need to do is compensate for this process. We’ve been starting to do this. For example, we are now over budgeting for East Jerusalem in order to compensate for past neglect. But it’s a big challenge.

    The national government expect the local government to collect and invest. So this isn’t a technical thing, it’s a big legal issue that makes our life more challenging. In spite of this, we are re-investing in more infrastructure, roads and classrooms. But there is indeed a gap and I wish we could do more to address it.

    In terms of boycotting elections, you are thinking like a Westerner. The Arab residents don’t care about democracy. They have not the tradition there. For me, it would be easier if they did vote and bring people to the Council who could help us give them services.

    Idiots for the cause and propagandists like the AyaTrolLiar like to throw out buzzwords like "apartheid" because of the gap in services, without pausing to consider that the residents getting fewer services aren't being taxed for those services in the first place.

    In American terms, imagine that community A doesn't have property tax (which funds schools) and community B does. That causes the gap.

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  • mwolverine

    Posts: 5685

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