The Goal of Equality

By Uri Dromi

Published April 15, 2005, issue of April 15, 2005.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Whenever I want to have a sense of what’s going on with Israeli Arabs, I take a ride with Zachariah, my favorite taxi driver.

Zachariah lives in Beit Nakuba, a village on the main road to Jerusalem. In 1948 his parents made a strategic decision not to fight the Jews. It was a decision they never regretted. While other villagers fled and became refugees, Zachariah’s folks stayed and became citizens of the State of Israel.

Today, the village is prospering, and it seems to me that Zachariah is quite happy with his lot. He always says “we,” referring to all Israelis, Jewish and Arab alike, and he is proud of the Israeli democracy. He told me that if and when a Palestinian state is established, neither he nor any Israeli Arab he knows would even think about moving there. All in all, he is quite a jolly, optimistic fellow.

Sometimes, however, the stories he tells me are not so amusing. When he took me to the airport last month, he told me with a smile that earlier that day he had a Hasidic passenger who had just arrived from New York. Because of Zachariah’s name and his lack of any distinct Arabic accent, the passenger was sure that he was Jewish. Therefore he stretched in the back of the car and said amicably: “You know why I like traveling with your taxi company? Because you guys don’t employ Arabs.”

Zachariah looked at him in the mirror and said, “Except for one. Me.”

It took us Jews generations to have a state of our own so that nobody would be able to talk to us, or at us, the way this passenger talked. And when we live in other countries, we raise hell at the slightest incident of discrimination against Jews, let alone open antisemitism. Yet we seem to see the splinter in other’s eyes, but not the beam in our own. What kind of credibility can we generate by decrying wrongs done to us, when we do the same to others?

During a recent trip to the United States, I went to see Irwin Green, formerly from Detroit, now living in Boca Raton, Fla. Green is in his late 80s and he doesn’t hear well, but his mind is as sharp as ever. He has given generously to build a soccer stadium in Nazareth so that Jewish and Arab kids can play together.

I told him about the work the Israel Democracy Institute is doing among high-school students in Israel, including Arabs, to promote the idea of a constitution. A constitution, I told Green, would enhance equality between Arabs and Jews. He didn’t disagree, but he was clearly impatient. “A constitution will take time,” he said. “But there is so much we need to do right away.”

How right he was. On the flight back home the Israeli newspapers threw in my face the varied and complex Arab-Jewish realities in Israel. One article reported on the nomination of Oscar Abu-Razek as the first Arab director general of the Interior Ministry. Another reported on an Israeli Arab being prosecuted for assisting a Palestinian terrorist.

Yet another article told of Adel and Imen Kaadan, an Arab couple from the Arab town of Baka Al-Gharbiya who succeeded — after 10 years of trying and finally appealing to the Supreme Court — in getting a permit to build a home in the nearby, newly incorporated Jewish village of Katzir. I presume they would rather live in a modern Arab village, but it was only recently that Israel’s housing minister announced plans to build one.

The sports pages, meanwhile, reported on the heroics of Abbas Suan, an Arab-Israeli soccer player from the township of Sakhnin. The Israeli national team was minutes away from losing its World Cup qualifier match to Ireland when Suan evened up the score with a dramatic goal.

Days later, Suan would be booed when his club team, Bnei Sakhnin, played against Betar Jerusalem. For Betar’s mostly right-wing fans, Suan’s lifting of Israel from the clutches of defeat on the soccer field apparently didn’t count for much. After all, he was still an Arab.

In Israel’s next World Cup match, another Israeli Arab player, Walid Badir, repeated Suan’s heroics, putting in the tying goal with time running out. Equaling the score in soccer games, it sometimes seems, is the closest that Arabs can get to equality in Israel. But as Irwin Green says, it’s up to us to do something about it.

Uri Dromi, director of international outreach at the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem, was chief spokesman for the Israeli government under prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.