Overcoming Intolerance: A D'var Israel from Gal Goren
Beth Tzedec
May 19th 2020

"Okay, so there are many Arab countries in the Middle East and only one Jewish one. Why won’t they just leave Israel and live in one of those?’’

Last Thursday, we hosted our weekly program exploring of the most "politically incorrect" TV show in Israel, Sorry For Asking. This TV show interviews Israelis and asks controversial questions sourced from the public to minority Israeli populations. It asks those "politically incorrect" questions you have in mind sometimes and feel uncomfortable asking. The quote above is one of them.

After this program, I knew I had to write my D'var Israel about it. This episode in particular was about the Arab population in Israel.

Through this episode, it seemed that there are prejudices regarding the Arab section in Israel. On one hand, I felt really bad and even some guilt hearing their horrible stereotypes and discrimination experiences, but on the other hand I felt that there are also beautiful pieces of co-existence that weren't shown. 

Their frustration is justified; in the Jewish sector of Israel, your starting point in life is way better than it would be in the Arab sector. A kid from Um El Phachem has to make twice the effort compared to a kid from Tel Aviv. The education, health, transportation and economic systems in the Arab sector are less developed compared to the Jewish ones. But besides the socio-economic gaps, the stereotypes disturb me the most. I think the worst thing to do is to judge a book by its cover, but at the same time, sadly, myself and the rest of the world probably cannot avoid being affected by any stereotype.

I was raised with tolerance, equality and acceptance. But on the other hand, my life in Israel never exposed me to the outskirts of my ‘’bubble’’ so much. I didn’t have much of a connection to the Arab sector in Israel. I am sorry that I didn’t try to experience a larger picture of my country. But with all the rumours and the hatred there is also a lovely coexistence which I feel is important for you to know. That is why I wanted to share with you a little about my own pieces. The situation is far from perfect, but finding some light in it will give us hope.

I started to learn Arabic in school in grade 7. I had the best teacher for Arabic, Tahani. Tahani is a Muslim Arab, she wears a hijab and keeps all the commandments of Islam. Tahani always brought her life to us through educating us for acceptance and coexistence. She didn’t let the religious differences between us alienate her, and she brought so much love to school. When I entered high school and had to pick my two majors, I had no doubt that one of them would be Arabic because of the wonderful Tahani. It felt unreasonable that 1.8 million Arabic speakers live in Israel and I would not have any way to communicate with them. 

Another example of coexistence that I can show you is my amazing grandmother, Daniela Dror. For many years, Daniela volunteered in treating people with mental disabilities in the Arab sector and now she is the head of an organization operating a housing system and treatment for those people in Kfar Kana. In 2007, Daniela exposed a huge embezzlement of millions of shekels in the organization, caused by its crew. Although people threatened her, she courageously stopped this corruption in light of justice through the court. She keeps volunteering any way that she can.

The family of one of my best friends, Elay, experienced a tragedy about eight years ago. One night, Gil (Elay’s uncle) suffered a sudden stroke in his brain and died immediately. Instead of sinking into grief, they wanted to commemorate his way of life and wanted to make the best of this horrible situation. They chose to donate Gil’s organs in order to save other people's life. The people who got Gil’s heart and lungs are Israeli Arabs from the town Kfar Iksal. This life-saving act made Elay’s family so close with their families. Their loved one’s heart in beating in someone else and it crossed all the possible gaps that there are between the sectors. They became one big family. Elay took me once to meet them and I cannot describe to you how amazing they are and how it is so sad that we usually avoid knowing each other because of our differences.

In addition, there are hundreds of Muslim Israeli Arabs who chose to contribute years from their life to protect our country. On May 14, Shadi Ibrahim, an Israeli Arab soldier in the IDF, was hurt in a terror attack in Hebron. He was hurt very badly and the doctors had to amputate his leg. The moment I heard this story, I felt sorrow for our soldier who got hurt, like I would have felt regarding any soldier.

I don’t accept terrorism in any way or any kind. Non-violent protests, threats, hurling rocks or anything else. The IDF is a defence force and is trying the always to never harm any damage to innocents. It is the opposite of terror.

I believe that violence is the worst option. Too many people have suffered from terror in Israel, both Israelis and Arabs. Our blood is too precious for spilling because of our differences and conflicts. I am not a politician, and don’t guarantee to have a politician’s opinion, but I believe in the value of life and assume that there is always a solution, a compromise. I believe that there are kids just like me on "the other side" who wish for peace. Coexistence is always an option, and my examples prove it.

I might be naive, but I think that we are all humans after all. We are all breathing, loving, frightening, exciting beings in the same world. That is why I believe that these stereotypes and fights are so, so wrong. 

A wise person said once "Let it be".

I wish for better days for us to let be.

Thank you and stay healthy!

Gal Goren, the shinshin