A new column from Our Man in Tel-Aviv
- Sylvain Ubersfeld
Tel-Aviv, Sunday, July 17, 2005 -
Not being Jewish and living in Israel can prove
to be an advantage, especially if and when one is trying to make an acceptable assessment of the so-called Israel -Palestine
conflict. Born of a Jewish father whose family was eradicated by the Nazis while
he was completing his studies in France, I was educated in the Christian faith and I now realize how both of my cultural and
religious heritages are equally important. Surprisingly enough, or rather not,
I was not able to choose one culture rather than the other and I will light candles on Friday night, and find serenity on
the top of the basilica in Jerusalem which is nowadays turned into a monastery for Coptic and Ethiopians Priests. Unlike many Frenchmen who pass judgments abroad when visiting other countries, I have not yet decided if
anyone was fully wrong, or right, in regards to what is known as the middle-east conflict.
Having spend over eighteen years of my life in extensive traveling, a good part of it in the heart of the Middle East,
I do not consider myself as an expert, although some "official" experts working for big international organizations may know
less than I do about Arabic and Jewish culture.
Nothing can in my opinion justify any kind of terrorism, would it
be physical aggression or intellectual perversion consisting in stigmatizing a race, a group of people, a caste, or a minority. The Palestinian and the Jews are brothers. They
live on the same land that has the same physical characteristics; they are warmed up by the same sun, washed by the same rainwater
that pours here during winter in the biblical sense of the flood. Both of them
enjoy drinking Turkish coffee in which they will eventually put a special kind of ground spice (partially made of cardamom),
as much as they will appreciate eating falafel (fried balls of runnabean flour), pitah, (the traditional Arabic bread), humus
(a delightful puree of chick peas served with olive oil and lemon juice), or watermelon diced up and accompanied by goat cheese.
Both Jews and Arabs will dedicate one day a week to praying following ablutions (for those who are really involved
into religion that is) and they will probably read verses of their respective holy book, both of these containing by the way
quite a few appeals to the basics instincts and hatred and revenge which inhabits each of us and which we should dominate
Most of the Jews would be able to understand basic Arabic, and in the same fashion it is not uncommon
for Arabs to pick up quite a lot of Hebrew… this should not come as a surprise as the languages are extremely close
and both of them by the way have a "dot" system which allows consonants to be pronounced as vowels by addition of a special
marking under the letter. Their ancestors were in their time a part of the same
household, both of them are traders at heart and both of them were able in the past to live together in harmony and respect
of their respective faith, going to the extent of sharing the same kind of food, including meat slaughtered in similar conditions.
But because Muhammad took of on his chariot of fire (Was it a chariot of fire? I can't recall.) quite a few hundred
years after the Biblical adventure which brought the Jews out of exile, there is somehow a distorted view which drive people
in thinking that Jewish religion has somehow more legitimacy in the area. Truly
enough, the issues at stakes in this conflict are not only political but also demographic, economics, and religious…
with the unavoidable cohort of bearded wise men on both side who have a dangerous tendency to mix up secular and religious
matters in the conduct of state affairs, thus already imposing an emotional approach which often deprives them of common sense. God and business have never been good friends; religion is an affair of the heart
in the intimacy of each individual.
I hate terrorism of all kind, and I realize that due to my heritage I may not
be fully objective when assessing the conflict, but the biggest shock for the last six months of daily monitoring news, internet,
or international papers, was seeing on TV a young Jewish boy, from an extreme-right family, probably educated, hurling a stone
at an Arabic teenager already lying on the ground. This vision really did hurt
more than all the horrible scenes of violence and dismembered bodies that have been circulating around in the international
The disengagement process is supported by most of the Israeli population. It is in my opinion the only viable solution to change things around here.
It is not only the future of Israel at stake but the future of an entire area of the world which is getting, day by
day, more volatile, and whose whereabouts provides more and more excuses for extremists of all kind to attack freedom, civil
liberties, and the very basis of our daily life.
Regardless if one is an atheist, a Jew, a Christian, a Moslem or
a Buddhist, the aspirations for all are the same and all of us are entitled to enjoy our time on earth. Because both the Israelis and the Palestinian share, in my opinion parts of the responsibility, and because
they are brothers, isn't it about time that they changed their ways and go from being armed brothers to becoming brothers
in arm fighting only for the future well being of generations to come? Maschiach
(the messiah of the orthodox Jews) will not come… not this month at least (the month is nearly over!). Allah will never endorse any innocent civilian killings in the name of Jihad. The job of making peace rests entirely in the hands of men of good will, which, I admit, are extremely
rare, especially in this area.
Copyright © 2005 - Sylvain Ubersfeld