Before making Aliyah, my views on Arabs and Israelis were fairly black and white. Years of watching newscasts of Egged buses blown to smithereens along with all the men, women, and children inside had led me to the conclusion that all Arabs were really, really bad. On moving to Israel I would do my best to have absolutely nothing to do with them, to keep my distance. I would certainly not employ any of them.
Last week I was sitting in my kitchen and the Palestinian working next to me calmly turned to me and said, “Jar-dan, give me a knife please!” After being surrounded on a daily basis by Palestinians with an assortment of drills, hammers, saws, and other tools which could have dismembered me in a few seconds, I realized how silly it would be to suddenly refuse to hand him my knife. So I did and wondered what had happened to my previous notions.
A few days later I was working on an article on the Palestinian “educational” system. On the computer screen in my office was a picture of Palestinian kids being taught how wonderful it is to become a martyr by killing Jews. A few meters away, another Palestinian was installing some light fixtures. He looked to be in his thirties or forties and I assumed he had a few kids. I wondered if they were being taught that Jews were the source of all evil in the world while their father was working for one.
How on Earth do we deal with the fact that we are at war with the very people who have built almost every house, synagogue, and building in our Yishuv? Are they simply working here because there is nowhere else that they can make comparable money? Are we simply employing them because there is no one else who will do the same work for comparable money? Are we locked together in some sort of weird and terrible dance that must one day end tragically? Probably.
Or is it possible, even remotely so, that one day we will return to the days before the “peace” of the Oslo Accords? People tell me of the pre-Oslo, pre-Arafat, pre-Hamas days when you could buy humus, furniture, or even a new car in Bet Lechem. Is it beyond the range of possibility that one day people can once again have good relationships? To be honest, after so much blood has flowed, I don’t know.
Now I am a realist, I am a Jew, and I am not embarrassed to wear the title of “Settler.” I sincerely desire peace, but I do not believe that turning over my house to the Arabs would bring peace any closer than when we turned over all the houses in Gush Katif. Clearly, retreat only strengthens our enemies. Doing so will not bring back the pre-Oslo days. On the contrary, it will bring war to our doorstep (just ask the people of Sderot).
Yet I also believe that not all the Arabs want to kill us. For many of them, their goal is not a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital. They couldn’t care less about the millions of “refugees” currently imprisoned by their Arab brethren. They want to work. They want to work and not have to worry that the gangsters of Hamas or Fatah will come calling for their children.
So I admit, I might be being naïve. Political peace may not be possible with the Arab nations, but maybe personal peace between individual Arabs and Jews is. I would love to reach the point where I can give a Palestinian worker a knife without thinking twice of the risks.
But to be honest, I’m not there yet.