A friend of mine, in life (although we now live in different countries. many years) & on Facebook, posted a status that moved me. I told her that, in a comment where I also said it was beautifully written. & I’ve also moved to translate it & to comment some more on it. I’ve inserted some comments into the ‘body’ of the translation — in italics & inside square brackets — and a few more at the end, for now…
When I set out in the direction of Taibeh in the afternoon, to a meeting with a group of adults, the five o’clock news was on. The newsreader reported in her nonchalant voice about the Prime Ministress of Denmark, where something it seems is no longer rotten, who scolded our Prime Minister for calling on the Jews of Denmark to migrate to Israel. “The Jews of Denmark have been living in Denmark for centuries”, she said, “they’re part of us, and we wouldn’t be the same without them”. The newsreader went on to other matters, but I kept musing about what she’d said. I wondered if Danish Jews are more Danish or more Jewish, and I thought that really why should they leave their country, their birthland, the house of their father, their language, and come to another country, a foreign one, so different from theirs.
Then, at the meeting, the facilitators scattered pictures on the floor in the center of the circle, and we were asked to each pick a picture that connects us to some event in our lives. After the minor flurry of activity we sat down again, each of us with a picture, in silence, as is customary. The first to speak was one of the Arab participants. She told us about another meeting she had taken part in, where she”d responded to the commonly-used designation “Israeli Arab”. “I’m a Palestimian”, she told us she had said there, “an Israeli Palestinian”. There were diverse responses and the discussion went to all sorts of places: the difference between citizenship and nation; between religion and nation and what does it mean when in our I.D. cards there is no [indication of?] citizenship or nation[ality?] or religion [!!! on my old ID card it says (in Hebrew): NATION: JEW !!] Who determines a person’s identity? He himself? The surroundings? & can you impose an identity on a person?; & perhaps identity also entails a process of development, & we don’t necessarily hold on to the same identity in different stages of our lives [I think this is so true.]; &, just a moment, what’s the difference between an Arab identity & a Palestinian identity? & can one have more than one identity? & perhaps there’s a complex identity? [Yes!]; & who profits from the tracking of identity & passing on the separation between Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Arabs?
& I, most of the time I kept quiet, & listened, & looked at the expressions of the people who spoke, & I saw the fervor they spoke with, or the cautiousness, or the confusion, & the new understandings that began to sink in, & I recalled another Prime Minister, from long ago, he was called Joseph & he was Prime Minister of Egypt, just this morning I’d read about him, in the book of Genesis, chapter 42, when he said to his brothers/[attempted]murderers: “& Joseph said to them on the third day: “Do this & live, I revere God”, and I wondered what his identity was, & how my identity connects both with him & with the people in this room.
I like the way these three paragraphs connect, & I especially like the meditation on identity & its many aspects that it both reports & evokes. The questions it raises are profound & I think the more more of us ponder on them the better for all of us.
As for the “separation between Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Arabs” — I think we can guess who profits from that. But I have a different take on this as well: I think the Israelis are Palestinians too. After all, Israel is in Palestine. So in Palestine now there are Arab Palestinians and Jewish Palestinians who are Israeli citizens, & (more than four million) Arab Palestinans who are not Israeli citizens & … (well, you know) & then there are Arab Palestinians who don’t & can’t live in Palestine & … (you know that too)… & Jewish (Israeli) Palestinians who don’t live in Israel in Palestine, etc. etc….