Tuesday, February 05, 2019

What We Like About Each Other

Daniel Gordis has an interesting piece in Bloomberg about a co-existence program that brings together Palestinian and Israeli teenagers in the Gush Etzion area (which is inside the West Bank, just south of Jerusalem).

Aside from the substantive content of the piece, there were two tertiary elements that stood out. One is the notation that Gush Etzion had Jewish residents prior to Israel's establishment -- these Jews were expelled when Jordan took over the territory in the wake of Israel's independence war. Many of the current settlers in that territory descend from families which were forced to flee.

That sort of story is rarely raised. And to be clear, in a large sense for me it doesn't matter -- I've long maintained that part of a permanent settlement between Israel and Palestine will likely include a proviso that not everyone gets to live on the precise patch of land they'd most prefer, and that applies to Jewish families whose roots in Gush Etzion go deep as much as the descendants of Palestinian refugees who fled pre-67 Israel during the Nakba. But it is nonetheless a complicating narrative in a region where simplicity is too often craved, and I think that's important.

The other interesting portion came at the very end:
“I have another question,” an Israeli teenager asked her Palestinian counterparts at a recent meeting. “Is there anything about our culture that you actually like?”
The Palestinian kids were quiet for a moment, and then they laughed. “We love your music,” they said. Specifically Eyal Golan, an Israeli rock star who sings in Hebrew, but in a Middle Eastern, almost Arabic-sounding style. “We don’t understand the Hebrew; but we listen to him all the time; we know all the words by heart.”
The way this is framed by Gordis, one might think Golan -- an Israeli who sings "in a Middle Eastern, almost Arabic-sounding style" -- is appropriating culture that isn't his (think of consternation regarding Israeli Jews selling hummus, or wearing a keffiyeh). Yet as one might have suspected, Golan is himself a Middle Eastern Jew -- his family hails from Morocco and Yemen. So when he sings in a "Middle Eastern" or "Arabic-sounding" style -- that's his style. He has equal claim to as compared to any other person from Yemen or Morocco.

Anyway, as I said, these are tertiary points. The article is pretty light, all told, but worth a read nonetheless.

No comments: