When An Arab Learns The Truth About Israel

This came across my screen, it’s an Arab from Egypt describing his first visit to Israel a few weeks ago:

The Israel Arabs dont knowOn my flight from Rome to Tel Aviv on Israel’s El Al airlines, I thought about what awaited me and what I would see. Although I had an idea of what Israel was like and friends who have told me of their experiences working there, memories of the accumulated assumptions about the place that I had gained throughout my childhood in Egypt presented a conflicting counter narrative. I wondered which was the truth: what I now knew, or what had been instilled in us Egyptians as children. Do the “Jews” in Israel actually hate Arabs? If they found out I was Egyptian, would treat me poorly? Would I be verbally or physically abused if Israelis heard me speaking Arabic?

Halting my train of thought, a man sitting next to me with his wife asked me something in Hebrew. In English, I explained that I didn’t understand the language. The man then apologized and asked in English, “Where are you from?” When I answered that I was from Egypt, he and his wife smiled genuinely and welcomingly. These were not the fake smiles our schools, society, television, and film had attributed to Israelis and Jews.

When I arrived in Israel’s financial capital, Tel Aviv, the airport’s clean atmosphere and facilities left me wondering whether I had left Europe. Its modernity left little doubt that I had entered a developed country.

On the road from the Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem (al-Quds)–Israel’s political capital–I saw wide, clean roads, filled with trees and captivating natural scenery. I took notes on everything, in line with my mission to relay the truth of life inside Israel. Once I had arrived in the political capital, I visited the Ministry of Exterior, the Knesset, and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.

I met with both Arabs and Jews of Arab origin, and they recounted their memories of life in Iraq, Egypt, and the other countries from which they had come. I listened to how they had left those countries after bitter experiences of incitement and hatred. Life had brought them to a place where they peacefully coexisted. Unfortunately, the truth of coexistence has been muddled with the help of many media organizations.

In another repudiation of another false claim, my visits to places of worship were not stopped or barred from entry by either the Israeli army or police force, as they have been rumored to do, despite the escalating incitement and violence in the city. Life in the holy city goes on, filled with vitality during all hours of the night and day. It is a city that does not sleep, filled with people from all over the world.

He describes in detail many other positive experiences and ends:

At the end of my trip, I had spent five days between Jerusalem (al-Quds), Tel Aviv, and Haifa. I had visited official state, national, social, and educational institutions and heard from Jewish, Arab, Druze, and Bedouin segments of Israeli. After my experience there, I can now say that in my eyes, Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East, and is a country open and accepting of religious and ethnic minorities. I heard the call to prayer from mosques in various cities – a religious expression that is banned in Europe. I saw Christians with crosses on their chests who had no fear of exposing their identities, a marked contrast to some neighboring states. I saw Baha’i gardens and memorials the like of which exist nowhere else in the world.

Through these experiences, I saw a recently formed state that has become a democratic institution rivaling the oldest democracies in the world. Despite the youth of the new Israeli state, I saw, without exaggeration, a bright flame in a pitch-black region. I realized that without a doubt, the secret to Israeli’s existence in spite of all the dangers and controversy that surround it is the democracy and freedom of Israeli society, a society composed of so many different yet coexisting segments and components.

Ramy Aziz is an Egyptian journalist based in Europe.

Read the whole piece. It’s just what you’d expect someone to find if they visited with an open mind.

Tags:

Brian of London

Brian of London is not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy. Since making aliyah in 2009, Brian has blogged at Israellycool. Brian is an indigenous rights activist fighting for indigenous people who’ve returned to their ancestral homelands and built great things.