About a year ago, I was visiting a friend of mine in his office in Ramallah. The office was a mess; he was remodeling so there was paint, dry wall, and everything you can imagine in a remodeling process, including workers.
I tried to just leave but he insisted on the coffee – an Arab thing, which is like a “respectometer,” whereby being offered coffee or not and the guest accepting the coffee or not are all signs of respect or disrespect.
As I was drinking the coffee I started talking towards the contractor who had the job while he was observing the workers. While chatting I used a Hebrew word and I was trying to translate it for him. He shocked me when he answered me in Hebrew. I said “Oh, you know Hebrew, where are you from?” He said from a village outside Ramallah, and that he knows Hebrew very well. This gentleman was about 50-years-old, knowledgeable and confident. So I asked how he knows Hebrew and if he had lived or worked in Israel. He explained it all to me.
He said that before the “stupid” Oslo he was mostly in Tel Aviv, Netanya, Haifa and Be’er Sheva. He explained to me that he had more work than he could handle, and had Israeli contractors offering him jobs all over the place. He went on how great it was to work in Israel with the Jews, how professional and how straight forward, how honest and how productive. So I asked if his business was bad and if so why can’t he still get a permit to go to work in Israel again. He explained that he could, but it was hard to get his worker’s permits and shocked me by saying “Even if I get my worker’s permits, can I trust their intentions to take them with me?” He explained that his business is good in Ramallah and that he is not complaining about income – he just missed the work ethics and honesty of the Jews. Finally he said “God how I wish things could go back to the way it was once, before the so-called Oslo peace”.
Nabil Haalki describes himself as “an Arab Israeli humanitarian who is seeking peace”. His previous heartfelt story about pizza proved very popular.