We are not listening. Rather, we are reading; and all of our reading has made us deaf.
The Arab Jewish dialogue is an ancient one indeed.
Throughout our tumultuous history in this land we have always come together as clans and tribal people to speak of issues that concern us both.
Today in a world of technology, the conversation is not limited between clan families and tribes. The conversation is a huge cacophony of hundreds of voices that participate simultaneously on social media. Each one is talking and vying for a space on the international stage of Facebook. All of these voices compete to be heard in the noisiest platform that has ever existed.
Is anyone actually being heard?
Do I really know my neighbor because I read an Op-Ed about them written by a person who has done a ton of reading?
Do I really understand the Palestinian Arab voice if I draw my conclusions based on what the Times of Israel bloggers say?
Am I truly grasping the inner voice of a Palestinian Arab if I obsessively read my Facebook newsfeed all day?
The answer is no and here is why:
It is illogical to presume that I- an American, Israeli Jew comprehend fully the inner thoughts and feelings of a person who has lived their entire live in the Middle East, speaking Arabic- a language I do not know.
It is equally illogical for any Palestinian Arab to believe that they have me figured out. How could they possibly understand who I am and what I want by reading their Facebook newsfeed? Does the collective Jewish community speak for me as a separate, unique entity? No.
Would you go on a date with a person you only read about through the expression of someone else’s words and not their own?
No, you wouldn’t.
Would you date a person you learned about through a biased third party without actually having a dialogue with the person you are suppose to go out with on a date? No, you wouldn’t.
This is what we are all doing right now. We are talking about talking amongst people whom we do not literally talk with.
We are discussing the possibilities of living together here in this land- i.e. dating a peoplehood without actually going on a first date.
Oh, but you say you know them because they stab us; they have suicide bombers, glorified and compensated shahids- thus they are known by their actions. OK, what about the millions who do not do this?
Oh, that’s right, they agree with it, because they look the other way.
They eat the candy that is passed out to them after the successful murdering of our own. Yes of course, the media tells us this and so it is reasonable to apply our distain for them broadly.
We have collectively decided that our leadership can spoon feed us what to think, feel and believe about our neighbors.
I have never liked the idea of someone drawing conclusions about me without actually experiencing me for him or herself. This means sitting down and having an actual dialogue with me.
People have stereotypes about Israelis, Americans, Jews, women, specific age groups, socioeconomic status, level of education- the list goes on and on in order to produce what we all think will give us an accurate snap shot into the soul of another human being. It would be easy for a person to look at my trappings and superficial background in order to deduce an opinion of what kind of person I am.
Yet if you ask an individual who knows me in real life and has spent time in a relationship with me- I know that their opinions and even extrapolations based on their real life experiences with me will be more accurate. However, it is my ability to speak for myself that ultimately represents me to the world- not what others say.
Here is what is missing from the Arab Jewish conversation:
One can feel another human being’s energy by being in their presence. One can experience their vibe, that indescribable feeling that only comes from sitting in the same room next to that person.
A connection is made in those moments when you are in close proximity to the individual you are listening to.
Presence is how we achieve human engagement. Social media interaction is a bad imposter for this. The human substitute only measures ‘usage’ in a thread.
There is a language barrier at times here in this country.
When that happens, that language failure requires the individual to become creative in an instant. They have to dig deeply to convey their sentiment and this creates an urgent desire. When your grammar beings to fall apart, you have to reach inside yourself and project outwards what you are thinking and feeling.
Language in these moments of cultural difference must be understood through unique context and felt by listening not with ears, but with an openness of two souls connecting on the most basic human level.
We think we know so much about each other, yet the longer I am here listening to the other side, I realize I do not know them at all.
I know their history, I know a great deal about the Palestinian leadership, but I do not know the average Palestinian Arab on the street.
Why should I even try to listen? Because when I do, I realize that they are each an individual with their own perspective made up of of their own perception of reality. Each individual has had his or her own fair share of unique experiences here both good and bad.
Yesterday I saw a post by a Palestinian Arab; a real life friend of mine on Facebook. I got upset because I interpreted it as anti-Israel. I asked about it and indeed, I misunderstood.
There is no substitute for being in person.
Perhaps my job is to listen in order to demonstrate that there are Jews who will judge the individual on personal merit and not collective behavior nor the media and reverse propaganda of an entire peoplehood.
I do not like that the world has done this to my people.
The world is gullible and will believe anything. Humans accept what they are told. This has been weaponized by the media against Israel.
Therefore, why should I perpetuate the same behavior and do it to the other side?
This blog is nothing compared to my short posts about daily life here in Israel. I get more out of the human experience in a 20 minute cab ride with a random Arab- or coffee with a Palestinian Arab friend, than all the blogs, Op-Ed’s, Facebook posts, media articles and rants combine.
My naysayers tell me I am wasting my time listening to Arab Palestinians.
I believe I am the bigger person.
I believe once you start being the bigger person, it is permanent.
It is not a la carte. You do not pick and choose when to be the bigger person. It is a lifelong commitment and a burden.
Someone has to be the bigger person.
Israel is the bigger person.
Cut through the noise and listen to one of them.
Get off your newsfeed.
It will blow your mind.