Shalom Nir and Emi, be true to your ideals.
It’s 9.30 am. Just the right time for a cold beer and a cigar. The defecating crowds were here earlier in the morn and have left their offerings to the gods. Communing with Nature has its advantages, no barriers only the cold wind blowing up the nether regions and sand in everything. This is the locals’ comfort zone.
The great unwashed will arrive shortly to shouts and pleadings of hawkers, “Come see my shop”….”yes want something…good price, my friend”….followed closely by gaping men salivating on the scene of white women in their bikinis baking in the sun and attention. The symphony of bodies mingling with sand and surf completes a picture of the destitution of humankind. A pointlessness that transcends real time. The now is omnipresent. It permeates one’s consciousness and shelters the soul.
And as the sun rises higher I am faced with a conundrum – how does a three legged dog lift a leg to pee. Surrealism has an enchanting side to it.
Just then a young man walks up and asks me if the restaurant I am sitting in would cook fish if he brought it there and the price for the service. I beckon Kanca the Nepalese waiter who hears me out and then disappears into the kitchen and returns announcing that the price would be around 200 rupees.
I invite the young man and his girlfriend to join me for a beer.
And soon the pleasantries exchanged reveal they are from Israel, Nir and Emi, a boy and girl touring the Indian sub-continent. Both students and both have served in the army.
“Nir, did you kill anyone?”
“No, but my friends have shot people. But they had to fire otherwise they would have been killed.”
“Do you have Arabs in the army?”
“Yes, Arab Muslims and Arab Christians. In fact we have a Bedouin recon unit (200/300 soldiers). On memorial day, Yom-Ha-Zikaron, in our Hebrew prayer “Remember” the Bedouins are mentioned as casualties of war.”
“Do you think Palestine should exist as a State?”
“In order to keep our different ways of life i.e. Jews and Muslims; It is a known fact that Muslim families have more children than either Jews or Christians. The rough estimate is: Muslims – 5 children, Jews and Christians approximately 2. A survey carried out recently revealed that in 20 or 30 years the majority in Israel will be Muslim. So in order to continue to maintain a safe haven for Jews we must give Palestinians their own country so all the Muslims can go and settle down there? All politicians know this and yet we seem to be fighting this idea. I don’t know why?”
Another round of chilled beer arrives and as the we sit and watch the frothing sea in the distance, Emi chimes in, “ Arabs have equal rights in practice but there still something more to be done. They are in government – Hadash and Ra’himtal. They are two faced. In Israel they are Left Wing for Israeli causes and Right Wing to Arab causes outside Israel. The problem is that these parties support Arab causes outside Israel instead of Arab Causes inside Israel. Therefore, many Israeli Arabs avoid voting. And these same parties get an operating budget from the Israeli government!”
Nir interrupts, “The older generation is far more accepting. My uncle regularly visits his Arab barber in the Arab area. But the young generation is very suspicious of each other. There is too much violence, too much hatred.”
“Yes”, says Emi brushing her hair back, “In The Hebrew University of Jerusalem where I am studying Business Management the Muslim and Jews sit separately in the classroom. They speak Arabic and us, Hebrew. I got to know an Arab boy in my class when we were forced to team up with them in groups on a project. It opened my eyes. But too much blood has been spilt. To mend ties now is next to impossible. It’s getting worse day by day. And what is very sad is the position of the Arab Christians (about 200,000). They look Arab, they dress Arab and therefore they are stuck between the Muslims and Jews. You understand what I am saying?”
“Yes, I do Emi”
“Here in India we met a young Iranian couple (boyfriend/girlfriend) travelling in the North. We became such good friends and we are now facebook buddies. They were nothing like the Iranians we read about in the papers. This has been a great learning experience for me. I feel that our generation has a responsibility to bring peace. Take for instance my girlfriend in Jerusalem, she is a lesbian and her “girlfriend” is an Arab. Her parents know about her affair, they disapprove but don’t interfere. Can you imagine if the Arab girl’s parents came to know? But it is this relationship that helps in joining communities, bringing people together”, says Emi.
“Emi, if you had three wishes what would you ask for?” I ask.
“I want to start a community of all like minded people. We will all live in one area which is religion free. The first community will be very small but it will grow because people will see us living in peace and will want to emulate our group.
I also want to open a home for children from broken families. To feed, educate and guide these children to help them become responsible citizens.
But for all this I need money. So I have learned Chinese because everyone is doing business with China and it is a language that is now important in business. I will get a job and when I have enough money I shall start my first community”, says Emi with a deep sense of conviction. Her eyes light up as she speaks and there is laughter and joy on her face. She may be a dreamer but then all great ideas come from dreams and it is dreams that make this life.
I turn to Nir and ask him, “What do you think Israel should do to bring peace to the region?”
“Mark, the East Bank is prosperous, modern and growing economically, whereas the Left Bank/Gaza Strip is digressing into the dark ages because Hamas has control here. In the East Bank women can drive, work and dress as they please. In the Gaza strip all this is forbidden. There’s more but what’s the point of talking of these negative aspects?
In the 1990s many Palestinians worked in Israel and this helped their local economy. However, with the constant terrorist attacks this was stopped by Israel and hence poverty came knocking. It is a sad state of affairs for them. I think Israel should invest heavily in the Palestinian territories – Education, health, business development prior to discussing statehood. This will help in elevating the suffering and bring about a more conducive atmosphere in the people to people contact.
Lastly, the Israeli government must declare/recognize/assist in the creation of a Palestinian State. They too need a homeland so let them have it. And all the Muslims in Israeli territory can move to the new State. This would ease tensions between Muslims and Jews.”
Nir, Emi and I parted company with a promise to keep in contact. But in this world impregnated with hatred, war and genocide one wonders whether such promises can be fulfilled.
“We shall meet you here again tomorrow, my friend,” said Nir.
“I cannot answer that Nir for the world may end tonight. I just live one day at a time. The rest I leave to the Universe,” I replied smiling at both of them.
Shalom my two young friends, Nir and Emi. I hope you realize your dreams.