The recent wave of terrorism put many of us into a state of fear, with distrust between Jews and Arabs at new levels, but for Abdullah Abed al-Rahman, 26, from Abu Ghosh, the situation was extreme.
Abdol, as he is known, is a social activist and his main field of activities is the social networks. He runs two Facebook pages. The first, “Abu Ghosh Now,” is an Arabic- language platform for the people of the village to discuss topics of the hour and political issues regarding their relations with neighboring Jews and Arabs.
The purpose of the second page, which he runs with Orthodox Jew Michal Julian, in Hebrew, Arabic and English, is to advance Jewish-Arabic coexistence from a Zionist point of view.
“I started the page in order to create an alternative to the established media, which portrays the Arab sector as constant victimizers or victims. The only time we hear about Arab individuals is when they join Islamic State or commit acts of violence. We never hear the sane and rational voice of the Arab sector, the one that opposes terrorism,” he says.
“I called the page ‘Right Wing and Arabs Tweeting’ because I believe that the right-wing voters in Israel, who usually avoid making contact with Arabs, have a lot in common with us, and if they will be exposed to our views, we could create a solid ground for coexistence. This is just a name, but everyone is welcome there.”
Abdol thinks that there are many like him, but they are silenced.
“There are people like Sarah Zoabi [an Arab-Zionist activist who appeared on ‘MasterChef Israel,’ mother of noted Zionist and Facebook activist Mohammed Zoabi], Mohammed Ka’abiyah [a Beduin Zionist from northern Israel who is a big supporter of the IDF and of Israeli Arabs going to the IDF] and me, but our voices are muted by the media,” he says.
His Facebook pages are followed by tens of thousands of users, including Jews and Arabs from all over the world.
“There were some posts that got more than a million views. Only recently we posted a story in reaction to the separation in the maternity wards in hospitals. An Arab woman who had just delivered a baby sent us a photo of her with a Jewish woman from the bed next to her and wrote ‘Here we are together with our sons, who will grow up in the same country and will serve in the same military.’ That post got over a thousand ‘likes’ in less than an hour.”
Abdol grew up in Abu Ghosh and absorbed values from the village elders. He mentions that in 1948 the inhabitants of the village assisted the Hagana forces to open the road to Jerusalem, and through the years many of them joined the IDF and served in public offices.
When asked why he took this path, Abdol talks about his grandmother.
“She had a kindergarten for children from all over the area, and I grew up with Jews. I was taught to respect every human being, regardless of their origin.”
About his political identity, Abdol states that he is “a proud Israeli-Arab. This is a title that some deny and prefer to be just ‘Palestinians,’ but I am proud to be both Arab and Israeli. In my point of view, everyone that believes in the right of the Jewish state to exist is a Zionist, and I am a proud Zionist.”
Abdol attended a Jewish high school outside the village, and participated in a delegation to the death camps in Poland. He says that this period shaped his views toward the state.
“Although I didn’t choose to be born here, I feel that I got lucky that I did. For so many years the Jewish people were persecuted, I can’t understand why. Look at what we achieved in only 68 years. Israel is leading in so many fields, including hi-tech and medicine. Local companies send supplies and aid – even to countries that are considered enemies. I feel like the rest of the Arab world is jealous at us for living in the Jewish state.”
Recently, the situation has deteriorated for Abdol.
After a deadly terrorist attack in early 2016, he denounced the act of terrorism in his Facebook page and expressed satisfaction when the terrorist was killed by the Special Forces. His Facebook posts were shared in many popular Palestinian Facebook pages, along with his photo.
Abdol’s posts also caught the attention of the village’s mayor, who denounced it, and said that Abdol isn’t representing the village in any way.
“Among the Arab population, if you are not aligned with the ‘Palestinian cause’ you are a traitor. I received threatening Facebook and text messages and even phone calls, most of them from people from east Jerusalem,” he says. After the incident, Abdol left his job in Jerusalem and moved to a new one in Tel Aviv, just in case, but he does not regret what he posted.
“Everyone who kills innocent people is a terrorist – an animal – and if you don’t say so, you’re a hypocrite. It’s also a principle in Islam. I don’t know how the sheikhs approve that.”
But it is not only his own sector that has been intolerant towards him. After graduating from high school, Abdol insisted upon joining the IDF. Throughout his service, he had to move from one unit to another because of racist acts from his commanders and fellow soldiers.
“First I joined the Border Police. Things happened during basic training, they laughed at my accent. Then I was transferred to the Adjutant Corps. There I felt that I was not really serving my country, so I asked to be discharged from service,” he says.
Abdol believes that racists act mainly from ignorance.
“There are people that don’t know how to react when they see a Muslim-Arab who insists on joining the army. They don’t understand that many of us want be recruited, but stories like that just discourage them from doing so.”
“I have a dream that we will see a change that starts in the media coverage, and will influence the education system. I hope that a new generation will grow up here – Jews and Arabs who want to live together and work together out of pride in our country,” Abdol says.
“I believe that it’s not Arabs and Jews, left-wing and right-wing, religious and secular; there are rational and irrational people. While the irrational people keep fanning the flames of hatred, we, the rational ones, oppose every sort of violence and see the person standing in front of us without filters. We just want to wake up every morning like normal people do, go to work, sit at a coffee house and live a normal life.
“I hope that my Facebook pages will open a window for change and more and more people from different sectors will join us for a real, viable coexistence.”