I was astonished to discover over 60 positive news stories since July 2010 that never appeared anywhere except in the Israeli press. In this final part, I have selected some of the stories where Israelis and Palestinian Arabs get together outside of the working environment; plus some facts about co-existence that you may be unaware of.
Israelis are mad about sports and they are keen to mix together with their neighbors on the playing field. In May, a team of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs were narrowly beaten by an ex-pat Aussie team in a practice for the Australian Rules International Football Cup later this year. In September, a Jerusalem team of Israelis and Palestinian Arabs put aside their differences and teamed up to compete in Israel’s amateur American tackle football league. By March there were two teams, each containing both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, that battled out the final of Israel Bowl 1V. Israel''s first NBA player, Omri Casspi, ran a basketball clinic for 100 Israeli and Palestinian Arab children in the annual event of the Twinned Peace Basketball Schools project. Whilst on the subject of sports, it is interesting to point out that in February, in the Palestinian territories, Arab women celebrated the inauguration of the new women’s football league.
Turning to culture, in November there was a groundbreaking exhibition of selected paintings by 120 Israeli and Palestinian Arab children in the foyer of the Allsaraya Arabic-Hebrew theatre in Jaffa. In education, Ariel University may be over the “green line” and boycotted by biased academics, but Ariel University is extremely popular with hundreds of Arab students. Joana Moussa, a 20-year-old behavioral sciences student from Abu Snan, an Arab village in the Galilee region, said “there is no racism here.”
In entertainment, an Israeli company has launched an Arab talent show. Yagur Studios in Haifa is responsible for the Palestinian Arab equivalent of “A Star is Born” and “X-factor.” The program is even shown live on Saudi Arabian TV.
Shopping is a more serious business, however a wonderful supermarket has opened in the territories, thrilling both Israeli and Arab shoppers. Palestinian Arab families and Israeli "settlers" mingle in the aisles - one checkout cashier was a Jewish woman from Kiryat Arba of Moroccan descent; on the cash register next to her was a blue-eyed Muslim woman from Halul, and on another register was a member of the Bnei Menashe tribe from India.
Of course, Israel is completely supportive of the religious traditions of Palestinian Arabs. So it was natural that Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat wanted to wish the Muslim residents of the capital, across Israel and throughout the world a "Ramadan Kareem" last year. He fired-off a cannon heralding the end of the day''s fast at the ancient Salah al-Din cemetery in east Jerusalem. Note that when other countries abandoned its citizens living in Libya, Israel allowed 300 ex-pat Palestinian Arabs to return to the territories following a request from Mahmoud Abbas
When it comes to relaxation, Israelis and Palestinian Arabs are happy to let their hair down together. At the annual Oktoberfest beer festival in the Palestinian Arab village of Taybeh, Israeli Jews joined Christian Arabs to ‘check’ the merchandise.
The Peres Center for Peace marked the International Day of Peace with events at the Peres Peace House on Jaffa beach. Hundreds of Israeli Jewish and Arab families, children and young people, as well as Palestinian Arab families attended the events, which was open to the general public, free of charge. Finally, there was a big splash at Kalkilya zoo. Arab and Israeli vets navigated a six-year old 1.5-ton hippo into its new home in the Palestinian Arab city.
These news stories do not follow the standard perception that Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews will always have a violent relationship. It backs up those who say that once PA leaders stop their belligerence there can be peace between our peoples. It supports PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s admission in an Arabic interview, that his family was forced to flee in 1948 due to threats by Arab leaders. Jews were not responsible.
So it explains whyArab residents of east Jerusalem are lining up to request Israeli citizenship. And why a poll of east Jerusalem Arabs, conducted by a joint American / Palestinian Arab organization came out against PA control of east Jerusalem, preferring Israel to retain control. In fact many Palestinian Arabs view Israel very favorably when compared to Arab states. They know that Israel is the best country in the Middle East for Palestinian Arabs.
Dubai journalist Maisun Azzam declared that ‘Ramallah is like Europe’ and that the world’s media has completely distorted the image of life for Palestinian Arabs. She admitted that bad news is newsworthy, but good news isn’t. Now where have we heard that before?
Michael Ordman writes a weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.