The challenges of Arab-Jewish matrimony

Yalla Peace: Every week I receive an e-mail from Jews and Arabs asking me for advice on how to make their relationships and marriages work.

June 14, 2011 22:49
4 minute read.
Rabbi Galit Oren-Moran conducts a wedding ceremony

secular marriage (dont use). (photo credit: Courtesy)


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We might not be able to have peace in the Middle East, but that doesn’t mean Palestinians and Israelis can’t come together in other ways.

My wife Alison and I have been married 14 years this July, and the truth is we both enjoy Middle Eastern food, the Jewish religion, Palestinian culture and a living achievement in matrimony that Palestinians and Israelis can’t find in political negotiations.

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Maybe that’s the problem – Palestinians and Israelis are negotiating too much. Of course, what I mean – lest the fanatics misquote me, as they always do – is that Palestinians and Israelis think things out way too much.

We’re too smart for our own good, and sometimes we don’t follow our hearts, but rather our fears. I’m not sure we would have married had we actually taken a lot of time to think it through. After all, my marriage has come under attack from some of the most notorious Palestinian fanatics in America, citing the Jewish-Arab relationship but pretending it doesn’t mean much in their hatred of me.

Not that Alison had a real choice, though. I made our relationship a cornerstone of my activism for peace and my constant war against the ugly extremists who I know hate Christians and secular Muslims as much as they hate Jews.

We found a balance in our lives, bringing together her family and mine as a result of our marriage, and it became the basis of my very successful standup comedy act, which lampoons extremism and pokes fun at this unusual relationship of a Jew and an Arab.

But is it a Jew and an Arab, or is it more a Palestinian and a Jew? The fanatics claim I’m not Palestinian at all, arguing that I speak English far better than Arabic, which is true. And although Alison doesn’t have Israeli citizenship, her heart is in Israel. Since I have one daughter from a prior marriage raised Christian (her name is Haifa), raising our son Aaron as a Jew doesn’t bother me. Maybe one day he’ll be the one who brings our people together in peace, the way only a person of Palestinian- Israeli spirit can.

BUT OUR marriage is not alone. Every week I receive an e-mail from Jews and Arabs, especially Palestinians, who ask me for advice on how to make their relationships and marriages work.

I tell them it’s simple. Be honest. Accept the fact that we don’t have to see eye-to-eye, and that we can differ on political issues in the Middle East, but also be able to show compassion for the other side.

That’s the toughest thing for Palestinians and Israelis to do. We hate each other so much that we can’t fathom living together. So when we brutalize each other, we can justify it in our blindness to the reality around us.

We also keep a sense of humor, and use that humor to respond to the few moments that have been ugly. And there have only been a few. Some relatives ostracized us from their open house because I am Palestinian.

On the other side, people constantly ask me if it’s true that I married “a Jew” and if so, why.

You have to be able to recognize that we’re human beings first, and no one is perfect. That means our human frailties make us question sanity and appear to hate. Average people do stupid things when they just don’t understand.

But that’s what our Palestinian-Jewish marriage does. It forces us to understand.

It forces us to see the other the way we want to be seen. It forces us to be compassionate even after angry outbursts.

I created a group on Facebook to try to bring more of these anomalies of Palestinian-Jewish harmony together, thinking maybe we can commiserate and come up with solutions to the Middle East conflict. Maybe even serve as a support group for couples pursuing the dream that has so far eluded millions of Jews and Palestinians in the Middle East.

As hard as it is sometimes to argue in a moderate voice – our supporters are never as militant or outspoken as the extremists and haters are – we have to keep trying and make it spread.

One great idea, plus a sudden outburst of humanity, common sense, reason and respect could change things for both our peoples.

So if you have a chance, visit the Facebook Page (Arabs and Jews Married) and “like” it. Show some love, even if your spouse is not from “the other side.”

We only have three members so far. I just know there are more.

The writer is an award-award-winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host.

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