The problem with road maps

Let's face it, Palestinians and Israelis can't drive.

israel topo map 298.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
israel topo map 298.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
After several trips to Jerusalem over the past year, I have come to realize that the term "road map" is not exactly the best way to describe a mission to achieve anything - let alone peace. Let's face it, Palestinians and Israelis can't drive. When it comes to making - or following road maps - the two sides are not very good. So that's not a good place to start. Ask an Israeli for directions, and you get extremely detailed ones. Always confusing. And not infrequently wrong. "Well, to get from the Ayalon Expressway to the sea, you must get to Jabotinsky Street. It's the only one that really cuts across Tel Aviv. Arlosoroff Street is too slow. Too many distractions. Jabotinsky is straight ahead. Knows where he's going. "That's because he is a true Zionist. You could take Dizengoff Street, but it curves, like Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's policies. But then, Dizengoff was Tel Aviv's first mayor. Of course, you'll miss the beautiful Jabotinsky circle -" "Ah, I just want to find a sandwich shop." "Then turn left at Ibn Gvirol Street." "A Tel Aviv street named after an Arab?" I ask. "No. He's not an Arab. Are you crazy? This is Tel Aviv." I LEARNED Israel has a bad reputation when it comes to driving from my comedy compatriots, Charley Warady and Yisrael Campbell. Both do bits about driving on Israeli roads in their routines. Everyone in Israel knows more Israelis are killed while driving than by terrorism. But that fact only angers Hamas even more. "No matter what we do, the Zionist entity insist on always demeaning us," a Hamas activist once remarked. ASK PALESTINIANS for directions, and they come short and to the point. Which means, basically, that they don't know. The only certainty they offer is in their favorite Arabic expression, Insha'allah, which is the most certainty you can ever expect from an Arab. "Ya'ani. Go there. And, ya'ani, then there. Ya'ani, Insha'allah, you'll find your way." Given that Arab and Israeli societies are male-dominated, we also don't take too well to getting directions, especially from women. "Why don't you stop to ask for directions, honey?" my wife, who is Jewish, always says when I drive. "Directions? What do you think I am, incompetent?" is my usual male retort. "I can't support my own family? Are you saying I'm not a man?" Of course, minutes after my wife tells me to get directions, we get desperately lost, and into another heated argument. "Turn there. Turn. Turn. TURN!" My wife accelerates the nagging. "And you call yourself your family's oldest son! Oy vey zmir!" Through all the yelling and screaming in the car, we always end up finding our way to where we are going. I think, deep down, that my wife's yelling at me while I'm driving forces me to get to where we need to go faster. Without the yelling, I'd never find my way. Now of course I could buy one of those fancy GPS things, which uses satellite technology and a voice to tell you how to get from point A to point B. I tried one out, once. But the voice was so nice. Sweet. Gentle. It never yelled. It left me confused. Now, if they could make a GPS unit that has a shrill voice that sounds like my wife's, I might actually find it useful. That's the way the male mind works. Deep down, we men know we are lost. But we'll never admit it. Now that's something Arab and Israeli men share. SO, DESPITE all the pessimism surrounding the United States hoped-for peace summit at Annapolis, I am encouraged. First of all, the summit is being organized by a woman, Condoleezza Rice. And, when Israel decided to send Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to the pre-talk talks, I was further encouraged. When it comes to following road maps, women clearly do it better. Maybe the Palestinians should do the same. Instead of sending a bunch of men led by Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala), President Mahmoud Abbas should dispatch Hanan Ashrawi. Men may not like it, but I can bet that with women driving, we'd get to where we want to be a lot faster. Of course, the Arab-Israel conflict is not as simple as driving from point A to point B. But then, if the summit fails, there's nothing better for the men than to be able to blame it on the women. "Women? Following road maps? Negotiating peace? No wonder it failed." That just might prompt Olmert and Abbas to force themselves to reach a peace agreement. Just to prove they're better than the women. Insha'allah, of course. The writer is an award winning Palestinian American journalist, author and standup comedian.