Sunday, January 29, 2006

Something I'm Conflicted About Posting

Even though I rarely post comments specific to Life in Israel I really am always trying to find incidents that reflect on my life here. And in that respect this story is appropriate. On the other hand I don't want to write it so that everyone else in the family can feel self-righteous and dismiss all Israelis as bigots.
On Shabbos afternoon I went with 5 other girls to visit patients at Tel Hashomer Hospital. Before going it sounds awkward and uncomfortable-just marching into a hospital room and announcing to the weak patient "we've come to visit how are you doing?" but for every patient who prefers the company of people he knows or just wants peace and quiet to recuperate there is another patient who is lonely and needs to be distracted and really appreciates our presence. First we visited a surgery ward and then the other girls decided they wanted a change of pace and we went to the children's hospital. Almost all of the children are accompanied by a parent but in one room there was a little Arab boy, around 8 years old, who was in a room all alone. Although none of us spoke Arabic it felt wrong to move onto the next room when there was a boy who really needed attention. We tried to talk in that universal method of if I talk loudly and clearly then he/she will understand my Hebrew/Arabic. Luckily he had a few balloons on his bed and we started playing the classic keep the balloon off the floor. The other girls moved onto to the next room but I stayed behind to play with the little boy. In the middle he stopped the game and said to me very deliberately hahasamak. I tried every approximation to hebrew that I could think of but when I couldn't figure it out I remembered there was an Arab Israeli down the hall so I went over to him and asked him to translate for me. (It means "what is your name") On the way back I passed the father of a boy in the room next door to the Arab boy's room who asked me "are you girls Arab?" i answered "no" and he started walking away and then turned around self-righteously and told me "matim lachen l'hiyot" (it's fitting for you to be) [if this next line is inappropriate you can delete it from the post] suddenly i saw all those videos we watched in US history, To Kill a Mockingbird, the sneering "nigger-lover" and it turned my stomach to realize how the cost of intifada and terror isn't only the victims but its also the morality of my country, where a father who also has a son sick in the hospital can't understand that a little 8 year old boy is lonely and afraid all by himself in the hospital but instead all he seems is the enemy.
At this point in the story I'm still the hero, the liberal, humane girl fighting against the prejudices of backwards people. But when i re-entered the room i couldn't view him the same way. he tried to explain to me in arabic why his legs had been amputated and afterwards tired of the balloon game he picked up a foam ball on a string that he had in his bed also and showed me how he whirled it over his head. and i had to leave because all of a sudden i saw rows of little boys hurling rocks at soldiers and i probably imagined it but i saw hate in his eyes.


Blogger MJS said...

What a painful, tragic story.

I experienced something similar this past August. I was in the Old City for a bar mitzvah of a dear friend's son. Keep in mind we're all 'Carlebachy' Jews, who believe in peace and love and music and all that good stuff.

The meals and lodging were arranged at the Sephardic Heritage Center. The kitchen, wait, and desk staff at the Center were Arabs, because it was shabbat, right? And they were exceedingly helpful and accommodating and friendly.

At one point during lunch, everyone in the dining room got up to dance. The only people standing on the side, looking awkward, were the Arab waiters. I invited them in to dance with us. They demurred politely. A guy behind me said, "It would be very inappropriate to have them dance with us. Don't you know they're Arabs?"

I tried to defuse the situation with a little humor. "Are they? Their Hebrew is way better than mine!"

And he said, very coldly, "You have to know your enemy."

I left the circle after that.

Is it possible that these men were just doing their jobs, inwardly seething and praying for a chance to kill me? I don't want to believe that.

Either way, the boy you visited was too young to be considered 'the enemy.'

Maybe I'm just being naive.

What do you think?

12:54 PM


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