I was at a bike store in Beer Sheva with some friends yesterday. An older man named Jacques started talking with me. Jacques is probably 60ish, born in Fez, Morocco, and lived there until his family made aliyah at the age of 16. He started asking me if I love Israel too (my friend who was at the store had made aliyah and was saying how much she does). I said I love the place and the people, but not what the state does. And then I said, let's not get into this, as soon as I saw him gearing up for a fight. (I have slowly and painfully been learning that most Israelis are not open-minded in regards to Israel's military actions and support the state almost blindly, no matter what).
I tried to stop the conversation, but it was too late. Jacques is telling me that he knows Arabs because he grew up with them, and he served in the army. He provided me with an anecdote: if you say hello and good morning to an Arab, he'll kill you. If you say hello, while at the same time hitting him to keep him in his place, then he'll treat you ok. Jacques continued to tell me that the way for Israel to proceed is to kill as many Arabs as possible—the more the better.
Of course, no Israeli thinks my opinion is worthwhile, because I didn't know grow up here or serve in the IDF. I understand this, but I also know that many of these people I talk to have not even considered the alternatives; they have not read any of the important, academic articles that the intellectuals (both Israeli and Arab) have produced, showing that there is a very different side to the whole argument. But no one will listen; no one can see beyond his own fears.
Jacques went on to ask me what I think of Blacks in the US. I said, I can't answer, this shouldn't even be a question. And he asked if I'm going to vote for that "black guy running for President?" I said that'd be the best thing to happen to the US if Obama wins. He told me that Obama is a Muslim and how could I do that. At this point, I started to understand that Jacques didn't have all his facts straight.
Despite his lack of accurate information, Jacques represents a portion of the Israeli population; he is a bit more extreme in his call to kill all Arabs, but he knows only one narrative, and there is no discussion.
The way I see it, there will never be peace and understanding if one cannot open his mind to different ideas.
Then, a few minutes later, we heard there was a suicide bombing in Dimona. Jacques is from Dimona and his wife works in the exact area where the explosion was.
What can I say to that? The conflict here (sich-sooch in Hebrew; סכסוך) cannot be explained or described. I cannot help but understand what Jacques says. I cannot help but understand the Gazan plight for food, gas, and water. Is there any way out?