Last Friday started off like any ordinary Friday: early minyan, shopping for food and flowers for Shabbat, a pickup softball game and a trip to the gym inspired by my doctor’s comment that if I want my age to go up my weight better go down, then home for Shabbat preparation based on the principle that I will help my wife Jenny where I can and keep out of her way where I can’t.
While driving to the market I noticed that our older model car was acting age-appropriate, having been born barely into this millennium. So I took it to our mechanic Bilal, whose shop is in Beit Jalla, an interesting, predominantly Christian Arab village not far from our home in Alon Shvut. The thing about Bilal, who is Muslim, is that he is a mentsch and does good work at great prices. Due to his deservedly excellent reputation there are generally enough frum Yidden there to make a minyan.
We discuss the car’s problems in Hebrew (his is much better than mine), and I leave my car with him. My friend picks me up and we start the 10-minute drive home. No sooner do we leave the garage and turn onto the main road than we find ourselves at the tail-end of a raucous parade cutting through the village. Drums and horns, singing and clapping, people jumping up and down and running back and forth; a veritable festival. What a way to bring in Shabbat— a little pre-Kabbalat Shabbat! Wow, who doesn’t love a parade?!
Well, maybe not me this time. As an Israel soldier waved our line of cars forward, I slowed down and asked an obviously European couple what the occasion was. Enthusiastically, they answered, “Ending the occupation and Israeli apartheid!” I guess they didn’t recognize me as one of the barbarians guilty of said oppression. Had I known the parade was in my honor, I would have dressed up a bit. I thanked them, wished them an enjoyable stay in Israel and told them I would think about them as I drove home to my “settlement” a few kilometers away. My first live anti-Israel demonstration! (No, I did not make a Shechechiyanu.)
Inching forward past the parade, I perceived the demographic of the group: Primarily, Europeans/Caucasians with a distinct minority of Arabs. What struck me about the composition of the larger sub-group was that quite a number of them were Israeli. I felt a visceral anguish. I rolled down my window to speak to an Israeli couple and the only words I could think to say were “Shabbat Shalom!”
I mean, what else could I say? What words would have meaning to Israeli Jews so lost as to be supporting twisted and distorted half-truths at the expense of their Jewish brothers and sisters who live in historic Israel?
I admit my narrative as a new immigrant from Passaic, New Jersey, is not nearly as cool as some Arab who can produce a key to a home that may or may not have once been in his family.
How can my meager story of truth and the desire to return to the homeland of my ancestors compare to the tragic tale told by a native? His story seems to hold more drama, regardless of whether it is stained with a strong dose of lies and propaganda. What does the truth matter to an anarchist European or to the far-left Israeli Jew who wants to experience that wonderful fuzzy feeling inside for standing up against the perceived power, regardless of the facts and the truth?
Call me tribal, but my concern for the human imports that washed up on our holy shores is not nearly as strong as it is for my, albeit misguided, fellow Jews. That is why I wished them a “Shabbat Shalom,” though I didn’t extend any invitations to join our Shabbat table.
The parade’s tumult was disproportionate to its modest size; there were no more than 70 people. There was a European camera crew filming it, presumably hoping that some altercation would erupt and become the topic of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel discussion in salons everywhere. I wonder if they filmed the young lady who was leading the parade wearing a long-beaked bird mask based on anti-Semitic images from the Middle Ages, or would that reveal them as the anti-Semites that they are?
Holding Friday’s parade in Beit Jalla makes no sense until it is placed in a context of timing and geography.
It is almost certain that the majority of the Arabs participating in the parade were not from Beit Jalla, but recruited from elsewhere. The Christian village’s peaceful relations with its Jewish neighbors was interrupted during the second intifada when Islamic terrorists took control of the village, because it provided a perfect vantage point to shoot at the Jewish cars on the road from Yerushalayim to
Chevron, forcing many of the Christians to flee. Today the village is again generally calm and tranquil, a place where Jews drive the scenic route to Yerushalayim or take their cars to be fixed be a fine Muslim mechanic who closes his shop on Sundays to avoid offending the sensibilities of his Christian neighbors.
So why was the parade held in Beit Jalla? Location, location, location — the village is moments away from Bethlehem where the pope was to visit the following Sunday, so there was a greater media presence in the area, and while Bethlehem and Yerushalayim were under tight security, Beit Jalla was not, providing the perfect backdrop for this parody of a parade.
It always strikes me as ironic when I meet or read about these “human rights activists” from Europe or the Israeli left who claim they are pursuing peace by pushing the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction) against Israel, or protesting on behalf of the “oppressed indigenous” Arabs. I wonder how many “actual” Arabs they know on a “real” basis, not the professional victims who are developed as props and actors for their theater of the absurd.
Chances are I have more actual acquaintances and normal interactions with Arabs than do the “enlightened Israelis and Europeans,” because, as I have mentioned in a previous column, in the course of patronizing their businesses I have developed numerous respectful relationships. I suspect that my buying a Coke or a plant from some Mom and Pop store near my home does more good for peace than their parade of fools.
Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at msolomon@Hamodia.com.