HER STORY #2 - rima

The lighthouse in Yaffa  

The lighthouse in Yaffa

 

"Arab Israeli" Palestinian

I am almost 26 years old, and I am from Yaffa in Tel Aviv, what Israelis like to call “Yafo”, but I refuse to call it as such.

My life is complicated and frustrating, because I am essentially a Palestinian living in Israel, or at least that is what I consider myself to be.

In Israel and by many Israelis I am referred to as “Arab Israeli,” and I know why. It is because Israel is trying to take my Palestinian identity away from me and perhaps to make me despise my Palestinian background more. Why not call the Russians living here Russian-Israelis?

I once used to hate my Palestinian background, but the more I learned about what happens in the West Bank, the more it changed my mind. I am a proud Palestinian today.

When Bibi sent out that video on the day of the elections, where he warned voters about Arabs rushing out to vote, I was kind of happy, because his true colors finally showed, and he showed that we are not part of the Israeli society that he perceives. My own Prime Minister says that I am his enemy, so what should I say? A couple of days after, he rushed out to make an official “apology” to the Arab community, but I know that the apology wasn’t addressed to me. He thinks that I am his enemy.

Traitor On Both Sides

It’s really not easy being a Palestinian in Israel, because I am considered a traitor on both the Israeli and the Palestinian side.

Many Israelis think that I am a threat to Israeli society, and that is being a traitor in a way. I am not part of them.

On the other hand, I am also a form of traitor in the eyes of many Palestinians, although now many Palestinians outside of Israel do understand the important role that I have in terms of supporting the "Palestinian cause."

But I feel privileged and guilty anyhow. I have an Israeli passport and a "teudat zehut" [Israeli ID] meaning I can go almost anywhere I want unlike Palestinians living in Gaza or in the West Bank.

Half-Rights

Although I am more "privileged" than the Palestinians living in the West Bank or Gaza, it doesn't mean that I have full rights, well not on paper, but tacitly. Well, actually there are places where I am not allowed to buy a house, because I am Arab, such as in Tzfat in the North. There are other places where I can't go, because I am Arab.

In fact, the police destroyed two houses belonging to my cousins in Yaffa. They were registered in the tabu [land registration dating back from the Ottoman period], but the municipality wouldn't give them permission to build houses on those pieces of land there. One day the police then came and destroyed everything.

When my family called the media to talk about this, it was ignored. Even the Arab media ignored it. Nobody covered it, as if it didn't matter.

Walking A Fine Line

I visited Jordan some time ago and had a lot of interesting discussions with people there. One Jordanian officer there in particular told me that I talk a lot about the Palestinian cause, because I feel guilty. He is correct.

On the other hand, I can't be too critical of Israel either; I have to be careful about that. One criticism too much and you can lose it all, meaning your ID of course.

Actually some have pointed out to me that I have become too Israeli. It is like when you say that Mizrahi Jews have become too Ashkenazi. I am okay with this, depending on who says it however. A lot of the time it refers to me behaving less like an "Arab", as in being more civilized, and then I am not okay with it.

War-Time Tensions

I know that I am a traitor in the eyes of Israeli society, but I felt that even more during the last war in Gaza. I lost a lot of friends. I deleted people on my friends list on Facebook, because of what they wrote. Someone from my friends list even supported the idea of "leshate'ach" [to "flatten" as a carpet] all of Gaza, so I removed that person from my list. These were all people that I worked with, studied with. I know that someone at work is very scared of me because I am an Arab.

During the war I was also very scared of taking the bus, because I knew people would look at me weirdly and would think that I am a terrorist. Because of that my mom bought me a car, so something good came out of this as well I guess.

When last summer's war was taking place, I felt a lot of tension. Suddenly my supposedly "liberal" Israeli friends would condemn me for showing the Palestinian side. Many of my friends would condemn me for criticizing Israel's doings in Gaza, pointing out that I come from a culture that suppresses women.

I was in shock. What do they know about my culture? And they used my gender in this context.

Some of my Israeli friends went to milu'im [military reserves], and I recall one in particular who was supposed to go to Gaza, although he didn't want to go. When he returned from Gaza it was hard for him to face me. He came to me and apologized, but I told him that it wasn’t his fault.

Education

Today I am studying Archeology at Tel Aviv University. I began studying this topic by coincidence, but the more I get to study it, the more I am beginning to understand the politics involved in archeology in this area, and the more I understand how connected my background and identity (as a Palestinian) is to archeology.

So I want to learn as much as I can. It's my way of fighting injustice. In a way, this knowledge is my weapon.

Politics

I don't really have any preference for a "one-state" or a "two-state" solution. I just say: Stop occupying other people. And I want people to stop killing each other. Maybe then a two-state solution is relevant, but the two sides have to cooperate with each other, and there would have to be no discrimination. That's why I will never be a politician.