May 9, 2016
The Israel that Arabs Don’t Know – Ramy Aziz (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited me to visit Israel as part of a delegation of European-based Arab journalists. Arab media coverage of Israel continues to be characterized by a lack of clarity and misrepresentation, making it difficult for Arab citizens to truly understand the country. Do the Jews in Israel actually hate Arabs?
My visits to places of worship were not stopped by either the Israeli army or police force, as they have been rumored to do. I visited the University of Haifa, considered a model and reflection of Israeli society. Within its walls, students of Jewish, Arab, Druze, and Circassian origin study together.
I also visited the Druze village of Daliyat al-Karmel, where the elders recalled the experience of Druze integration into Israeli society and informed me that they now preferred to call themselves Israelis instead of Arab citizens of Israel. They hold Israeli citizenship, enlist in the Israel Defense Forces, and are treated as full citizens with equal rights.
Ben Gurion Street in Haifa is filled with Arab cafes and restaurants, identifiable by the songs they play and their customers’ conversations. I struck up discussions with various restaurant patrons and employees regarding life in Israel, and these Arab Israelis informed me that in Israel, the law is equally applied to everyone without distinction or discrimination.
I heard the call to prayer from mosques in various cities – a religious expression that is banned in Europe. I saw Christians with crosses who had no fear of exposing their identities, a marked contrast to some neighboring states. I saw Baha’i gardens the like of which exist nowhere else in the world.
I saw, without exaggeration, a bright flame in a pitch-black region, a society composed of so many different yet coexisting segments and components.
The writer is an Egyptian journalist based in Europe.
(Click on the article’s title to see the whole article…Ed.)