The Bos\’un Locker

During times of war and during times of peace, we must prepare for tomorrow with the realities of today.

Travels with Abe: Peace in the Middle East

Posted by thebosun on August 29, 2007

Forwarded to me from a good friend in Israel, “Abe.”   This is part one of the series.  Please come back, you will be seeing much more of Abe.  Enjoy.

Peace in the Middle-East! 

 That elusive thing called peace. Israelis write love-songs and dedicate poetry to peace. Children are introduced to the concept in kindergarten and grow up believing in ultimate peace in the Middle East. Songs that have come out during Israel’s many wars have a verse or part of a verse dedicated to peace.

 What is this peace and how is it viewed? Israelis have a very naïve and childlike picture of peace. As one battle hardened veteran tank officer once confided in me, “Peace means that we would go to their houses and they would come to ours.” A “cold peace” such as exists between Israel and Egypt was not imagined by most Israelis. Egypt turns a cold shoulder towards Israel but maintains a condition of “no war”, which is apparently as close as it permits itself to come to “peace.”

 Jordan, the other Arab country to have a peace agreement with Israel also distances itself from Israel socially. While the country has agreements with Israel that include agricultural, industrial and transportation, the people themselves are not exactly brimming with joy at the fact. This can be explained partially by the fact that over 70% of Jordan’s population is Palestinian.

 There is another reason why the two Arab countries that have a peace agreement with Israel seem standoffish towards it: Neither one of those two countries is a democracy. Israel is a democracy, and a very loud one. As Israel’s first Prime-Minister, David Ben-Gurion, said, “It’s difficult to be a Prime-Minister in a country full of Prime-Ministers.” Israelis are very vocal in their criticisms of politicians, authors, actors and many other “performers”. A friendly discussion between Israelis looks, to outsiders, as if a full-fledged battle is about to erupt.

 Not so in Egypt or Jordan. Criticism of the government is downright dangerous in Egypt. In Jordan it isn’t wise unless you are participating in a demonstration that is pro-Palestinian and, of course, anti-Israeli. The governments of both countries are wary of having their people get too close to Israelis and pick up their cavalier attitude towards government. French soldiers, while serving in America’s War of Independence, learned about democracy and about speaking out. They were one of the many seeds that eventually produced the French Revolution. 

 The Arab governments of Egypt and Jordan wish to maintain control over their respective populations and, naturally, wish to keep them away from those “independent-minded troublemakers,” the Israelis.

 What do the people think? The regular Egyptian is a very friendly individual. He hates nobody and just wants to support his family (a very, very tough job in Egypt). On my first trip to Cairo after “peace” was established, I walked up to a street-vendor of peanuts and asked him how much the peanuts cost. Noticing that my Arabic was Palestinian dialect, he asked me where I was from. When I told him that I was from Israel, he thanked Allah and the prophets for permitting him to see the day that an Israeli could legally walk the streets of Cairo. He then told me that, for me, a serving of peanuts was free of charge. He was obviously a poor man and the price was, no doubt, considerate of Egyptian third-world incomes. My income, in Israel, was astronomic compared to his, and I argued with him, telling him that I wished to pay. He wouldn’t hear of it, and called to a friend, half a block away, a vendor of cold drinks, to give me a discount on such a hot day. I ended up sitting on the curb eating peanuts and drinking ice-cold “Tamar-Hindi” (a delicious drink derived from the “heart” of the date palm), while carrying on a hearty conversation with half a dozen Egyptians. The whole picture seemed surreal (and still does).

Tzeth’a Leshalom VeShuvh’a Leshalom



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