I am from a town called Taibeh. I have eight brothers. I am the youngest one. I finished my secondary school in Taibeh in 1959 and applied to go to the University of Jerusalem. I didn’t know what sort of life would meet me there. I never saw a Jew in my life except the military governor. I hated them, because that was the atmosphere, and that was how we were educated. The Jews came to our land where we were living.
The Hebrew University entirely changed my way of thinking. The housemother said to me, “Walid, there is a group of Americans here. They want to learn about the society, and I want you to live with the youngest one, who is 17 years old.”
I accepted with a lot of fear. How can I live with a Jew? How can I sleep with a Jew? But accepted the challenge. I went back home to attend a feast and returned with fruits and cakes from the feast. I knocked on the door of my room and saw an Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn with his traditional religious clothing. He was pale and very frightened. I gave him a pomegranate, and he ate the skin together with the fruit. I asked him how the fruit was, and he said, “Very delicious.” I thought Americans are more progressive than we are so they eat it just like that.
When the housemother said to him, “You have to live with another,” he said, “This is not the reason why I came here, to be stabbed by an Arab at night.” And poor Saul Resikof spent the whole night outside the room. It was cold in Jerusalem, and he became sick.
For me, it was a very good experience, and for him, it was a very good experience. He learned about Arabs. He was not stabbed. And I was also not frightened by Jews.
I didn’t understand what kosher meant, so once I took his milk plates and used them for meat, and this is absolutely forbidden in the Jewish religion. He went to a rabbi and had them made kosher. He didn’t understand Hebrew, so I improved my English and began to understand Yiddish. We went out to the streets of Jerusalem on Shabbat, Saturdays, and because he was religious I accompanied him. We began to throw stones on passing cars who were violating the holiness of Shabbat. That was for me a very good experience. In fact, he was very, very friendly.
By the way, ten years later, I visited him in New York, and he was dressed in civilian clothes. I asked him, “Where is your wife?” And he said, “I am now living with a goya, an Italian.”
Israeli Arabs are Palestinians and they are Israelis. We understand the Israelis and the Palestinians, and I think that we have a very vital role in bridging the Israelis and the Palestinians.
This is our task, and we are working on it. Unfortunately, we lack the tools—the possibility, credibility and trust from both sides. In the Palestinian territories, we are sometimes called Zionists, and in Israeli society we are called PLO. We are caught in the middle. The Israeli government should give us support, because we speak the language that Palestinians understand. Both the Israelis and Palestinians should come to the conclusion that the longer you fight, the more you will kill each other. But at the end of the day, we will arrive at the negotiating table, and the sooner the better.
Both the Palestinians and the Israelis do a lot of evil to each other. If we stick to the same evils and rehearse and rehearse them, we will see the same results. History is full of evils that people do to one another. We have to get rid of the old ways and look to the future for a better solution.
Israeli Arabs are in a very, very bad situation. I’m living just 300 meters from the border, and sometimes I see black smoke coming from burned tires and white smoke coming from gas bombs. Sometimes, of course, we hear bullets. I don’t know who among my countrymen are being killed. I think this dilemma should be solved once and for all. The more things we resolve, the better the legacy we will give to our sons, our children, and ourselves, too.
[Source: Islamic Perspectives on Peace. Tarrytown, NY: Universal Peace Federation, 2006.]