Sunday, April 22, 2007

Solving the Conflict

Khaled has arrived yesterday, woohoo! We were a bit concerned about how he would make it through the airport, but it didn't take as long as we feared it might. He only went through 4 investigators lol and then a chatty and friendly can driver too.

I met Khaled as he arrived and showed him to his room. We talked for a few minutes and since it was almost 4 AM, we figured it might be best for him to catch some sleep. Unfortunately, at 6:30, my five years old son was knocking at his door with a somewhat earlier than expected wake-up call ;) He did go back to sleep after that, so we were assured (Khaled, not my son, who was rather embarrassed later on by the episode, but easily appeased with some yummy Belgian chocolate!).

Breakfast took longer than expected, as we got into some fairly interesting conversation with our guest. My parents-in-law, my husband, myself and our guest of honor, with a constant hum of the kids in the background, we got talking, learning more about each other, and of course, discussing history as well as the current state of affairs in the Middle East. I can see how the fresh new perspective does bring the debate into life. We finally decided it was time to get up from the table and take a look at the Zionist State, all dressed up in blue and white flags. Today it's the Eve of Memorial Day here, going into a very sad day tomorrow which then switches abruptly into the celebrations of the Independence Day tomorrow evening. Everywhere is filled with flags, and even Khaled himself travel led with my father in law with two prominent Israeli flags proudly waving on the car roof lol We need to take a picture of that, makes it look like a formal visit indeed. Following them in our car, we actually chuckled and wondered what it might feel like for us, traveling in a neighboring country and being driven around with say, the Palestinian or Syrian or Iranian flag waving above our head at all times.

Our destination was the nearby kibbutz of Ein Shemer where they run a small tourist attraction called The Old Courtyard. It tells the story of the early settlers of the kibbutz, from long before the establishment of the State of Israel. In essence, giving you the Zionist "pioneers" ethos, with all of its cross stitched Russian shirts glory. We spent some time there, watching a short movie about life there in early times and looking over the exhibits. My kids were a bit disappointed, as they came mainly for "the movie" expecting the latest entertainment, Walt Disney style, the only got a "boring" 15 minutes presentation in English. I hope Khaled enjoyed it more than they did lol.

Back to the house to a small feast of homemade cooking by my dear mother-in-law. It's hard to describe this visit without the soundtrack really, of incessant talking on both sides. Before, throughout and after the meal, there is just an endless and very pleasant stream of questions, answers, views and ideas. One of the topics that came up was the experience of Jews who used to live in Arab countries, at which point I suggested that we go up and meet my grandfather, an elderly gentleman of Tunisian origin. And so, off we went to visit him and my mother and sister, in the town of Netanya.

The meeting proved to be hilarious. My grandpa finally had a chance to practice his Tunisian Arabic. His mother tongue, but he had not used it much for the past sixty years! An entertaining exchange of words went on, with him and Khaled comparing Egyptian and Tunisian dialects, mixing everything heavily with French as well. I was surprised to see just how easy it was for me to follow the conversation. My very limited knowledge of Arabic went well with the accents and dialects used and even the French part, went in well. I guess growing up listening to Tunisian Arabic and Tunisian French at my grandparents home, and also watching the famous "Egyptian" movie on Fridays on TV... something sunk in after all!

We decided to do a short tour of Netanya. A favorite destination for both French-Jewish tourists with a beautiful promenade by the seaside. My sister joined us and we walked around, and ended up in a nice restaurant which I used to frequent with my family while growing up. The restaurant is co-owned by Arabs and Jews and we were fortunate to have the Arab co-owner approach us. He did not only take our orders, but also had a nice exchange with Khaled. It was clear that he was very curious about this guest from Egypt, a first for him there in the restaurant. He came back several times, sharing his views on things, with Khaled in Arabic, with us in Hebrew and with both in English sometimes as well.

We finally headed back home, after picking up two sleeping children from my mom who had been baby sitting them for the evening. We nearly solved the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the way back, but some hurdles are still left. I am sure we'll go through them today! A solution by the end of the visit? I can't guarantee anything at this point. I will say though, that I am certain that if everyone can just talk like we're doing here constantly, in a such a friendly way, this conflict would indeed have a much better chance at ending, sooner than later too.

More to come in the next few days - I'll keep ya all posted! You can and should read Khaled's version of things in his blog dedicated specifically to this vist -

1 comment:

Lirun said...