These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[Jerusalem Medley] Omar

Posted on October 8, 2013 by Candace Mittel

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We’ve been here in this same location three hundred eighty five years. We came from Jerusalem, we owned a house seven hundred years ago, we still own it, we live upstairs.  I was born and raised upstairs.  The store was closed for eight days during the Six Day War.  In 1967, I was exactly about one year old.  No, we didn’t think about leaving.  My father and mother kept us in the back room. But, yes, some people get scared and they leave.  It depends.  If you believe in God, you die whenever it’s meant for you.

The Old City is okay.  This is where we make a living.  We try to make a living in our store.  Jerusalem is a nice city.  Very stressful sometimes, you know, because there are lots of crazy people living here, everyone thinks this is theirs, and everyone thinks they are Gods, and everyone else should die, and they should live instead of them.  It’s crazy.  If people believe that they were made by the same God, then why can’t they live together?

Sometimes it’s stressful.  There’s not much trust between people.  I’m not talking about religion.  For me, religion is God.  And God, I think, he is the creator of everything.  If God wants us all to be Jewish people, he would have made us all Jewish.  You know.  But maybe he does it for a reason, I don’t know why.  When I see him after I die, I’m going to ask him, “how come we’re not the same?”

You can see sometimes the energy here is heavy. Some people they don’t trust each other.  There is love between people, and there is mistrust between people. It’s all over the world.  But in Jerusalem… Well, I think all the cities in the world is the city of God, but because people have a spiritual thing toward Jerusalem, they think it should be like their own.  And I think it is selfish for people to think like that.  Faith should be for everyone.

But forget the Arab-Israeli conflict – look at what the Arabs they do to each other in Egypt, in Syria, so I’m telling you that the conflict here is not because you are Jewish, and I am Muslim and an Arab.  It’s people who want to get everything for themselves!  Shiite, Sunni, and in India the Buddhists they don’t like the others, the Hindus they don’t like the – I don’t know, but, as a human, we are brought to this earth, for some reason, and there is so much place!  Go to google – there is so much place in the world that people can expand. There is place for all of us to live here.  It’s a good thing God made us to live not 500 or 600 years. What would happen?  We would be eating each other.  I think there is place. And you know, people will die. They don’t have to kill each other.  They will die anyway from nature.

Sometimes, I ask myself, believe me, are we in the end of the world?  Yes, we believe in the same thing as Jews, that the Messiah will come – we believe, we believe. Then the Muslims and Jews will be one.  But hopefully we can be one before he comes.  If they want to make it one, they can.  But you see when I go to my Imam, or you go to your Rabbi, and he goes “This son of a **** – if you kill him, the Muslim guy, you go to heaven.” Same thing if my Imam says, “if you kill a Jewish guy…” excuse my language, but if my Imam tells me that, I will tell him, “go **** yourself!”  Because there is no way I can accept that.  Who made this guy?  I will ask him, “God or you?”  And if his answer is God, I will tell him, “go **** yourself” because I cannot kill someone God made.

You got me so angry now!

It’s the way we were grown up.  As a kid, myself, I’ll tell you.  Growing up in the Old City, I used to hate everything Jewish.  And I remember they brought us Hebrew teacher in school, and I used to hate this language.  And her name was Shoshana.  Very beautiful lady.  And I used to tell her, “I don’t want to say ken or lo, I don’t want to see it!”  As a kid.  Then, I start to realize, that doing this, I wasn’t happy.  And the reason I hated them – you know why?  Because it’s like -okay, growing up in the Old City, we had nothing, like no place to play.  And you go to the other side, and you see they have place to play! And I always wondered why. What makes them more… how come they have what we don’t have?  Then, you know, I start to tell myself, by myself, you know, is the hate that I have – is it making me happier?  Or is it paralyzing me?  Then I say, okay, let’s try not to hate them.  Then little bit I start to have friends.  And I was okay with it.  As a teenager, I stopped hating.  And I start, and then I had many Jewish friends.  We talked, we fought, like everyone.  And I never thought of them as their religion. We had fun.  We played football together.  It was okay.  Then I realized that hating doesn’t make you happy.  At all.

I tell you something, a lot of people are afraid to say it: how to build the trust?  How can you trust?  In my opinion, one of the reason to make people trust each other, they should write down what they agree on.  Then, they should write what they disagree.  And then they will find, I promise you, much more things that they agree on than the things they disagree.  So the positive things will win the negative.  And that’s how people start.  I don’t think you believe in that.  I can see it – you don’t believe in it?  Well, what’s the other solution?

Okay, let’s first forget what’s going on here.  Let’s talk about Ireland. There were much hate between the Protestant and the Catholics in Ireland.  And they went also almost to Civil War and kill each other and blah blah blah.  How come there is peace between them now?  There is so much peace between them now.  How come?  Read, you guys, we should read!  We should learn from others!  You know, the thing is like, I meet people from Ireland here, and sometimes we talk, and I ask them and they tell me, “we don’t like them too much, but we live with in peace with them.”  And some of them became so much friends!

You see, there’s nothing 100%.  I think it’s, like, 95% of the population who lives here hates each other.  But if there is like 5% who at least accept each other, we don’t need 100% love, because sometimes you don’t even love your brother – your own brother!  You don’t love him.  Because you were born and you saw that your mom and dad brought other brother.  Maybe you don’t like him!  Maybe you don’t love him, maybe you don’t hate him either, but you don’t love him.  You just live with him.  So we can do that also.  Why can’t we just live?

We see all these family fights, so it’s clear that it’s not that religion is the factor, it’s not the political view – it’s the greed that people have.  They think, it’s like, “I want more, I want more, I want to take more, I want to take your house, the neighbor’s house, I want to be the king of the world.”  But all the kings and the queens in the world, and the richest people, they died in the end. You can read about the Romans, Egypt, whole countries, the kings and queens, they all died in the end!  People – they want everything!

You know what?  The most important thing in my opinion?  This is something everyone should learn: dignity.  If people can respect everybody’s dignity.  No matter how poor they are, or how rich, or how strong, or how weak they are, there will be a chance.  If I respect you as a human, and I talk to you as a human, and I behave with you as a human, and walk with you as a human…

Look, if someone harm me, physically, I probably accept that.  But if he harm my dignity, I will be real wild.  I give you an example.  Let’s say at the checkpoints.  All these soldiers that they work in the checkpoints, that’s their jobs.  And you have to accept that it’s their duty.  They will go to jail if they say no.  I don’t think they like it, having to stand there 10 hours under the heat.  When I talk to them, some of them, they tell you, okay, it’s my job, so I need to see your ID card, I need to search your car, because I do it to protect this country that we are running right now.  Now he’s a little bit touching your nerve.  But I will accept it.  Actually, in my opinion, most of the checkpoints, most of them, to be honest, 70% of the people – I don’t count exactly – but 70% of the checkpoints have been very pleasant.  Because I greet them.  In Hebrew.  And I tell them if it goes the other way around, if we are ruling you guys, I would never stand and check you because I hate this job.  Standing in the sun all the days.  It’s not an easy job.  You know, but unfortunately, some people see them as the enemy.  And some of them, it’s because they don’t see each other.

We don’t look at each other in the faces! As people!  You know, maybe I’m not good looking, but I have eyes and hands and everything.  And when I look at people, I say “oh, he looks a little bit different, but I think he has eyes, the same like me.” So, what makes them less people?  And when we talk about religion, even for me as a Muslim, I find the Jewish people are much closer to me than any race. Because I know that I come from the same race. Whether they like it or not, we both are from the same race.

Anyway, imagine if the soldier at the checkpoint opens the car and checks your bags with his foot. That’s insulting.  Or if I’m with my sister or daughter, and he tried to do something bad to her, to touch her, I will cut his hand.  I don’t care if there’s a hundred people with machine guns.  You know,this is dignity.  That’s what I’m saying.  You do your job.

Same thing when I go to the airport. I tell them, “I know I am going to get extra searched.  And don’t tell me that I was randomly selected.  Because I wasn’t randomly selected!  I am willing to answer all your questions, my bag, I pack it in my hands, I am responsible for every piece in it, blah, blah blah, I know you do this so I don’t blow up the airplane, I understand.  Take me to the room, so you can search me.  Take all your time.  You want me to take my underwear, sometimes they do that, I don’t care.”  But I tell them, “you cannot touch me.  You cannot touch me.  And please speak nice to me.”  And I will do all this because I know this is their duty.  Maybe some people don’t agree about it, but this is his duty.  If he wants to search me, so let him search me. They ask you a thousand questions, the same **** questions.  The same thing.  You know, I travel all the time.  You would never do it yourself, but I when I go to the airport, I wave my hands and say “guys, who wants to search me first!?”  I need sometimes to buy for my daughter something from the duty-free!  And they tell you to go 2 hours before, but I go 4 hours before, and I’m not finished even after 4 hours for God’s sake.  The same thing every time.  I mean, what can you hide under your shirt collar?  One time, honest to God, they took the stitches – they took the stitches out!  Honestly.  I laughed at them, I said, “what did you find?”  I mean, it’s like, with the technology that Israel has, and the United States, and all the counties – now you can x-ray everybody.  You can put me through an x-ray and see if I have a kidney stone or not!  These things, sometimes, it’s uncomfortable.

I really hope there will be peace.  If people trust each other.  If people start to believe in each other.  I think the best thing if people want peace, they should have peace with themselves. If people can look in their hearts, and say, you know “today I want to start peace.”  If people wake up and say “today I want to kill my neighbor,” there will be no peace.  I think it all has to do with the way you believe in yourself.

So this is the way.  You can start by hugging people.  And smile to people.  Just smile, it’s nothing, it doesn’t cost you anything. If you wake up in the morning and you open your eyes and the first thing you do, if you smile and say, “Thank God,” and then you go and you wash your face, you smile to yourself at the mirror, and then you prepare yourself, you carry good energy and you take it in the world.  If people wake up in the morning, and they are complaining about their jobs, about their girlfriends, about their boyfriends, about everything, about the society, about – then they only inviting all the bad energy to their body, so how are they going to give it to others?

Again, I always believe, and this is what I teach my kids, before you want to make friends with people, ask yourself: do you really want to be friends with this person? Do you want to make peace when people talk to you about peace?  Then, first start to love yourself.  And it’s not selfish to love yourself.  And then you can be open.  And we, as people, we forget that we always look at the things man made and not the things God made.  Because we see walls, we see buildings, we see man-made things, we don’t see God made things.  But if we start to look up in the sky, we see ourselves so small.  And I think sooner or later, we all, everybody – lives in Jerusalem or not Jerusalem – all of the humanity will be finished.  So there is no way that people… I mean show me someone who lived like a thousand years old   How long we live? Eighty? Ninety? And then we go.  For what? Is it worth it?  To start to say, “I don’t like this guy, I must harm him”?

I think it’s one of the good ideas in this country, if people are really sincere about it, to build like sports stadiums, to gather people.  It’s really cool.  The second thing will be music.  Music is the international language.  We can build music, and we don’t have to say words.  People can sit with each other and say, “wow that’s nice.”  All kind of arts – this is what brings people together.   And I think, also, if people have a will, they can have the way.  And how to start?  We start with the kids.  Always, always.

I have three kids.  They go to school outside the Old City.  Public School.  My daughter goes to a mixed Jewish and Arab school.  It’s expensive though.  My son, I sent him three times in a row since he was nine – nine, ten, and eleven – to Switzerland to Peace Camp that he was with Jewish kids.  And they are his friends.  They talk to each other.  But, you know, it depends like, when the kid go home, what his family tells him, what his teacher tells him.  But my daughter’s school, it’s good, but it is expensive.  If I can afford to send my two boys there, I will send them.  If you give me money, I will send them.  But you know how much they charge me? Eighteen thousand shekels a year!  For private school.  And I have to sometimes not to buy expensive clothes for me, which I like sometimes, and give it to her.  Because her school comes first.  She’s my only daughter.  She’s the baby.

I think you ask me like a million questions.  You’ll be a good journalist one of these days.