By Moriel Rothman-Zecher and Yuval Orr
On the sherut ride back to Moriel’s house, we talk about what is happening in Jerusalem (mobs chanting “death to Arabs,” searching for Arabs to attack, etc.) and how we feel so removed from all of that here in Tel Aviv. We wonder for a moment if we should go to Jerusalem, to document, but we are both too tired, and want to get home to have a beer and dinner with friends. We’ve barely gotten off the sherut before a group of four teenagers calls out to us:
“Hey, stop for a second.”
We hesitate. Moriel assumes they are going to ask us for money or a cigarette, Yuval makes to keep walking: he assumed they were trying to pull some sort of prank. In the moment of hesitation, one of them, a girl with bleached-blond hair asks:
“Don’t you think Bibi [Netanyahu] is an idiot?”
[Fascinating study of how weak a thing the memory is: that is what Moriel remembers. Yuval recalls hearing: “Do you know who Bibi is?” We both agree, though, on what they said next].
We sort of looked at them oddly, and then the same girl said:
“Are you for or against expelling all of the Arabs from the country?”
Stunned, Moriel repeats the question:
“Are we for or against expelling all Arabs?”
She seemed to hear his repetition as a declaration of agreement, and she reached out to shake Moriel’s hand.
“No,” Moriel said, “We’re not for that…”
One of the boys sitting down asks:
“What are you, leftists?”
His friend chimes in:
“What are you two, together?”
The girl continues:
“Haven’t you heard of Kahana? He said to kill all of the Arabs, and he was right.”
“Are you serious?” Moriel asks. Yuval pulls out his phone to try to record them, thinking to himself that this was too much to believe, that if he didn’t record it it was as if it hadn’t happened.
“This is racist,” Moriel tries again.
“I’m a racist,” says one.
“Stop, stop,” another of the kids says, “He’s filming.”
The girl runs behind her friend and over to Yuval.
Yuval tries to say:
“If you are not embarrassed to say this stuff to two strangers, then why won’t you say it to the camera?”
But what came out was less clear and more jumbled. A reflection of his shock.
One said, “I don’t care, they can film” and asked if Yuval had just came back from India, and another said, “yeah, they’re for sure leftists.”
“What do you mean by leftists?” Moriel asks.
“Someone who loves Arabs,” one of the kids scoffs, “The only good Arab is a dead Arab.”
The other one chimes in:
“A manly Arab is an Arab in the grave.” It rhymes in Hebrew (ערבי גבר זה ערבי בקבר).
“Yeah,” Moriel says, “We’ve heard the slogans.”
Then he tried to continue: maybe a comparison, albeit a sloppy one, could help: “Imagine if a Jewish person in France did something horrible in France, and then people started calling for all of the Jews to be expelled from France?”
“That would be good,” the girl said, “Jews should all be here. This is their home, not in France. They don’t belong there.”
“Are you going to send this clip to the news?” one of them asked.
“Don’t worry,” Moriel said, “There’s nothing that is worthy of the news. This is what everyone is saying. Please try to think about what you are saying, though.”
We realized that there was not much more to be said, so we turned to leave.