90% of The Arabs want to kill Jews?
“Yes, at least.”
How do you know that?
“I know, it’s common sense.”
Have you spoken to 90% of the Arabs?
“No, but I’ve spoken to a lot of them.”
Do you speak Arabic?
“No… but I live near Sheikh Jarrah.”
He was a bright kid. Maybe it’s not fair to start with this piece out dialogue, taken from the middle of our conversation in Zion Square two nights ago. Maybe I should start with the fact that he had light blue eyes, round cheeks without a single visible hair sprouting from them. That his parents were also American. That he had a nice smile. That he was a head shorter than me, and said he was “around 15.” We talked about a lot of things.
“Why are you here anyway?” he asked, “I don’t think you are here to listen to us, or to try to understand our perspectives. I think you are here to take pictures of us and make us look bad, like crazy people.”
That’s… fair, I said to him.
I think you’re probably right that listening was not my first objective tonight, but now I’m listening. I won’t take any pictures. Tell me again what you were saying?
“I was saying that the Arabs hate us because we are Jews. If they only targeted settlers or soldiers that would be one thing, but… My brother was in the Sbarro, right here, when they blew it up.”
Oh. I’m really sorry to hear that. Was he ok?
“He wasn’t killed.”
I hear you, I said, I don’t think you’re crazy. I just think it’s really important to try to remember that you can’t characterize a whole society by the actions of a few, or even a few thousand. I guess I came here tonight because I saw videos from last night, of people walking through the streets trying to find Arabs to hurt or kill. That scared me.
“You saw videos? I was here, and it wasn’t like that.”
People weren’t chanting “death to Arabs?”
“Maybe like five people were, but that’s all. You shouldn’t believe everything you hear in the media.”
That’s true… (Though I’d heard about five people casually mutter or yell death to Arabs in the fifteen minutes we’d been speaking, and the air was relatively calm compared to what the night before had been, people shuffling in crowds and arguing, but no marches and no chanting…)
“I think 90% of Arabs hate Jews, and 90% of Jews don’t hate Arabs, they just fight back.”
Another guy chimed in: “They have murderous hearts!”
Someone else shushed him, said that they wanted to hear me, the leftist, say what I wanted:
I guess I want a society where people don’t kill each other based on identities… And for us to remember that none of us know 90% of anyone? And that everyone who wants to kill -Jewish or Arab- believes he has the right to do so for revenge,
From there the conversation fell back into them asking if I was “one of the protestors and Sake Jarrah” (affirmative) and me asking if they could really said with confidence what all The Arabs were like (affirmative). But it wasn’t a furious dialogue. It was weird. There was a debate I overheard about whether leftists were worse than Arabs. A few said yes, they were traitors, but they were contradicted by a few others who said that they were just severely misguided. I didn’t feel afraid. I felt sad. The air was so weird.
As we left, I saw a girl with a tight t-shirt and long arms and an eyebrow ring lunge for a grinning ultra-orthodox boy. “Yes, I’m an extreme right-winger! So what?” She yelled and then shoved him. Police came to take her away. I said goodbye to the kid I’d been talking to and returned to Tel Aviv.