We Like the Same Yogurt

Posted on June 22nd, 2010

For those of you reading this who may not be aware, I am a Jew living in the town of Neve Daniel — what most of the world would refer to as a West Bank Settlement. I am very comfortable with my rights to this land and do not feel that anything is amiss with Jewish settlement in the heart of Judea. I have no desire to displace Arabs or undermine their lives. I spend my free time riding bikes, not chopping down someone’s olive trees.

The region I live in has both Jewish and Arab towns. From the news, you would get the idea that we are constantly at war with one another. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some terrible acts in the five years we have lived here. People have been killed in gruesome terrorist acts including a young man from Neve Daniel. We are aware that many Palestinian children are indoctrinated to hate Jews from very young ages.

We recently replaced the glass windows on our car after an Arab threw a rock through one of them. Yet terror does not characterize our lives. In fact, if you think about how close Arabs and Jews live to each other out here, the acts of terror have been few and far between. So when something happens, I do not demonize the entire Arab race. I demonize the demon who performed the demonic act. Meanwhile, we live at peace with the vast majority of our Arab neighbors.

Of course a lack of open warfare does not really indicate peace. Arabs and Jews eye each other warily. We use Arab labor to build our homes because Arabs work for a fraction of the price as Jews. Yet it is a relationship based on need. They need jobs and we need cheap (for us) labor. We never see each other as equal human beings. We see them as either bomb throwing terrorists or guys carrying buckets of cement all day. They see us as evil land-stealing thieves or guys who can afford to pay them more than what they would get working for their brethren.

So while I can denounce those who slap the label “Apartheid” on Israel because it paints a picture that does not exist, there is no question that we lead separate lives than the folks in the village just over the hill.

So I was pleasantly surprised by my first visit to the new supermarket in the region. It sits at a crossroads and is equidistant to Jewish and Arab towns. While I expected to see a lot of Arabs working there, I was surprised by how many Arabs were shopping there. For some reason, seeing an Arab woman with kids in her shopping cart trying to find the banana yogurt made me feel really good.

It wasn’t just her. The place is teeming with a mixture of Arabs and Jews, religious and secular. While it does not look so weird to see people working behind the counters together, it does look different to see all these different types of people shopping together. And then it is no longer Arabs and Jews shopping together, just different people looking for the best deals on favorite foods.

Am I being naive for believing that just because we like the same yogurt we can all get along and find peace? Yeah, I know I am. But if you have read any of my earlier posts, you know that I am an optimist. I don’t accept when people say “that’s not possible” because I know there would be no State of Israel if everyone had thought that way.

Peace will never come through long winded documents that have no connection to realities on ground. It will not be established by the UN, the EU, the U.S., or the likes of Bibi Netanyahu or Mahmoud Abbas.

No, peace will always have to be based on people seeing each other as human beings with the same hopes and desires. It will take a very long time, decades perhaps, but it has to start somewhere. And in the yogurt aisle is as good a place as any.

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Comments

  1. Chaim Sherman says:

    Just drove in to Neve Daniel and there was more glass on the road from one of our neighbours throwing large rocks through someones windshield.

  2. ruti sherman says:

    I too would like to believe your optimistic thoughts, I really would and sometimes do. But we can’t forget that while these Palestinians,(not just arabs), want to lead regular daily lives, they live in a society and culture that is contrary to peaceful coexistence. There is a core at the center which is a hatemongering, and yes, evil, so it is hard for those of us on the ground to know how to work with that. That being said, I have many palestinians that I am friendly with and wave to, I know about their families and they mine. i do trust them , but with caution because although they are good people, they live in a society that is not. I too shop at the new “super” and smile at the cousins whenever I can, I helped a woman to find a product , the man with two kids in front of me had a basket filled with almost the same stuff at me. My husband walked around talking to them, asking where they are from and why they come to shop here. Mostly the answer was the same as mine would be…………certain products are much cheaper here. I hope and pray that it continues to be the reason they shop here.

  3. toby says:

    Fantastic post! I’m so glad to have found your blog – we are neighbors, after all 🙂

  4. Paul Goldstein says:

    Your optimism should only come to be.

  5. anitra lehman says:

    Hi Chaim,
    It was my car that was stoned – and it was truly a miracle that I am alive today. While these “neighbors” are trying to kill us -our own government is destroying Jewish homes in the area.
    Jordan you are sweet – but peace will only be when we act like owners of the land. You wouldn’t think of sharing your children with other people (a gift from G-d) then how can we share our land, a gift from G-d with others. Tell me would you go shopping in an arab village? – would you come out alive? Yes we let them shop in our stores and provide them with streets, and clean water and health care and we in return receive stones and bullets.
    When we lose our fear to act like the true owners of this promised land – then there will be a lasting peace.

  6. yarden says:

    Anitra,

    My car that was stoned too. And I was mugged in Rockville MD. Unfortunately bad people do bad things. But the vast majority of the Arabs do not throw stones.
    They live here too. We have to accept that fact and learn to get along.

  7. Nethanel says:

    The problem is that the regular local Arabs cannot express freely their private opinion and get real political momentum with them. Ther reason is that they are oppressed by patriarchic society, proud, their clans, poltical and religious organisations and incited by forgein governments and NGO-organisations. They even distrust their own, persecute Arab Christians, women. Only when they make a huge mental shift real peace with the Jews will be possible. One way would to convert them, as many southern Hebron Arabs are descendants of Jews anyway. I still wait that a proud Arab sees his honor attacked when he sees Arab children throwing stones. A good healthy portion of self-critisism is the basis of social progress. I don’t see this happen soon.

  8. alan halpert says:

    anitra said it he best

  9. Sam says:

    It’s all very nice, but you miss the whole point. Do you think the Arabs that live in the West Bank and Gaza should have a vote in the Israeli elections?

    If yes, it will be the end of Israel as a Jewish state, since there are as many Arab citizens between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River as there are Jews, and you can be certain the Arabs won’t be voting for Zionist parties.

    If no, it’s indeed an apartheid regime, because you think all Jews get to vote, but only those (minority of) Arabs within the pre-1967 borders get the same right.

    The whole point of the two-state solution, for all its faults, is to find a way out of this dilemma. Maybe it’s not ready to be implemented yet, but it’s the only sensible long-term goal that will satisfy the region’s most vital needs.

    Talking of yogurt and good neighborliness is just a way of avoiding this issue.

  10. anitra lehman says:

    Not being able to vote does not make it an apartied state. There are millions of people that live in America as foriegn residients – that enjoy the liberties of the USA but can’t vote – Furthermore Israel is the Jewish Homeland – the Torah does not say that democracy is a mitzvah – it can compliment the Torah but it isn’t a commandment – so if the arabs can’t vote – it’s not going bother me. The world doesn’t protest that Jews are not even allowed in Saudia Arabia – so why should it bother you if arabs are treated well but can’t vote in Israel.
    I didn’t make aliyah from the USA to Israel because it is a democracy – I came back home because every Jew is commanded to live here.

    Since this blog has been written several incidents of arab harassment on Jewish women have been reported – I have been to the store once and it wasn’t a pleasant experience.

  11. Sam says:

    Anitra,

    You can’t compare foreign residents in the USA to the Arabs living in Israel or the West Bank. Foreign residents came to the USA voluntarily, knowing that they wouldn’t get the vote (and BTW if they came legally they can eventually become naturalized). The Arabs in Israel or the West Bank were living there when Israel came to them, and they didn’t get a say in the matter. You can’t create a new political entity in a place where people are already living, then tell them they don’t have equal rights in it.

    And this view that Israel belongs to the Jews because it says so in the Torah is totally unconstructive. If you think your religious beliefs are relevant to a national/political conflict, then you can’t deny the religious beliefs of others from having the same status. This makes a solution impossible, since Muslims believe the land belongs to them by divine right, and Jews believe the same. There’s nothing more to be done.

    Whatever your religious beliefs (and you have every right to practice them in private), they have no place when it comes to resolving a conflict with people who believe differently. Conflicts can only be resolved according to objective universal principles, not subjective religious ones.

    Interestingly I think this is the main fault-line in the region – not between Jews and Arabs, but between those who think their religious views (whether Jewish or Muslim) are paramount, and those who recognize that a solution has to be based on equality and humanity. In this sense radical settlers have more in common with fanatical Muslims that with most Jewish citizens of Israel.