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October 31, 1986 - Image 20

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-10-31

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20

Friday, October 31, 1986

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

(31 3 ) 85 5 -07 6 0

broke every bone in you. And
we didn't eat very well for the
first, let's say, half a year, but
by and large I don't think it
was that terrible. I don't
think the Arabs treated their
own soldiers any better,
because we watched Arab of-
ficers beating the guards
around us. So I have perspec-
tive. I'm not complaining
that much."
After his release as part of
a prisoner exchange in March
1949, Rafi joined the Israeli
army. He commanded a
Druse unit that made long-
distance patrols in the Negev
against hashish smugglers
and infiltrators and then,
after the 1967 war, became an
officer in the military govern-
ment on the West Bank. He
implemented the plan to open
the bridges across the Jordan
River to allow Arabs to travel
between the West Bank and
Jordan, and he helped facil-
itate a program of family
reunification under which
some 40,000 West Bank
residents, abroad at the end
of the war, were eventually
allowed to return.
"It's difficult for me to ex-
plain why I don't hate," he
told me. "First of all, I'm a
by-product of all the Jewish
national aspirations. I carry
on my back an experience of
many centuries of Jews in
this country passed over to
me by my mother with basic,
elementary, twenty-four-
karat Zionism without the
slogans. On my father's side
I'm a son of a true Zionist
who in 1921 left a very well-
to-do home and came to live
here. I grew and had. those
aspirations as part of my
mental tissue, physical
tissue. But very realistic. Not
a day has passed in my per-
sonal history without realiz-
ing that the Arabs are in this
reality. I didn't live in a
period where the Arabs
didn't exist, where my na-
tionalist dreams could have
been artifically swollen up
both territorially and mental-
ly, where the Arabs never
played a major role. There
were Arabs all the time. And
I don't see any solution
without Arabs.
"The Arabs were a part of
my childhood, a part of my
scenery," Rafi continued.
"They were my friends, they
were the children I fought
with but made friends with.
In my pigment there is a lot
of the essence of the East,
whether it's food, dress, and
I don't know what part of my
brain is really Oriental. The
only context I knew with
human beings all my life was
with Jews and Arabs. So
they're there. First of all, you
can't hate. You cannot hate.
I'm not even boasting. I'm
not that nice Jew who says I
don't hate Arabs and I don't
know why. I know why.
Because in my cognition, the

Arabs are a part of a family.
They're too close."
Rafi struggled to define the
elements in Arab culture that
he found in himself. "First of
all, warmth," he said. "Per-
sonal warmth. The physical
confidence that we have from
touching each other. It's a
closeness. This closeness is a
very dangerous closeness.
Look how an animal plays
with its offspring. It some-
times beats it with its paw,
but it licks it all the time.
That is a very physical thing.

"I think the
Western world
created a sort of
distance that
drives prople
away from each
other."

I think the Western world
created a sort of distance that
drives people away from each
other. Try to get Western
people together, too close.
They need that distance,
what they interpret as their
privacy, which is their protec-
tion."
Rafi's denunciation of
separateness, privacy, and
his embrace of the familial in-
timacy that marks Arab life
put him into an ironic con-
trast with a young Arab-
American I knew, Christo-
pher Mansour, who came
from Michigan to visit his
Arab relatives in Israel for a
year. The lack of privacy in
Arab homes gnawed at him,
given his American back-
ground. "Families are very
close, and you have to put up
with a lot of things," Chris-
topher said. "I was just up in
Nazareth visiting relatives.
They're very nice people. You
can't just come in and sit
down and say, 'Hi, howya
doin'? How's things goin'?
Everything's exciting,' talk a
bit, and then leave. You've
got to come in and sit down
and eat and sit and stay the
whole five days. I mean, it's
kind of nice, I like the
hospitality, but it's taken to
the nth degree. It can get to
be painful. My upbringing
has been in the United States
where relationships have
been a little more impersonal.
You can- have more personal
space, I guess is about the
best way to put it. You have <
privacy when you want
privacy. And in Arab society
they don't really understand
the idea that you want to be
alone. That means that
you're mad, you're angry at
something, or you're upset,
and you should have some-
body with you."
Here, then, was an Arab-

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