A Multicultural Encounter with International, Jewish, and Arab Students

By Boglárka Kormos, a student of MA program in Child Development, 2016-2017 Cohort.

On the 30th of April, at 8 pm I was standing on the bus stop in Haifa. I watched four Arabs who stood in line, bowed their head down in silence. They were wearing the uniform of Magen David Adom, and remembered the fallen soldiers of Israel while the siren stopped the country to remember.

Yom Hazikaron, Israeli Memorial Day, is a really sad day for Israelis, who commemorate the sons and daughters of the nation who gave their life for this country.

I was watching the four Arabs on the street during the siren, and thought that I have to ingrain this picture of them, who were chatting loudly in Arabic a minute before, wearing the star of David on their uniform, and remembering the Israeli soldiers who have died. I need to tell everyone the truth.

And the truth is – as Eilon said – if you don’t really talk about the cultural, political and religious differences, you can easily get along with each other.blogarka5

Eilon was born here, but moved to the US at the age of 9. When he was 18 years old, he moved back to Israel and started his military service.

“I am more than happy to live here, have never regretted my decision to come back.”

I met Eilon at the University of Haifa and had a small talk about this Arab-Jewish coexistence.

“I have many Arab friends, and we do not talk about our differences. We have a common goal here at the University. We all need to pass the exams, we need to do homework and study together, also we all need coffee and talk behind the teacher’s back.”

“We have the same opportunities, and equal chances. I don’t talk about the situation of the West Bank, because that’s different. As a soldier I had to do things in order to keep my country safe, but at the same time I felt ashamed of it. It is just hard.”

“Now  I live in Haifa, and this is the cultural center for Arabs, like Tel Aviv for us. If you are looking for Arabic theatres, cultural events, you can certainly find it here. This is one of the reasons of the large number of Arab students at the University of Haifa. They come here, because it is in the north where many Arab villages are located.”

“As I told you I have many Arab friends of course, and also work with Arab teenagers from the low and high socioeconomic status. We compose and play music together. And here is my friend coming…”

Noor is Eilon’s friend. I was interested in his point of view, so here is what he said to me:

“I was born blind, and despite surgeries I remained without sight. I live in Kiryat Tiv’on with my family, and we are conventional muslims. My village is near to Haifa, so I come to the University by bus every day.” – started Noor.

“I attended a special primary school for deaf and blind in Nazareth, and started high school integrated in a very prominent school. I was the only one in the class who had disability, but it didn’t cause any problem neither to me nor them. This school had only Arab students, but if I wanted to go to a Jewish school I could have done that as well. Now I am a student of the University of Haifa, but they admitted me to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem as well. I just didn’t want to leave my family. When I finish my study I will be a history and English teacher at a high school.”

“I receive support from the Israeli Government, the National Insurance Institute, and from the society as well. Let me tell you something: if I lived in any other Arabic country around Israel, like Jordan, Lebanon or Egypt, I would not be here as a student of the University. I am proud and happy to be an Israeli citizen. I am speaking from my heart.”

“Sometimes I feel like I am worth less, because I don’t have something that everyone else has. But I can compensate with my brain, and maybe without having this disability, I wouldn’t have achieved all of my accomplishments. Now I have to use my brain, and in this country they provide the perfect environment and opportunities for it.”

“Everybody wants to hear juicy things about Israel, and its Arab-Jewish conflict.” – concluded Eilon. You can read enough rumors in the media, but if you want to find out the truth, come to Israel, and challenge us.”


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