This post was written by Friday guest blogger Emma Garman.
I’m only about 50 pages into The Other Side of Israel: my journey across the Jewish-Arab divide, and I’m gripped. Author Susan Nathan returned to Israel as a middle-aged divorcee. She spent six years in Tel Aviv and then went to live in the Arab-Israeli town Tamra, in the western Galilee, where she is the only Jew. Anthony Egan writing in the South African Mail & Guardian found the book “deeply disturbing,” but also “hopeful” and “even revolutionary.” Here’s a passage from the first chapter:
Always I would be asked where I had lived before moving to Tamra, and the questioners would be amazed by my reply. “Why would you want to live here after living in Tel Aviv?” they would ask. Why not? I would say. “But it’s obvious: Tel Aviv has cinemas, theatres, coffeehouses, proper shops, tree-lined streets, libraries, community centres, a transport system…” The list was always long. Their incomprehension at my choice revealed the difference between my life and theirs.
Although I choose to live in Tamra, as a Jew I am always free to cross back over the ethnic divide. I think nothing of an hour’s train ride from Haifa to Tel Aviv. But for them a trip to Tel Aviv involves crossing a boundary, one that is real as well as psychological. To be an Israeli Arab visiting a Jewish community is to be instantly a target, an alien identifiable through the giveaways of language, culture and often appearance. They must enter a space where they are not welcome and may be treated as intruders. They danger, ever-present in their minds, is of encountering hostility or even violence. They know from surveys published in local newspapers that a majority of Israeli Jews want them expelled from the country.