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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 March, 2004, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
Mid-East pen friends part 7: Reconciliation
Omneya al-Naggar, an Egyptian school teacher in the northern city of Alexandria, has been taking part in an e-mail correspondence with Orly Noy, an Israeli journalist of Iranian origin, living and working in Jerusalem.

In this, their seventh exchange for BBCArabic.com, the two women discuss ways of improving the way the two sides view each other.


Hi Omneya,

It's crazy weather here, snowy one day, sunny and warm the next...

Before I turn to your question about what the Palestinians represent for me, I want to continue the national resistance issue a bit further.

It is true that there was no state of Israel before the 1948 war, but it was as much a movement of national resistance as the intifada is, because there has never been an existing Palestinian state either. In both cases, national movements that had the recognition of the world to create a homeland here fought to make this a reality.

The fact is that Britain had promised the Jews a homeland here long before World War II - only after the war, it became much more critical.

You talk about Sharon's inability to make peace, and you'll have no disagreement from me here! There is a general tendency in Israeli politics to vote for ex-generals from the army, and I think that it's disastrous because these people were trained to fight their entire life and they are not capable of thinking differently.

Sharon, more than anyone, has a part in Israel's darkest episodes, like the war in Lebanon and the current intifada.

I feel much closer to my Palestinian friends than to many sectors within the Israeli society, I have much more in common with a liberal Palestinian than with an orthodox Jew
I can't tell you how disappointed and desperate I felt when he was elected, but I put a big part of the blame on the Palestinian side, which, by increasing the level of terrorist activities just before the elections, drove many Israelis to vote for Sharon and his harsh line.

Now to your question - what do the Palestinians represent for me?

I see the Palestinians first of all as my brothers in destiny, because for better or for worse, we will share the same destiny. I see them as victims of impossible circumstances that must be changed, somehow.

Somebody once described our situation as a man jumping from a burning building and falling on someone's head. I don't blame the man for jumping, but I think that he can't avoid his responsibility for the other man's pain.

Ariel Sharon
Orly says Prime Minister Sharon is the wrong man to make peace
I do have Palestinian friends and, as you know, I work with Palestinians as well. Believe me, I feel much closer to my Palestinian friends than to many sectors within the Israeli society, I have much more in common with a liberal Palestinian than with an orthodox Jew.

Unfortunately, most Israelis don't have any contact with Palestinians in their daily lives at all, other than in the military service. I shrink with shame every time I see or read about the interaction between soldiers or police officers and Palestinians, an interaction that dehumanises both sides. We still have a long way to go.

On a very different matter - did you hear about Zehava Ben, the Israeli singer who sings Um Kulthum's songs? She is very popular here, amongst Israelis and Palestinians, and even al-Jazeera made a special programme about her.

I'm curious to know how much you hear about Israeli culture, do you have translations of Hebrew books or music?

Till next time, the best,

Orly


Hi Orly,

Same here. Cold wind, then sun, then rain, then dust. A very moody day. I don't know what tomorrow will bring. Some sun, I hope.

I like your allegory of the man running out of the burning building, jumping on the head of another man so much.

It is clear of course that the Palestinian is the man on whose head the jumping man has landed, and the man who takes the jump is trying to save himself. I guess this is the only way through which the Palestinians can accept the existence of the Israelis since both sides now have to share the same destiny.

The next step will definitely have to do with cultural acceptance. The Palestinians and the Arabs have a psychological barrier against the Israelis in general, but not against Judaism.

In order to remove this barrier, the Arabs need to trust the Israeli state and of course this cannot take place as long as Israel exercises so much terrorism against the Palestinians who are fighting for their freedom.

I have not heard of the Israeli singer who sings Um Kulthum. I also did not watch the al-Jazeera program about her.

You chose Judaism for your identity, but you also said that you feel no less Iranian than Israeli. How does that translate into your life - if I may ask - especially as your daughters are born in Israel and do not share the experience you had?
I have not come across any Israeli artists, novelists or singers (except for Ofra Haza a long time ago) not in Egypt and not in Europe. I think politics is more central to what the Egyptians know about Israel.

Are there specific Israeli novelists you would recommend?

Israelis usually describe Israel as a melting pot. How do you feel about the mixtures of ethnicities, languages, and backgrounds in Israel?

You chose Judaism as your identity, but you also said that you feel no less Iranian than Israeli. How does that translate into your life - if I may ask - especially as your daughters are born in Israel and do not share the experience you had?

Were Jewish people persecuted in Iran?

Well, I have to go now. Good night.

Till next time,

Omneya


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