Ynet carries today an interview with a girl of 14, daughter to an Arab father and a Jewish mother. The girl, presented under the false name of “Amanda”, explains that although her father, who has since passed away, initially signed her into an Arab school in the city of Lod (most schools in Israel are segregated), she has since-moved to a Jewish school in another city, where she lives in fear of her classmates finding out she’s half Arab.
There’s everything in the interview -racism and discrimination, chauvinist theocratic patriarchy, and, most heartbreakingly, the self-loathing Amanda uses to cope with a society which has been constructed in such a way that being Arab became a source of shame (and being a woman doesn’t make it any easier). Some select quotes:
Why did you choose a Jewish school?
Because I’m Jewish. I don’t like the Arab education system, the Jews’ level is higher and you get more help with your studies.
Does it bother you, being half-Arab, half-Jewish?
Very much. I don’t like my Muslim side. My Muslim family is very conservative, they don’t let me dress how I like and won’t let me have a boyfriend.
What do they say?
When I was really small they’d scold me for wearing a tank top, and they still wouldn’t let me wear a miniskirt. So sometimes I leave the home in modest clothes and then I change to modern ones.
When you got to the junior high school outside the city, did you tell you were half-Arab half-Jewish?
I didn’t tell them I was Arab but some of the kids found out through Facebooks, because the names of my Muslim brothers are listed there.
How did they react?
There were quite a few kids that blocked me on Facebook. I told myself, “oh, now they’ll find out my secret.” I didn’t want everybody to know I was [only] half-Jewish. The kids who found out I was half Arab started picking on me, but it went away after a while, I stopped paying attention to them. There were also times kids would call me on the phone, say “Allah Achbar,” laugh, and hang up.
And how did you feel coming home to Lod?
The kids would tell me “here comes the Jew girl” and laugh at me. Sometimes they would throw stones. I really don’t like living in Lod, I feel like I’m choking there. Here I’m supposed to act like a Muslim because of my father’s family, and it’s hard.
Are you still ashamed to say you’re half-Arab?
I am. I have a very close friend that I didn’t tell that to, because I’m ashamed. I’m afraid that if he finds out I’m half-Arab he’ll draw away from me and he’s very important to me, I like him very much.”
Despite all that, when asked whether she herself would marry a Jew or and Arab, Amada manages to insist:
“If I find a Muslim fiance I’ll mary him. Because I”m half and half I have the option to choose from both worlds. It’s important for me to find a good person, no matter if he’s Arab or Jewish. But my father’s family prefers I marry a Muslim, they keep me from marrying a Jew.”
And finally :
“It’s frustrating. My parents made a mistake and got married and I need to carry their mistake my entire life. I feel like I was born in the wrong place, in the wrong circumstances.”
People who combine identity traits perceived as opposed and mutually exclusive have it the hardest in many contexts; transgendered people come to mind, as do bi-sexuals (who often face disdain not only from heterosexual majorities but from within the LGBT community as well.) But the situation in Israel is exacerbated by the fact that a clear and strictly hierarchical order has been installed in which being an Arab is worse, culturally, economically, politically, than being a Jew; where intermarriage is discourage and has no official process – you usually need to get married abroad if you don’t come from the same ethno-cultural group. And while opposition to intermarriage and racism mixed with misogyny is not uncommon in Israel’s non-Jewish communities, it’s far from confined to Muslim Israelis. In fact, on the Jewish side it has spilled from the family table over to NGO‘s, vigilante militias and municipal inspectors all doing their share to keep Arab and Jewish lovers as far apart as possible.
To me, that a child should be pushed to the conclusion their parents marriage (and their own resulting conception) was a mistake, is beyond outrageous. It is obscene, and underscores the urgency of changing a social order and a culture that puts ethno-cultural group above the others.