A Jew, An Arab and A Druze. Not a Joke. A True Story.
Sometimes we come across unexpected pearls when doing field research for an article. During an interview with a resident of Avigayil, a community in the South Hebron Hills in Judea-Samaria, I was shown a short piece written last year by Benjamin Bodenhaymer, the security coordinator for Avigayil. He goes by the nickname, Budi. I wanted to bring you this story, firstly because I think it is funny, and secondly, and more importantly because it shows you that you need to keep a discussion going and not accept the first statement someone says as unadulterated fact.
It helps to have some previous knowledge on the discussion topic because otherwise you may not know how to keep the conversation going.
This story was published in the Avigayil community newsletter. Budi wrote it in the first person and he actually plays the role of supporting actor alongside the star, Mohammad Hamamdi, who has gained some infamy lately as a leader in anti-Israeli activism in the South Hebron Hills.
I translated the piece into English and am publishing it here with Budi’s permission. Where I add editorial notes they are in italics.
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A Jew, and Arab and a Druze meet on Plot Number 4: This sounds like the beginning of a joke, but this is a true story.
Tuesday, November 24, 2020, 8:30 in the morning. There is an arrangement for Hamamdi from el-Mufaqara to come till the soil on a particular spot in a northern section of land. We meet behind my house: me, two soldiers, Hussam, the District Coordination and Liaison Officer [he is Druze] and Hamamdi.
Hussam explains the borders of the plot to everyone, showing where Hamamdi is allowed to cultivate and where he is not allowed. He explains on and on and, in the process, the conversation drifts off into other topics. Among them, Hamamdi protests indignantly about the fact that he was thrown off the area next to the access road leading to Avigayil and told he could not work the land there and that settlers came and yelled at him. I explained to him that that land does not belong to him. Here is the conversation as it developed:
Hamamdi: I have been ploughing there for years. [NOTE: I can think of members of a few organizations which will remain unnamed who would accept this unquestioningly as the truth and then go on to build an entire propaganda campaign about how Jews are stealing Arab land. But let us see what happens in this conversation.] Budi, tell him (pointing at Hussam) that this is not the first time.
Me: It’s the first time.
Hamamdi: Not true, for many years.
Me: The land does not belong to you.
Hamamdi: It does not belong to you either.
Me: The land is ours.
Hamamdi: That is not true, Budi.
Me: Hamamdi, do you believe in the Torah?
Hamamdi: Yes, I believe.
Me: So to whom did God give this land?
Silence. All is quiet. Only the birds are chirping. The beating sun does not help cool things down.
I press on: To whom did he give the land? To Mohammad or to Israel?
Me: To whom?
Hamamdi: To Israel.
Me: So say thank-you that you are even here.
Hamamdi, shifting uncomfortably: But you left.
Me: We returned.
Hamamdi: Where did you go? Where were you all those years? Now the land is ours.
I consider whether or not to explain to him why the land threw us into exile and then decide that that will not add anything to the conversation so I go on: Tell me, Hamamdi, if you were to leave for 10 years and then come back, who would the land belong to?
Hamamdi: It would still be mine. So what if I left! It is mine.
Me: We also left and came back. The land is still ours.
Hamamdi struggles to continue: But before that, the land was Canaan. And the Arabs are the descendents of the Canaanites. So the land is ours
Me: And God took it from them and gave it to Israel, right?
Hamamdi, frowning more than usual: Right.
Me: So the land is ours. And besides, You are not Canaanites. Canaan became extinct long ago. You are simply Arabs, Arabs with absolutely no relation to the Canaanites.
Hamamdi, yelling now: That is not true. Not true. I am not an Arab, I am a Jew!!! Really!!! I know the family that was exiled from Saudia (or perhaps he said Syria, I am not sure). The Hai-Bar family. They are my ancestors. I am a Jew!!!
I am on the floor laughing so hard, as are all the others, except for Hamamdi.
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I leave you, dear reader, to come to your own conclusions.
Feature Image Credit: Sheri Oz