Here’s the latest installment in my Good News Friday series.
We start with a similar story to the one in last week’s Good News Friday post. This time, instead of an Arab telling his compatriots that they need to stop blaming Israel for their troubles, we hear from an Israeli Arab “telling Israel like it is“, astonishing critics of Israel:
I first met Boshra Khalaila in the Spring of 2010, at the Ministry of Public Diplomacy’s offices in Jerusalem. She was 24 at the time. Like me, she’d been alarmed by the public relations debacle that followed the Gaza flotilla incident and had somehow found her way to the Ministry’s hastily set-up Potemkin village of a situation room, to volunteer her time and do damage control, in Arabic.
Boshra’s destination was South Africa — during Israel Apartheid Week.
In South Africa, she traveled to both Johannesburg and Cape Town, lecturing at four large university events that included a serious round of follow-up work — public discussions, five radio interviews, and a host of newspaper interviews.
Boshra, a secular, independent and patriotic Israeli Arab woman, defies stereotypes. She grew up in a liberal home in the Arab village of Deir Hana, in the Galilee. Her first contact with Jewish Israelis came at the age of 18, when she enrolled in Haifa University. There, she had to speak Hebrew for the first time. And it is there that she started to develop her political conscience and her attachment to the State of Israel.
“I am married and doing a master’s degree [in Tel Aviv]. I am a liberal, free woman, with all the rights that I could enjoy. I compare myself to other women my age in Jordan, the territories, Egypt, any Arab country. They don’t have the rights that I have: freedom of expression, the right to vote. They are forced into marriage at a young age, and religious head covering, despite their own convictions. With me it’s the opposite; I have everything.”
After returning from our mission, we sat down for an interview in the lobby of a Tel Aviv hotel. My first question was why she feels the need to speak up for Israel so publicly — something that most Jews don’t even feel compelled to do. She answered me in perfect Hebrew:
“To sacrifice from myself for the country that I live in and that gives me rights, that’s a natural price.”
Boshra and her team delivered a number of lectures, told their personal stories, dialogued with students and gave interviews. “You want to defend yourself from people that tell the world that [Jews and Arabs] travel on different buses and study at different schools and that there is segregation,” she said. “That just isn’t true: I study in same educational institutions, ride the same buses, shop in the same supermarkets. Everything that they say is absolutely false. And I do feel that I belong to my country.”
Hoping to give South Africans a glimpse of her everyday life as an Arab citizen of Israel, Boshra instead found herself publicly debating politics with a Palestinian PhD student from Gaza, in Arabic.
“This is what I told him in front of everyone; I spoke in Arabic, and I was translated: ‘I don’t enjoy it when soldiers attack and mothers and babies end up getting killed or injured. It’s hard. But the same is true for Netivot and Sderot, when Kassam rockets hit and, God forbid, someone is killed, it is very hard. On both sides there are mothers and it is hard. I want the Palestinian people to have a country. It’s a natural right. That said, there are all kinds of conflicts within the Palestinian authority, mainly with Hamas, that prevent progress toward a peaceful settlement for the state of Israel and that is unfortunate.”
She added, “If there is any Apartheid — in the sense of a flagrant injustice — in the world, it is what is happening in Syria. Thousands of people murdered…the number of dead doesn’t even come close here.”
Thinking back to my experience in California, I assumed that her message would fall on deaf ears. But she surprised me:
“Most of the talks ended with a handshake and a hug. To me this says it all. I have to say that it was important that I wasn’t there representing the government of Israel. It was surprising for them to see that I was a simple person, defending my country for the rights that I have and not speaking on behalf of the government. It came across as very genuine. For them, this was huge — to be able to listen to someone who is not from the government, including for the pro-Palestinian students. When you tell them you are a student and not a government spokesman, they no longer see you as an enemy.”
Read the whole article. There’s much more there and it is both heart-warming and surprising. Saying “kol hakavod” to Ms. Khalaila hardly seems enough to salute her courage, her patriotism and her self-sacrifice. Would that there would be many thousands more like her.
My next item comes from yet another inventive Israeli, who has invented no less than a cardboard bike!
An Israel inventor has created a bicycle made nearly entirely out of cardboard as well as a new model of “green” transportation production that could allow poor nations to get bicycles for free.
The bicycle created by cycler and entrepreneur Izhar Gafni, 50, is made out of cardboard but is treated with a secret organic concoction that makes it water and fire proof, and is then coated with lacquer paint. The device will have no metal parts, and even the breaks, wheels and pedal will be made from green materials.
“This is a real game-changer. It changes … the way products are manufactured and shipped, it causes factories to be built everywhere instead of moving production to cheaper labor markets, everything that we have known in the production world can change,” said Nimrod Elmish, Gafni’s business partner, according to Reuters.
The cardboard bikes would be produced on automated production lines that would be supplemented primarily by pensioners and the disabled. The entrepreneurs intend to use advertising for making profit.
“Because you get a lot of government grants, it brings down the production costs to zero, so the bicycles can be given away for free. We are copying a business model from the high-tech world where software is distributed free because it includes embedded advertising,” Elmish said.
The simplicity and brilliance of this idea is astonishing. Kol hakavod to our inventive citizens for their ingenuity!
My final item for today is a personal one. Yesterday I marked 35 years since my Aliya. I can’t quite believe that so much time has passed since I got on that plane as an idealistic teenager, but I can honestly say that I have never regretted my move and I wouldn’t have my life any other way.
Living in Israel means taking part in a huge adventure, making and living history, creating and perfecting this Jewish homeland for future generations. Living in Israel, I feel fulfilled as a Jew and as a free human being in a way that would be impossible in any other country.
Here’s to the next 35 years and counting עד מאה ועשרים (until 120)!
Shabbat shalom and chodesh tov everyone.