Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What real co-existence looks like (UPDATED)

The "Other Side" video that I posted earlier included an incredible description of real, honest-to-goodness Jewish-Arab co-existence - a narrative of how, before the first intifada, Jews who lived nearby would go to Ramallah to get various errands and shopping done, with Arab shops sticking items like challah for their Jewish customers. How these "extremist, right-wing, intolerant Jews" would forge real relationships and friendships with their Arab neighbors. In other words, how the stereotype that the mainstream media uses to portray the "settlers" is utterly false.

Similarly, in an earlier video, another resident of Yesha describes how, every Friday, IDF soldiers and Jewish residents and Arabs all go shopping and drink coffee together in an Arab-owned shop (5:40 in the video.) As she says, "a marvelous picture."

Here is a new example:

The Rami Levy supermarket is located a few hundred yards from the Gush Etzyon junction in the West Bank, 10 miles south of Jerusalem on the road to Hebron.

The store opened in June and has been packed with Arabs and Israelis every day except on the Jewish Sabbath or holidays.

Rami Levy is a savvy businessman who over the years expanded his stall in the Jerusalem shuk into a very successful national Israeli chain. He would not have opened his new store in the middle of Judea — the southern half of the West Bank — if he wasn’t certain it was financially, politically, and militarily secure. Says my wife Shellie (the real shopper in our family):

My Rami Levy shopping is still a wonder to me: if I need a few items, I don’t have to shlep into Jerusalem, but can just hop in my car and in five minutes be at the supermarket. Today, as I was whizzing down an aisle in my jeans skirt, Lands End shirt, and crocs, I noticed five or six very well-dressed Arab ladies in their caftans and hijabs, probably in their late 20s to early 30s, checking out the store. They were speaking among themselves as they gazed and pointed at items. At one point a worker in his Rami Levy uniform came over to speak to them in Arabic. Later, I saw that they had finally settled in the shampoo aisle, comparing different brands. Women will be women.

Every customer — Jew, Christian, Muslim — gets “wanded” with a metal detector by a security guard on the way into the store. Once through the door, though, I’ve experienced an occasional “traffic jam” of grocery carts. Some Arab families — often a whole family on a sightseeing trip in their holiday finery — just freeze while they take in the sight. And, of course, one of Levy’s marketing specialists chose the entrance to stack a kind of cookies that the Bethlehem, Hebron, or village residents are attracted to. I predict that as Ramadan approaches, the store will packed to capacity with Palestinian delicacies and customers.

Press accounts, political pundits, and pontificating politicians portray the situation in the West Bank as bleak and insoluble. Perhaps that’s why I was in awe on my first visit, when I saw Palestinian families and Israeli “settlers” mingling in the aisles, thumping the watermelons and squeezing the plums. My checkout cashier was a Jewish woman from Kiryat Arba of Moroccan descent, on the cash register next to her was a blue-eyed Muslim woman from Halul, and working the register behind me was a member of the Bnei Menashe tribe from India who had formalized her conversion to Judaism.

I really shouldn’t have been surprised, however, since out here in the Etzyon bloc region we “settlers” had good relations with many Palestinian craftsmen and workers who live in the area. The intifada in 2000 quashed almost all relations and ties, but in recent months they’ve been reestablished. I’m back in touch with Khalil, who taught me how to prune my grapevines, and Mahmoud, who was the subcontractor on a construction project in my home 14 years ago.

Knives and boxcutters are tools of the trade in supermarkets, just as knives were once the weapon of terrorists during the early stages of the intifada. One sign of newfound trust can be seen behind the butcher counter where almost all the men are Arabs, working in the Etzyon store as well as Levy’s Jerusalem stores with the largest and sharpest knives.

Incredibly, none of the major Western newspapers have visited and reported on the Rami Levy phenomenon in Gush Etzyon.... Can it be that the coexistence in aisle 2 and cooperation behind the meat counter run against the media narrative that Israeli “settlers” and Palestinians can never live together?

Maybe we’ll finally meet up with the press when Rami Levy opens his pizza shop and the catering hall on the second floor.
This is the ultimate irony: The leftists who shout about "co-existence" are the ones who want separation and who encourage by their actions the minority of Arabs who want to sabotage peaceful relations with Jews.

The people who have the best relationships with Arabs are the supposedly right-wing, militant, extremist, intolerant, religious, nationalist, racist, bigoted, land-grabbing, and illegal settlers.

UPDATE: This article was from May: (h/t Emet M'Tziyon)
Palestinian Authority Economy Minister Hassan Abu Libdeh warned Palestinians on Thursday against shopping at Rami Levy supermarkets in the West Bank.

Thousands of Palestinians converge every day on the Rami Levy supermarkets at Sha’ar Binyamin and Mishor Adumim, the only two branches in the West Bank. The two stores also employ dozens of Palestinians.

This was the first threat of its kind issued by the PA against Palestinians who visited the Israeli supermarkets, which are named after their founder.

Abu Libdeh said in an interview with the local Al-Watan TV station that the PA knew the names of individuals and families who shop in the Rami Levy stores.

He condemned the phenomenon of Palestinians buying goods at the Israeli supermarkets in the West Bank as a “big disgrace.”
So which side is intransigent and against co-existence again?

Now, go and send these two articles to self-proclaimed activists for Palestinian Arab rights and see whose side they are on.