Sunday, August 13, 2006

cruise conversations

I had a very interesting conversation, in my many hours of leisure on this cruise, with a middle-aged man who is a Lebanese Jew. His grandfather was born in Beirut, so he is Lebanese through and through. He had his insights on the Lebanese/Israeli conflict.

I asked him "Why couldn't the Lebanese government open up their borders to Israel like Egypt and Jordan did? Why did they have to have Hezbollah in their country. Why couldn't they just shoo them out of Lebanon?"

He said - "You see, Lebanon is like a virgin girl when it comes to peace with Israel. They want it, but they don't want, they want it, but they're afraid of having it, if they're relatives find out, they'll kill her..."

He was telling us that we don't know "the Middle East mentality" and tried to explain it in various parables and stories.

One story was that he, his grandfather and father were walking in the Jerusalem area of Talpiot. They began small-talk with an Arab family in Arabic and were very cordial and friendly to each other. As soon as they left each other, his grandfather and father began to curse those Arabs under their breath, and he began to laugh.

"Why are you laughing" asked grandad.

"Because that's EXACTLY what they're doing right now about us!"

He described former prime minister Sharon's dealing with the Gaza disengagement action as rushed as a little boy needing to pee.

"Instead of focusing on Hizbollah in Lebanon, who is the real enemy of Israel, they trained our soldiers in how to take Jews from their homes - believing that the Arabs will absolutely love us after we do this. And the Wall was the worst thing the government could have done because now more will hate us and it will bring in more fanatic nationalism of theirs. The Israeli government should have spent the money instead on building hospitals in Gaza City."

I certainly agreed with him on this matter.

He cautioned me further - "remember that what they say to you is very different from what they say at home" and he continued with his quickie lesson on Middle East culture believing it will also help me with my Tunisian son-in-law.

"Even if you haven't eaten in 3 days and you are starving. You go to someone's home and they will offer you food. You must refuse!! It's the proper thing to do. If they really mean that they want to offer you food, then they'll put the food in front of you even though you said no and INSIST that you eat it 100 times!

And I thought, well, Jeez. My Arab friends must think I'm a total boor, ill bred and all that. I never refuse an offer of food.


klara said...

Nah, I don't believe they think you're a boor, I think they understand our culture and am most sure that they appreciate you very much. But they might think you're an oddity, but that's ok, right??


Anonymous said...

Thanks for providing such interesting info on your blog .Hope you had a great holiday

I was reading a disturbing article about Alanya,Turkey in today's ynet though and wonder if it will put people off from visiting Turkey in the future:,7340,L-3291342,00.html

jerusalemgypsy said...

Thank God I never saw that sign, it would have ruined my trip. I didn't see or feel any animosity coming from the Turks. But hey - I thought if I did, maybe I'd offer them Israel/Palestine back?? After all - it was theirs before 1917. (Just kidding - just kidding folks).