Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Israeli describes Lebanese flight in Arab press

It is rare for an Israeli to get an article published in an Arabic newspaper, but Dr Edy Cohen of Bar Ilan University managed to get this published in El Wattan, a Kuwaiti news medium on 27 August 2015:  From a Judeo-Arab Heart to the Gracious Kuwaiti People (translated by Lucille R Kaplan)The Arab-Israeli conflict is nothing but a contrivance, 'their flames kindled by hate-filled plots', he argues.

 Dr Edy Cohen, refugee from Lebanon

Many Kuwaitis are, undoubtedly, unaware of the historically significant facts that nearly a million Jews, in the decades of the last century, lived as citizens of Arab countries extending from the Mediterranean Ocean to the Arabian Gulf, and Jewish tribes had lived on the Arabian Peninsula prior to the advent of Islam, and found refuge and shelter there, in their flight from the Roman oppression that had overtaken the land of Israel.

 I, myself, first saw light over the land of Lebanon, and I grew up and thrived in the Wadi Abou Jamil quarter, where I shared my childhood with Lebanese children made diverse by their faiths. As Christians, Muslims, and Jews, we would play together in the alleys. School benches joined us together without distinguishing among us on the basis of differences in religious affiliation . . . 

That period is impossible for me to forget. It is imprinted on my memory, and I still experience its effects to this day. Though most Jews fled Lebanon at the time of the Lebanese civil war of 1975, my family held steadfast, and did not leave. 

Lebanese governments had treated Jews equitably, and we felt secure even during the most difficult periods in the history of that country, which suffered from a bloody war that was predicated, for the most part, on sectarianism. 

Consistent with the pattern for Jews living in Arab countries, the Jews of Lebanon were loyal to the nation that had embraced them, but tragically, a Hizballah gang supported by Iran entered the Lebanese arena, seeking to wreak ruin and destruction there, and unleashing its hatred upon the Jewish people. Ten Lebanese Jews were kidnapped and executed, and consequently, the Jewish sect of Lebanon collapsed. 

All of us were forced to emigrate in the direction of Israel, leaving behind memories of childhood and youth, and still yearning for the land in which we had been raised, and from whose waters we had drunk. We had buried, in its soil, the fruits of a life that we had built there with our toil and strain.

 I arrived in Israel in 1995, leaving behind 23 years of a life that had ripened in Lebanon, and taking on a culture different from the culture of the people of my community. I felt a sense of exile even the presence of my family, and in the beginning, I encountered difficulty in adjusting, for my mother tongue was Arabic (“the language of the letter Dhad”), and my outlook on life was based on values and customs different from those followed in the nation of my early ancestors. 

I arrived in Israel, coming from a land no farther away than a few kilometers, imbued with a conviction, reinforced by life experience, that peace between the people of Israel and Arabs was a historical reality that surely could be revitalized. 

Jews have lived with Arabs for thousands of years, either in Arab countries or the land of Israel, and they have engaged in dialogue, lived as neighbors, become related by marriage, befriended each other, and defended one another. The current conflicts are nothing other than a contrivance, their flames kindled by hate-filled plots, such as those, recorded in history, of the Nazis, who exploitatively reinforced differences between Jews and Arabs over the issue of Palestine[’s post-World War II status].

Abdallah Al-Hadlaq circulated the article, adding the following quote from Verse 13 of Sura 49 of the Qur’an]: “Oh, Humanity: I created you male and female, and made you into different peoples and tribes, so that you could learn to know each other. . .” 

More articles by Edy Cohen

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