In third grade I met legendary songwriter Naomi Shemer, may she rest in peace. She arrived at our school for a visit and addressed our questions with great seriousness. I was so impressed that I started to love the Hebrew language.
Naomi Shemer passed away some years ago and currently rests in the Kinneret cemetery. Every few weeks, because of the proximity to my area of residence, I happen to drive through the Kinneret junction. Every time, the cemetery takes me back to third grade, to the meeting, and to the question I asked her (I don’t remember what it was.) She maintained such a serious facial expression, yet at the same time was lovely and charming in that innocent meeting with the children, all of them non-Jews.
I am a gentile among you, but I speak your language and swim well in the local swamp. I stand in line just like you, get annoyed, honk, and then relax. I am familiar with the smell of taxi fumes on a busy Tel Aviv street and would be able to drive you to any corner of this country. My mailbox gets filled every week with the same bills and taxes you pay, without a non-Jew discount.
I am a gentile among you, but alongside the many drawbacks, I possess a small advantage: I know you better than you know me, and possibly better than you know yourself. I read and absorb poems by Yona Wallach and by Mahmoud Darwish Saturday morning on my balcony, with coffee and a local chocolate spread, not the Swiss kind.
I never hurt anyoneThe Broadcasting Authority’s collection department nags me too, and I too travel overseas on occasion, when the economic situation allows me to do so. I know your tanks and your jets, the Bible and the Passover Seder – not because of a “know thy enemy” attitude, heaven forbid, as you must suspect, but rather, because of the simple and innocent fact that I’ve been living among you and within you for many years now.
I am a gentile among you, yet a little different: I, just like the other members of the Circassian community in Israel, am Muslim. I was born this way and will remain this way. I never asked for a thing except for a normative life: I never sought a plot of land, or Jerusalem, or Jaffa. I most certainly never sought to drive you to the sea.
I have never hurt anyone, snitched, or fought against you. If one of our members stole, assaulted, or raped, he did it because of the lowly person he is, not because of his religion. I am not naïve and I know that you too, just like me, carry and die of the very same diseases we die of.
The difference between the words “generalization” and “acceptance” in Hebrew is a small one, only one letter (Hachlala and Hachala). Naomi Shemer, of blessed memory, was able to recognize it in a very humane way, regardless of her views. She knew how to spot innocence and appreciated it, while completely shunning the possibility of generalizing; because generalizing, Mr. Gilad, is the pseudo-mathematic approach of the fools and smartasses.
The writer resides in the Circassian community of Kfar Kama in the lower Galilee region. He works for a communication company and served in the Air Force