Friday, April 2, 2010

The Swing

Passing the Charles Clore playground after sunset, I witness a miracle. Scores of hardcore Hassidic families are enjoying the fancy swings and slides, sharing them with Muslim families from Jaffa. Fathers in black "kaften" coats and mothers in green hijabs stand around the same sandboxes, observing their kids with the same care. The kids themselves run around with the same joy, unaware of the big lie: that which states that they are not the same, that which is law in this land.

I walk among all of them, snapping shots with my cellphone, when a woman approaches me. By her long skirt and fair hair she seems to be a moderately religious Jew. "Who do you work for?" she asks me in English.

"Nobody, I'm documenting this for my own pleasure."

"Too bad, I was hoping you're a journalist."

"I am," I smiled, "but off duty at the moment. Are you a native english speaker?"

"Long story, born in Switzerland, raised in Canada. I was actually thinking of calling the press. This whole family of Arabs took over the big swing over there. They wouldn't let our kids on. I'm so sorry you were not here to see that. I don't understand how come such people are allowed to set foot here."

"'Such people', as in Arabs?"

"Yes."

"But even if they were pushy or mean, it doesn't neccesarily have to do with them being Arabs. People can be rude no matter their language or religion. Families can be difficult to handle." I catch myself trying to educate her and decide to cut it short. "I think what's happening here is gorgeous. It's worth the wait for the swing."

She looks at me with such disdain that I just quit the scene. You know what, she's right. She's got to be right. After all, the majority in this country agrees with her, according to a study conducted in 2007 by the association for civil rights in Israel, 75% of Israelis would prefer not to have an Arab neighbor. A study conducted last year by Tel-Aviv university reveals that 50% of teenagers believe Arabs should not be given full rights in Israel.

The irritated lady, whose kids had to wait for a swing, reflects the majority opinion in Israel, and in a democracy, the majority rules. Here is does more so than elsewhere. People would be racist. It's the role of constitutions and state institutions to keep such tendencies at bay. We have no constitution and our govenment prefers to fan the flames. With openly racist Lieberman and secretly racist Netanyahu running the country, this is the hayday of anti-Arab legislation and court action, from decrees allowing rural communities to ban Arabs from buying houses, to a ban on marriages between Palestinian citizens of Israel and West Bank residents.

We are in control of the big holy-land swing right now. Like a kid with his head in the clouds, we live in the illusion that this will never end, that we'll just keep swinging forever, but our violent attempts to kick the other kid off may cause everybody to fall to the sand. This will end with more than a bruised knee.

(artwork by Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Yinka Shonibare)

4 comments:

jaron said...

nice post.
i also enjoy that park.
sad how racist this society often is. and the implications are that the children will soon inherit the racism of their parents.

nzur said...

things are going on, we had a great children party last week at our house, fourteen children took part in the performance ,seven were arabs, seven -jewish.

Basma said...

Is that the same park that is close to your place? I was imagining the whole scene unfolding there as I read. Thanks for unraveling "democracy" in the Israeli state through this anecdote, very nicely done.

--Basma

יובל בן-עמי Yuval Ben-Ami said...

Actually it's another seafront park, just north of old Jaffa. I used to dedicate a haiku poem to this place with the coming of each new season:

http://yuvalbenami.blogspot.com/2008/04/charles-clore-park-embankment-haiku-4.html