The Arab who saved my boy
From Yedioth Achronoth May 3, 2012
By Racheli Malek-Boda
I remember the first time I realized that as a religious/rightist/settler I was expected to hate Arabs, or at least treat them as second-class citizens. It happened in high school, during a trip to Jerusalem. We passed through the Muslim quarter’s market and I wanted to purchase a small drum. I finalized a good deal with the peddler, when suddenly one teacher called me over, and quietly whispered: “We shouldn’t support the Arabs.”
About six months ago, my partner and I decided to happily leave bourgeoisie life behind and move to a community located beyond the Green Line, for the sake of our children’s future. We are Zionists who love the land, yet it was not an idealistic move. We simply liked what we saw, liked the people living there, and stayed.
Since then, I see them every day – cars packed with local Palestinian laborers undergoing security checks at the entrance to the community en route to our new construction project. I never gave much attention to them. It seemed natural to me that Arabs are building our community, until the week where this strange status quo shattered.
It happened when I was on the way to kindergarten with my child. I met a neighbor and stopped to talk to her, when suddenly he let go of my hand and ran to the road to look at a tractor driving in reverse. One of the laborers who saw him immediately leapt to the road and pulled my child away. “It’s very dangerous here,” he told me. “Lucky thing you were here,” I responded, and added: “Thank you, you saved my child.”
A day later, I left the community to go shopping and saw the same laborer waiting for a ride. Should I stop? I asked myself. It was a matter of seconds, and I just drove past him, leaving dust in my wake. “Chances are that he is a good person,” I thought to myself later. “Yet his friends already murdered six hikers in the nearby wadi. I can’t take a risk.”
I see them every day. They dive into the water at the spring next to the community, cut my chicken breast at the supermarket, and pack my bags at the cash register. On the eve of Independence Day, one of them even wished me a happy holiday (how was I supposed to respond – “Have a good Nakba day?”)
They are almost always nice, smiling, and provide excellent service. At times I can’t help but ask myself: Why doesn’t it work between us? Why are they good enough to fix my pipes and build my home, but are not reliable enough for me to give them a ride?
Why is it that every time I have a chance to return the favor, I’m thinking about horrific, racist scenarios such as: Maybe he’s a terrorist? Maybe he’s a rapist? Why is it that when the time comes to put my faith in people, I only trust Jews, as if there were never any rapists, murderers or criminals amongst us?
But that’s life, and there’s no justice. A large group of people that only want to live peacefully are forced to pay a heavy price for the actions of a small, dominant and bloodthirsty group. What do good Arabs look like? I don’t know. I’m indifferent to all of them, including ones who truly don’t deserve it.
Today, as is the case every day, I passed through the French Hill junction. Two Arab boys, apparently from the nearby village, cleaned the windshields of passing cars.
Suddenly one of them walked over and started cleaning my windshield. “No, thanks. I washed my car yesterday,” I told him.”A shekel…” he whispered. “Just one shekel…” His face was full of scratches, and a huge scar adorned his neck. “
In a different world, it could have been my own child at that junction,” I thought to myself, and was shocked by the very thought. The light changed and people started honking. I quickly pulled out my wallet and grabbed a 50 shekel bill. “Do good things with it,” I muttered to the boy.
I drove on, and wouldn’t stop crying all the way to work.