Would You Share a Room with a Jew?
By Nabil Al Mulhem
Albawaba.com – Damascus
“I would,” said Abdul Rauf Olwan, a philosophy student at Damascus University. “But before we did that, we should arrive at a common understanding.”
“He should understand that the inquisition courts chased the Jews, while the Muslims accepted them as guests. He should remember that my mother and I used to live at Al Amin Street, where many Jews were living in the neighborhood.
“My mother and I used to warm ourselves with blankets on Saturday, we wouldn't make a fire out of respect for our Jewish neighbors,” Olwan added.
“I will tell him that I am a fervent supporter of Freud, Marx and Trotsky, who were Jews. However, I want him to recognize Najeeb Mahfouz, Manfaloti, Jibran and Youssef Shahin. He should know that Zionism is against him as much as it is against me, and that it is a movement launched by the Jewish capital which is destroying him and me alike.
“He should know that the Zionist have indulged him in a very difficult equation: that he cannot become a true Jew unless he has an enemy. I am a Muslim and will remain one without having enemies.
Olwan wonders if the Jews will be convinced by his opinions, but he has one final thing to say if he is to thaw the ice in Arab-Jewish relations.
“He should understand that Israel is the last state in history to be built on religion. Israel is still in existence because of the role it plays for the benefit of the US, which is an open system where even Arab countries can play a role.
If the Arabs become clever enough and manipulate their potential in that system, where will Israel be then?
“Yes, I would share a room with a Jew provided he is convinced that he is no longer the straying Jew, with enmity surrounding him.
In response to the same question by Albawaba.com, science student Suha Khaleel was less flexible than Olwan.
“I would not share a room with a Jew, and even if he thinks of that, I'll take his eyes out.
“We will never forget their atrocities and what they did to POWs in Sinai [in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war],” she added.
According to Suha, all Jews are Shakespeare’s Shylock. “They would cut off your flesh, and steal sleep from your eyes.” Asked if she has ever met a Jew, she said “no, how should I?” How would you pass such judgments, then?
“What we see on TV is proof enough,” she replied.
An agricultural engineer, Ismail Halabi looks at the issue from a different angle.
“It is not the issue of sharing a room with a Jew. The question is would he accept that, would the Zionists allow him to. I think they would kill him.
Halabi also refers to history to prove his point.
“The Zionist movement sent the secretary general of the Jewish Agency, Haim Orlosorov, to negotiate with Nazi Germany. He was able to secure considerable concessions, including the ability to transfer money to the Jews in Palestine.
But Jabotensky’s people killed him after accusing him of treason. He was replaced by Haim Weizman, the father of Zionism.
Other Syrians are not interested in finding an answer to the question.
“I have never thought of this subject,” said Micheal Khoury, a fashion designer, “In fact, I would not share a room even with my brother.”
Safwan Al Ali highlighted the “civilized” way the Jews were treated in Syria before they, except for some, immigrated to Israel.
“I am a Muslim but I buy meat from a Jewish butcher, although he sells it at a higher price than in the market.
This butcher’s family left for Israel abruptly, even leaving their fire lit at home.
“There was no justification for their immigration; nobody caused them any harm. On the contrary, we dealt with them in the most civilized way. In Damascus, there were Jewish merchants, doctors, dentists…I wonder what made them leave. As far as I know, they are treated with contempt in Israeli society.
“You ask me if I would share a room with a Jew? I tell you, they were among us and we never discriminated against them.”
According to Rula Muhanna, the Jews have been a victim of Zionism.
“I have read the world literature: Latin American, French…etc, but I do not see there is Jewish literature. That is because Zionism has trained the Jews to deny themselves for the benefit of war and conflict with the others. Writers, poets, novelists are in general peaceful and tolerant, and that’s why Zionism has kept the Jews away from literature into a world of fear from the others.”
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)