Describe your feelings towards the Jewish people during these years.
I was scared to death of Jews. I only knew what my father told me about them. My father is Palestinian, and he passionately hated the Jews. Any time someone mentioned the Jewish people, anger would flare in his face. He said the word “Jehudi” with unimaginable contempt. To this day, I don’t know how he managed to pour all of his hostility into one word.
I felt obligated to hate the Jewish people. One of my cousins lived in the West Bank. One night, he was caught outside after curfew. Israeli soldiers beat him and kept him in jail for two days. This made me more sad than angry, though. I felt sorrow for my family. I was sorry the Palestinians didn’t have a country.
My father taught me to sing a PLO chant, but I didn’t really know what it meant. I just knew that my father was extremely angry, and he passed that anger on to my two brothers.
If the news carried any stories about conflict in the Middle East, my father would get so worked up that he would have to turn off the TV. During the Six Day War he stopped eating altogether and lost a lot of weight, despairing that he could not be there with the rest of his family, fighting for their country.
Inwardly, I was torn. I was not sure how to feel. For instance, I thought Saddam Hussein was a maniac, but it felt extremely disloyal to express such an opinion, especially to my father.
Talk about some of the unique challenges of being an intermarried couple. What obstacles have you had to overcome?
Dean lived in Israel for four or five years, and was an active member in an anti-Palestinian group. He hated all Arabs. Then he became a believer in Jesus, and you would never know that he was once so hostile. Likewise, I was suspicious of all Jews until I met Dean. And if it weren’t for my faith in Jesus, I could not have married him. I would have still been far too loyal to my Arabic heritage.
I do miss living around other Arabs, but really, you would be surprised at the similarities between the Arabic and Jewish cultures, at least in terms of the importance placed on togetherness. Dean and I live in a predominantly Jewish community now, and it is very close-knit, which is something God saw I needed.
You would think the fact that he is Jewish and I’m Arabic would be a huge issue, and we have had to learn to appreciate our cultural differences. Dean sometimes jokes that we will have the only kids who want to be in both the IDF and the PLO. Our focus, however, is not who we are as Arab and Jew, but who we are in the Messiah, and if we have children, that’s how we will raise them.
So you no longer identify as Arab and Jew?
Dean and I actually feel more Jewish and Arab, respectively, since placing our faith in Jesus. Neither of us feels any need to prove our nationality to anyone. I’m Arab; he’s Jewish. Period. There’s no disputing that. But our primary identity is in what we have in common, and that is our faith.
When people ask you where you stand regarding the State of Israel, how do you respond?
I respond, “I believe in Jesus, the Jewish Messiah. I believe that the Bible is the word of God. What choice do I have?” I used to think it was incredibly hypocritical for the Jewish people to claim they had a right to a land based on the promise of a God that so many of them have abandoned. “How can Israel rightfully belong to Jews who don’t even believe in God?” I asked. After reading what the Bible says about Israel, I realized that through Israel and the Jews, God is going to work out his plan of salvation for the whole world to see. When Dean showed me just how small Israel is, I was astonished. The whole world has its eyes on this tiny country, and when Jesus returns and many Jewish people turn to him, like it says in the Bible, then this will show just how powerful, faithful and gracious God is. The fact that the Jewish people still exist is a testimony to the faithfulness of the one true God. So I’m not against the idea of a Palestinian state. I’m extremely sad that my people do not have a homeland. I’m grieved that the other Arab nations don’t want them, but I have come to terms with the fact that this is not the Jews’ fault. More importantly, the Bible says that God promised this land to the Jews. I would actually love to visit Israel, but it would be difficult for me there. I can’t tell you how angry my father would be to hear me say that.
Since Jews and Christians are usually pro-Israel, do you sometimes feel you have to apologize for your nationality?
It’s difficult to know what to tell people I meet. Even the word “Palestine” arouses anger in some people, but when my father was born there, the land was called Palestine. If my father ever heard me say he was born in Israel, he would be livid. I usually tell people he was born in the West Bank.
Based on what has happened between you and Dean, do you think there is hope for reconciliation between the two people groups?
I think of my father, watching the current Middle East news, and I imagine his health deteriorating due to the stress of the situation. He and so many of the other Palestinian-born people have so much invested in their hatred of Israel. This hatred goes far deeper than any other racial conflict, I think.
The worst thing is seeing this same hatred in the eyes of children I see on TV. They are blinded by fury. Their anger controls them. My people have taken their children, filled them with anger, and put them on the front lines to be used as weapons. Every time I hear of Arabs attacking Jews or vice versa, I am dismayed, but I am more concerned about what my people are doing to themselves.
No peace talks can remedy the effects of years and years of hatred. Obviously, we need an internal change of heart.
That’s why I think the only true peace to be attained is a personal peace with God through Jesus. Only when we are personally reconciled to God can we reconcile with one another.
I don’t know that there will ever be peace between Arabs and Jews in my lifetime. I do know that the joy of the reconciliation that has taken place between Arab and Jew in our marriage is superceded by the fact that God brought an Arab to himself and a Jew to himself, and then he brought us to each other.
Note: I have just picked up some section from the main story and if interested you can read the whole of the original story from this LINK