Friday, April 28, 2006

Michael Totten recalls his visit to Israel.
Arab countries have a certain feel. They'’re masculine, relaxed, worn around the edges, and slightly shady in a Sicilian mobster sort of way. Arabs are wonderfully and disarmingly charming. Israel felt brisk, modern, shiny, and confident. It looked rich, powerful, and explicitly Jewish. I knew I had been away from home a long time when being around Arabs and Muslims felt comfortably normal and Jews seemed exotic. First impression are just that, though. They tend to be crazily out of whack and subject to almost instant revision. Israel, I would soon find out, is a lot more like the Arab and Muslim countries than it appears at first glance. It'’s not at all a little fragment of the West that is somehow weirdly displaced and on the wrong continent. It'’s Middle Eastern to the core, and it has more in common with Lebanon than anywhere else I have been. The politics and the history are different, of course. But once I got settled in Tel Aviv I didn'’t feel like I had ventured far from Beirut at all.
Read the whole thing. My mere words can't express the surprises that Michael would find when talking to an Israeli blogger about life in a country surrounded by people who want to kill them. Or do they?
Then there are those - and they'’re almost completely ignored by the media - who defy these categories completely. The Druze serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. And the Druze are as Arab as anyone else in the region. The biggest problem the Israeli government has with Druze members of the IDF is not that they are not loyal. The biggest problem is that they are consistently the most roguish and brutal toward Palestinians. They speak Arabic as their first language. Palestinians say they are traitors. Bedouin also serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. The skills they learn as desert wanderers make them the perfect trackers. Lisa told me the Bedouin in Egypt'’s Sinai Peninsula speak Hebrew.
There's so much more. You'll never figure out what people are like, or what the sentiment is on the street, from the traditional media. TV, Newspapers, etc. They just don't spend the time to get out there any more. Totten is though, and my view of the middle east is changing with every post I read.

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