So, I’ve agreed to do the interview and show BBC the city where I live.
Should I do it?
It is amazing how many people are warning me not to – that BBC can’t be trusted to give an accurate and fair picture of my beautiful city. One friend writes that they’ll take things out of context. All they care about is twisting what you say. No matter what you tell them, writes another, they’ll turn it around to give the idea that what we have is at the expense of the Palestinians. It’s about E1, writes a third and warns me to at least take someone along to tape at the same time so I have proof of what I’ve said.
Am I insane to want to believe that just one journalist wants to really show the Israel that I know? That this man and this team will finally show how silly the whole debate about Maale Adumim is. Will they finally let their audience see how close Maale Adumim is to Jerusalem, a few minutes by car? Will they turn their cameras to E1 and show there is nothing there but one building; that no Palestinians will lose their homes, their jobs, their freedom to travel because Israel might build homes up on the mountain?
If they come to my city, will this reporter see the beautiful parks, will he show that we have built a place where our children can play safely…and can he do this without asking us why the Palestinians don’t do the same in their cities and neighborhoods?
If I show BBC the gardens and beautiful open spaces where we let our children run, will they make it something ugly? Here is where we gather on important days such as Memorial Day to cry and Independence Day to laugh and sing, I want to show him. Our streets are clean – we put up bins for recycling and have city-wide “clean up days” where we encourage people to walk around with plastic bags and pick up any garbage. And yes, dozens of Arabs are hired and paid to sweep the streets on a regular basis. It is good for them; it is good for us. We treat them with respect; we offer them hot coffee in the winter and cold water in the summer and greet them with a wave as we enter our cars.
Arabs work in the mall and are happy for the pay. They work in the medical center and in other places. No one harasses them; no one hurts them. Will this reporter take the time to admit to his audience that a Jew would not be nearly as safe; their freedom to move in an Arab neighborhood almost non-existent?
Years ago, I escorted a journalist from another station around and was made to feel that I had to justify my life. Will that happen again? What right does any journalist have to come and suggest that my city is any different than London or any other place? Do you blame the man who works hard and lives in a nice home for the slum that exists mere miles away? We didn’t build Abu Dis and Azariya; we built Maale Adumim. Come see MY city; come marvel at the wonders of trees and gardens blossoming in a desert.
When leaving my city, to the left, in a direction I do not travel, there is an Arab neighborhood a few hundred meters from the entrance. I have only ventured on the main road of that area twice…we bought a kitchen for our downstairs apartment and we went there to order it and then again to arrange delivery. We could venture to the first circle within, but were told beyond it was too dangerous – “Hamas territory,” we were warned.
I shop in stores where Arabs work and shop; I walk streets where Arabs walk and go to a medical center where Arabs are treated – and all of this is in MY city, not their neighborhoods or villages. In the store where I buy my groceries, Arabs stock the shelves, man the checkout lines, fill the lines to buy food, and the Assistant Manager is an Arab. That is life here in Maale Adumim – that is the image I would show the BBC.
The lake…the schools…the flowers and green areas – we have planted them; we nurture them all. Some say BBC is incapable of seeing the lake for what it is. Will this be the time an Israeli is given a fair and honest chance to show the beauty of what we have built without it being denigrated and twisted or used as a weapon to show the agenda that seems hidden in most of BBC’s news casts?
The reporter who is coming did a story years ago about money being raised for a charity in England that was going to fund Hamas. He didn’t say Hamas was a terrorist organization – that was left to the minds of the viewer. And yet, he was accused of being pro-Israel, even called a Zionist!To show that he wasn’t either, the journalist countered that he had also investigated and broadcast against an Englishwoman who was known to be extremely pro-Israel. Can I learn from this that he is really interested in truth and presenting a balanced picture?
As the day draws closer, I ask myself if I am sorry that I agreed to do this interview. And if I am to be honest, I would answer that yes, I am a bit.
BBC wants to present the view of an ordinary Israeli – I guess that would be me. If they asked me what it was like to have a son in the army, I could answer that easily. It is its own kind of glory and its own kind of hell. It is a pride beyond motherhood and a fear beyond any words I have ever written.
If they asked me what it was like to have my children grow in the Israeli sun, I could tell them of the joys and the peace to be found here. This weekend, my parents came for the Sabbath and my children all were around to celebrate Aliza’s 13th birthday. Friday night, my oldest daughter and then her husband stepped forward and received a blessing from my husband. My son-in-law blessed his own son and then, as he pulled back, my grandson, all of 20-months-old, reached out his hand, put it on his father’s head, and said, “Amen.”
We were all delighted and so, my daughter took the baby around to each person and said, “give them a bracha” (a blessing) and each time, this gorgeous child reached out, touched the person’s head, and said, “Amen.”
This is what we teach our children – to bless and not to curse, to love and not to hate, to live and not to die. But perhaps they will ask me what it is like to be a settler. And therein lies the problem. I am a settler but how can I make the BBC understand that we are all settlers – those who live in Maale Adumim and those who live in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. That is what Jews were commanded to do – we settle this land, our land.
We have no interest in taking away the rights of others; we want only to live – to watch our grandchildren bless us; to watch our daughters celebrate their birthdays and watch our sons live their lives. Like Shylock, I am human and I am a Jew. I am a settler and a mother. I am an Israeli and a writer, a grandmother and a wife. There are so many facets of my life – how many can BBC correctly portray? I know – it isn’t about me. It’s about Maale Adumim – but you see, my city has so many facets too – it is an Israeli city, welcoming people from all over the world – from the United States, from Russia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, France, England, Australia, Libya, Ethiopia, Poland, Argentina, Canada and so many other nations. And there are those who have lived here all their lives – children of people who can mark their lives by the generations who lived here in this land before them.
If BBC comes to Maale Adumim and they twist what we have built, it is their loss. The story of the Middle East is in that child’s gesture, in the culture that raises them. Yes, my sons have served in the army. One son has been called to war twice.
If you want to understand Maale Adumim; if you want to really show our lives…our community is an open book…it’s all there – all out in the open. We are proud of what we have built and how we welcome guests to our city. Come as a guest, see the beauty we have built in the desert.
But please – if you want to educate your audience, leave agendas behind. Come SEE my city, not through the eyes of what others don’t have but rather what we have built. No Palestinian was denied land, schooling, health care or opportunities in the building of Maale Adumim. Rather, our city has created opportunities for Palestinians and if there had been no intifada, if it was safe for Israelis to travel into their neighborhoods (as it is safe for them to travel into our city), we would likely be purchasing more products from them.
Those who have lived in Maale Adumim for 15-20 years remember buying from the Arabs on a regular basis. And yet, a neighbor of mine was lynched in Azariya, just to the left of our city, because he thought it was still safe to go there.
So much I want to say; so many impressions I want them to get. It’s almost like trying to swim upstream against the current of so many instances of anti-Israel reporting that I could easily give up, give in. And yet, despite many warnings, even a note from a friend that the mayor of the city has decided not to give BBC an interview, I have agreed to meet them.
Anne Frank said that despite what was being done to her in the midst of World War II, she still believed in the decency, the essential goodness of man. It’s an amazing concept, especially coming from a child in the midst of hell. I can’t help remembering that she died in Bergen-Belsen in a world that honored its silence.
Not a good feeling.
BBC is coming. Am I a fool for hoping that this time they will come not only with cameras but with open minds?