by Zakaria Fellah
Until not so long ago, a nation and its citizens were not even named because they simply did not have an earthly existence for most Arabs.
Soon enough I realized that many of the “Zionists” spoke my dialectal Arabic. Many knew my country better than myself and could tell stories of their ancestors who had thrived before I even saw the light
It was one of the many anachronistic taboos prevailing in my part of the world…Millions of Arabs were not allowed to publicly acknowledge the existence of that far-away, mysterious, and too many times promised land.
Arabs called it the “Zionist Entity”! The Eternal enemy, a land where Evil was presiding and enslaving our “Palestinian brethren”.
Were Algerian schoolchildren so mischievous to deserve such horrific tales? Our teachers in elementary school, most of them members or sympathizers of the Egyptian, Syrian, or Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, believed so, and as such, they imposed on us the hatred of the “Zionists”, because the “Zionists” were not human beings but rather ferocious beasts whose fate would ultimately be sealed by Allah...
I grew up, studied in the best schools and universities overseas, learned different languages, traveled extensively, and became an adult…with an open mind.
However, the “Zionist Entity” remained a mystery for me…From time to time, the opportunity presented itself where I could recognize the language of the “Zionists”. I would stare at them with curiosity and bewilderment…After all, weren’t they the evil people who stole the land of our brethren?
I must confess my disappointment when I encountered my first “Zionist”. He was no different than me. His physical appearance seemed all human: a head, two arms, two legs…Nothing suspicious there. And he was not even biting a dagger between his jaws. Strange…The Muslim Brothers of my elementary school taught me otherwise.
Soon enough I realized that many of the “Zionists” spoke my dialectal Arabic. Many knew my country better than myself and could tell stories of their ancestors who had thrived before I even saw the light…. I was born in Constantine, the home of the largest “Zionist” community in Algeria for hundreds of years…
It was not the end of my surprises. These “Zionists” started to look exactly like me. There must be a trick.
So I thought the only way to unmask them was to visit the “Zionist Entity” myself and explore their hideout….
In 2006, I took an El AL flight out of New York. Direction: Tel Aviv.
The plane was full of “Zionists”. I felt nervous, not at ease. What would happen to me if they, I mean the “Zionists”, would unmask me instead? After all, I was probably the only Muslim, Arab, and holder of the “truth of the final revelation” traveling incognito on a journey of a lifetime.
I was relieved when we landed at Tel Aviv airport, named after their first leader, a certain David Ben-Gurion…I knew he gave a lot of hard time to the Arabs back in the 40’s.
On my way to Jerusalem, my eyes swallowed passionately anything that was offered to them: the landscape, so similar to my native Algeria, the human buzz…
The highway was impeccable. The drive didn’t last more than an hour. And here I was, in Jerusalem of all places…The city of the 3 monotheistic religions. No word could genuinely describe the emotions I felt when I smelled the air of Jerusalem.
So far, so good…
I spent one full week in the land of the “Zionists”…I made sure to visit everything in Jerusalem: The Western Wall, the Temple Mount, the Saint-Sepulcher. The whole city was an open book dating 5000 years…
I went to Cesarea of Herod the Great and had a picnic overlooking the blue Mediterranean Sea and the Roman ruins; I visited the art galleries of Tel Aviv and hooked up with the carefree local art scene; I enjoyed the fresh St-Peter’s fish in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee; I got drunk with the robust red wine from the Golan; I got all muddy in the Dead Sea; I admired the Judea desert from Masada; I lunched in a kibbutz…I also visited Nazareth, the city of Christ and listened carefully to the Communist Arab mayor denouncing the “occupation”. I asked him whether he would gladly move to a future Palestinian State…No answer was given. But I can guess it.
But what about the original purpose of my trip you may ask? Uncovering the “Zionists”, remember?
Oh yes, them!!
I don’t call them “Zionists” any longer. They were never the “Zionists” for me in the first place.
They are human beings first and foremost. They worked hard and fought five wars to make their “entity” a self-reliant and a highly performing one. When man wins over adversity, when the desert is no longer an obstacle to abundance, when one can enjoy bananas grown in a kibbutz by the Dead Sea, I call it a miracle made reality because human progress is within our grasp.
The “Zionists” call themselves Israelis. They are proud of their country. And rightly so..
I am proud to count them among my friends. And I have no shame to state my admiration for their achievements. I have one big regret though: we, Arabs, did not embrace the same path of progress, human effort, and modernity like our cousins. Instead, we preferred the path of delusional and nihilistic ideologies that led to decay, withdrawal, intolerance, and denial not only of the Israeli reality but of our own.
We blame our misfortunes and failures on the rest of the world, primarily, Israel. Instead of learning from our setbacks, we turned our back to civilization by sowing the ground for the new prophets of the Islamo-fascists of Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, Boko haram and others…
But that’s another (sad) story…
So, am I a traitor, a sell-out, an apostate now? For those fanatics, I certainly am the worst pupil of the Muslim Brotherhood class. And I am proud of it!
From a super-light Muslim…Shalom Israel!
London, 21 April 2015
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