Overview: In Israel
My Connections with Arab-Israelis
In 2007 I was introduced, through a twist of circumstances that seemed like fate, to Jamal Assadi. Jamal, his wife Dalia, and their six children are natives of Deir al Assad, Israel, an Arab village in the northern Galilee. Jamal has his Ph.D. in English literature from Newcastle-on-Tyne University and is the senior lecturer in the Department of English at the Teacher's College of Sakhnin, an Israeli-Arab institution.
Martha Moody and Jamal Assadi at the Deir al Assad town library, July 2010
Many Americans don't realize that the population of Israel is about 20% Arab, including Muslim and Christian Palestinians, Druse, and Bedouins. Jamal Assadi and his family are Muslim Palestinians.
Late in 2007 I visited the Assadi family and the College of Sakhnin wih a friend and one of my sons, and during that visit Jamal and Dalia and I cooked up a plan to perk up the summer for some children in their village. The project has continued every year since then, and now includes spring in Dayton, where students from Israel come to Ohio.
I do roll my eyes when people comment about this project as "peace-making" and speak of it as if it's all warm and happy and fun. In fact, this project can be a pain. (I think everyone with intimate experience of it would agree.) What has happened through the years is that there's a family feeling to the whole thing.
I think of Jamal and Dalia Assadi as my cousins in Deir al Assad, and other hosts and guests both in Deir al Assad and in Dayton feel as if they have found new relatives. Planning events is therefore a little like arranging a dinner for an extended family. People not invited (second cousins??) are upset, at the last minute Uncle X phones saying he WILL NOT sit near Cousin Y, one guest doesn't want to eat in a room if meat is served, and kids are crawling under the tables and fighting in the corners. But, like many family occasions, it just works out. The people you have sparred and eaten with are, well, family, and the connections and memories are amazing.
And, in the words of my friend and kettlebell partner Steve Coen: "There's no such thing as family fun for everyone."
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