Sunday, January 29, 2006

Getting A Little Respect

Thinking about the interview in which the Hamas leader said "Israel respects us when we are strong, therefore it is likely we will have a long struggle." I couldn't help remember a story a neighbor of mine once told me back in the early seventies.

S.H. was working as a civilian for the IDF and often accompanied the officer in charge of the Southern Hebron Hills area on his travels. One day they dropped in to visit the Muktar (Leader) of the village of Adurayim half way between Hebron and Beersheva.

As they sipped the obligatory bitter sweet coffee and exchanged pleasantries it was clear that the Muktar held the military officer and the country he represented in disdain. As it was a very open and freewheeling conversation, my neighbor decided to join in and ask some questions that bothered him!

"Why do you hold Israel in such disdain? Before Israel took over the responsibility for your area you had no electricity, no running water, no health services! Since Israel took over you have all of these! Don't we deserve at least some begrudding respect for these?"

The Arab thought for a moment and then, through his interpreter who was obviously uncomfortable with being in the middle of this conversation, he answered.

"In this village they tell the story of a caravan traveling from Hebron to Egypt in the late 1980's that was ambushed by bandits somewhere between Hebron and Beersheva. When the news arrived in Beersheva, the Turkish government sent a patrol commanded by a Corporal to the area. When the unit could not find the bandits, they came to this village and selected the first twenty men they could find and strung them up in the street with all the villagers assembled. The Corporal informed us that the next time he would be sent out to punish bandits, he would string up fifty men!"

Sipping his coffee the Muktar waited for the story to sink in. Finally realizing that my friend still didn't understand, he continued.

"When the Turkish needed to take care of things, they sent a Corporal who strung up people indiscriminately in the streets. When you Jews captured this village, the next day I had Moshe Dayan himself sitting here drinking coffee with me, [trying to establish rapport/dialog]. I should respect the Israeli's? In this village we still talk about that Corporal, who notices which Jew comes for coffee. "