With a handful of positive remarks on my leaving, I was on the plane to Tel Aviv via Istanbul. Apart from business men frequently flying to Israel, I noticed Israeli Arab families waiting along with Israeli and Turkish Jews at the terminal. Interesting, I thought: Why this widespread image of segregation? On the plane covered Muslim and covered Jewish women were sitting nearby, again interesting, I thought, and being in Israel I asked myself: Why should it be ‘interesting’ at all as Israel is a democratic state.
Besides, I did not see segregation on the streets in Jerusalem or on the beach in TLV. Israeli Arabs were soaking up the sun freely, relaxed like everybody else. I didn’t see anybody judging their covering style with looks. Nightlife in TLV showed me another example; female Israeli Arabs were promenading freely among other Israelis with all freedom their fellow citizens showed. This I noticed on my first day, and every other day I looked around, I saw similar situations and started asking myself: Where does this absolutely opposite image about Israeli Arabs not being free in Israel stem from?
Why do people think that Israeli Arabs live in slums, ostracized by the Israeli state? Like they live in modest houses, they live in Hollywood style villas, too. Why do people outside Israel think that there are no tattooed Arab brides getting married in strapless bridal gowns inside Israel? Why do people not know that Muslim girls and women can walk around in mini or hot pants in Israel? Why do people think the non-existing freedom for Muslim women allowed to drive cars in many Middle East countries does exist in Israel, too? And why do people think that in these situations they are looked down upon and discriminated against by their fellow Israeli citizens?
My question would be: Are we not poorly/falsely informed, excessively supported by the one-sided media outside Israel, and inherent dislike of Israel and Jewish people per se; prove me wrong reasonably if I should be unfairly wrong.
Having worked in Istanbul and having studied at Istanbul Bilgi University, with educated and liberal circles around me, I came across similar preconceptions and false images in my time there, intensified by the dramatic Mavi Marmara coverage on Turkish media. I am not denouncing conceptions of my Turkish acquaintances, still I wish to point out my experience, underlining that in Europe ideas about Israel are unreal all the same – take it as my strong disagreeing with both.
I haven’t studied political science, am neither an expert on it, still I don’t have to be to speak my mind on this general and international misconception, as “the [entire] Israel issue” – as it’s often being referred to in European and world media – needs you to independently think for yourself and see daily life in Israel itself rather than judge from your armchair. It’s also possible that some of you might conclude: She’s Jewish; she’s subjective and takes sides with Israel – that’s irrelevant, but what I find relevant is: Every righteous, reasonable, open-minded, educated, and globally interested non-Jewish individual can widen his/her horizon with a self-made experience on site without solely believing in what European and world politicians, governments, international organizations, etc. do actually say about “the Israel issue” – just like you most probably wouldn’t listen to every car dealer and shop assistant trying to convince you that this car and these shoes are the ‘right’ choice for you.