It is said that there is discrimination between Jews and Arabs in Israel and that we do not treat our Arab citizens fairly. Recently, however, it dawned upon me that this is not the case; also I do not get fair treatment but I am not an Arab. In fact I am a British oleh and have lived in Israel for over forty years.
Some years ago I became sick and eventually I was recognized by the National Insurance Institute of Israel as Disabled. I wandered the hills homeless for years but was then re-housed in an Amidar apartment. Amidar, the National Housing Company of Israel Ltd., is a state owned housing company that provides housing mainly for the lower socio-economic sector.
Previously, like many Anglos who come to Israel, I had lived in an Anglo orientated and religious community and everything seemed rosy. Now, however, I live in slums with the low life of Israel. They are a people I had not come into contact with before and I am quite sure that anyone reading this article does not know about the Israel I live in. The people are mostly ‘down and outs’ and consist of a mixture of Ethiopian single mothers, Russians and the 2nd generation of North African immigrants who came to Israel in the Fifties. A non-Jew once asked me, “Are you sure they are Jews?”
I am now discriminated against because I live in the lower socio-economic sector and, like my neighbours, we live in rough conditions. The rain water seeps through our ceilings, we breathe the stench of mould – young single mothers with babies and elderly alike – water gushes down the public stairwell, the structure is cracking, the pipes are rotting and the pavement is broken. We have pleaded with Amidar but they do not treat us fairly – and we are all Jews.
I have Israeli Bedouin friends who once lived in one of the many illegal townships in the Negev desert. They were relocated by the government of Israel and now live in American style villas. In fact, I have many Israeli Arab friends who live in beautiful homes and who are not complaining. I believe that the treatment of those Arab citizens who complain is no worse than that of some Jewish citizens in Israel.
I recently received a telephone call from an Arab friend in the Palestinian territories. He called to tell me that his mother was seriously ill in a Ramallah hospital and needed to be transferred to the Sheba Medical Centre at Tel Hashomer urgently. She was transferred to the Israeli hospital and I visited her there a number of times. I witnessed the kind attention and professional care she received from all the staff and medical team. She successfully underwent vascular neurosurgery and when she was well again the hospital arranged that she was transferred back home in a taxi.
I must admit I felt proud to be Israeli for the first time in a very long while.