Easier to bring Arabs and Jews together in marriage than on Facebook

If love conquers all, perhaps intermarriage is the answer to the Arab-Israeli conflict

I’ve had enough of the Facebook and email battles between Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs. It’s depressing.

I always hear the same refrain from my wife, Alison:

Why are you wasting your time? Arabs and Jews are NEVER going to get along!

What about us? I counter. I just can’t believe Arabs and Jews hate each other so much we spend all our time bashing each other, blaming each other, challenging each other, “negatizing” each other (making each other look negative), and pretending we do no wrong.

Why can’t they be like us? I always conclude, never satisfied and never with a good answer either.

I tried to create a place on Facebook to bring together Arabs and Jews who are married, but it’s so dead. Yet I know many Arabs and Jews who are married.

So what’s the problem? Could it be that Arabs and Jews hate each other so much that the ones who do marry don’t want to associate themselves with the reality of our societies’ relations?

We have five couples, yet I take questions almost once every week from Jews and Arabs who are planning to get married and always ask me for advice. (Advice from me? I’ve been married three times — I still get one more, as an Arab, if this one doesn’t work. But Alison makes it work.)

The question I am most asked from people who email is like this question I received recently from Rachel:

My boyfriend is Palestinian. We live in London. We want to get married but I am worried that his relatives won’t like me because I am Jewish. What do we do?

Well, I am no Ann Landers, but I was happy to offer my advice. That’s what I do. I get paid to tell people my opinion. I never understood why more Arabs haven’t figured out how much fun it is to give your opinion and get paid for it as a journalist and columnist. They’re missing out.

Anyway, I told “Rachel” that when Alison and I got married we didn’t have a problem at all. Sure, there were some eyebrows raised, but Arabs and Jews have bushy eyebrows so it’s hard to tell if they are raised or just need to be trimmed.

Does Middle-East peace begin at home? (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)
Does Middle-East peace begin at home? (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

I lampoon my marriage in my standup comedy act (which is too costly for anyone to host these days because of high-priced airline tickets and increased Arab-Jewish animosities), I told her. And it was funny. All the Arabs and the Jews actually sat across from each other. Then again, that’s how people sit at weddings. The family of the groom on one side, and the family of the bride on another. So the room would be divided between Arabs and Jews because she has no Arab relatives and I have no Jewish relatives. Makes sense. But still very fun to satirize.

“Love conquers all,” I wrote. “The truth is, who cares what any of the relatives think if you and the sweetie are in love? You’re not going to live with your relatives, are you? Go for it.”

Then again, if love conquers all then maybe intermarriage is the answer to the Arab-Israeli conflict. We marry each other. Maybe that’s why both sides have laws and societal pressures preventing those kinds of matches.

Alison and I have the best life. We have dinners that bring together the best of both sides. Our people hate each other so much that even when I am mad at Alison, or she is mad at me, compared to the intensity of the hatred between our peoples, our anger still looks like love.

I have to say the moments of anger have been few and far between. Why? Maybe because our people hate each other so much that deep down we compensate unconsciously to feel better about each other. Maybe we watch TV and all we see is the anger and hatred between our peoples and it makes us want to be better than the rest of “them.”

Clearly, I don’t have the answer. It just works. If I did have the answer, maybe we’d have more the five members on our “Arabs and Jews Married” Facebook group.

About the Author
Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist and former Chicago political City Hall reporter. His father is from Jerusalem and mother from Bethlehem. A Christian, Hanania's wife, Alison, is Jewish. He has two children, Carolyn Haifa, from a previous marriage, and Aaron, who is Russian Jewish. Hanania writes regularly for Creators Syndicate on Middle East issues and for the Saudi Gazette every Sunday. He is the managing editor of The Arab Daily News online ( During more than 35 years in journalism, he has also hosted several live radio talk shows. He performed standup comedy with the Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour, lampooning his Arab-Jewish marriage, and is the author of several books including "Arabs of Chicagoland" (2005), a historical look at Arab settlement in Chicago, and “I’m Glad I Look Like a Terrorist: Growing up Arab in America” (1996, 2006), which humorously explores his experience growing up Arab in America.
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