Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

Our Neighbours

Exercise bike in our basement; photo by Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

We bought an exercise bike via the internet. We chose the option to have it assembled rather than doing the work ourselves. My OH is very technically savvy and loves tinkering with machinery and equipment, but the prospect of being responsible for assembling complex exercise apparatus was daunting. And besides, even at the age of 83, he’s a busy person, and preferred to let someone else undertake that onerous duty.

On the appointed day a van drew up outside our house, and from it emerged three young men, all wearing black T-shirts and black trousers. They maneuvered the rather large carton containing the equipment into our house and down the stairs to our basement. Once there, they promptly unpacked the contents and sat down on the floor around it, inserting screws and bolts in their places, turning wheels to and fro and getting the bike assembled. As they talked and laughed among themselves we realized that they were speaking in Arabic. After they left it dawned on us that, like the Hamas terrorists, they could have overpowered and killed us.

The following week we had the air-conditioning units with which we heat and cool the various rooms of our house checked. We have had them for a long time and it is advisable to make sure that they are working well with regard to energy efficiency and effective operation. The two young men who came to do the work arrived with a box of tools and a small ladder enabling them to gain access to the units, which are installed high up on a wall of each room. They, too, were Arabs, as we ascertained when they spoke to one another. They worked in all the rooms of the house and went away, having done a good job.

The person who delivered and installed our new drier (we’d had our previous one for almost 50 years) was an Arab. The people who work in many of our local stores are Arabs. All of them provide polite, honest and efficient service.

When I need to collect my prescription medicines for the local medical clinic I am almost invariably attended to by one of the Arab pharmacists, both male and female, who work there. The same applies to many of the nurses and even some of the doctors who provide my various medical needs in this and other clinics. Not to mention the many physicians and surgeons in our hospitals.

At the moment, as a result of the war and the Hamas massacre of 7th October, Arab residents of the West Bank are not allowed to enter Israel. The builder on whom we rely for the various repair and construction jobs that we have implemented over the years told us over the phone that he cannot enter Israel just now. So our building work will have to wait until that situation is remedied.

The restaurants and shops in the neighboring village of Abu Ghosh are suffering from the lack of customers as Israelis have reduced their visits there in the last three months. Whenever my OH and I go to eat in one of them we are greeted like old friends and given delicious food and excellent service.

All of the Arabs who provide the services I have mentioned live in nearby villages which are within Israel proper. They come into our homes, deal with the matter they have been trained to provide, clear up the debris and return to their homes. They do not kill us or harm us. At a time when Israel is at war with Hamas in Gaza, many Israeli Arabs (mainly Druze) are an integral part of the IDF and are fighting side-by-side with Jewish soldiers. Although terrorists have used vehicles to harm the general population, such incidents are relatively rare. After all, similar attacks could in theory happen at any time anywhere in Israel.

It is my firm belief that most Arabs wish to live in peace with us, their neighbors, earning a living, making a home, and creating a life that provides security and prosperity for their families. The exceptions who use our good will to our – and their – detriment will not prevail, and in the long run logic — and peace — will prevail.

About the Author
I was born and brought up in England. I am a graduate of the LSE and the Hebrew University. I have lived in Israel since 1964. I am an experienced translator, editor and writer.
Related Topics
Related Posts