Welcome to my world, where Palestinians and Jews actually live together

I’m Palestinian and my wife, Alison, is Jewish. We have a Russian Jewish son who we adopted. He goes to Hebrew school at a synagogue about 20 miles from our home. He’s going to have his Bar Mitzvah when he’s 13, in two years, though I am not sure whether I should do it here in Chicago where we live or in Jerusalem at the Wailing Wall.

We have a fascinating life, although I am much more higher profile than my wife who prefers to remain low key. I convinced her to let me do this blog to share our life because it is so perfect. We get along great. Yes. A Jew and a Palestinian. We rarely fight, although last night when we were both watching Bob Simon’s 60 Minutes report on Palestinian Christians (me with my Kiffeyah on my head and her waving two Israel flags), we did have a moment.

But “moments” in our life are not bad. We exchanged a few harsh words. I said it was outrageous how Israel mistreats Palestinian Christians. She said the Christians were the victims of Islamic extremists and fanatics. I said she was wrong. She gave me a dirty look. Aaron continued to play the MLB2K12 baseball game on his iPad nearby.

It made me wonder. Are we being good parents that we haven’t dragged our son into the fray to take sides? He’s Jewish but he could be very sympathetic to the Palestinians. Many Jews are. Or, he could become a settler. The Russian Israelis — in my firsthand experience — have been the most harsh and angry.

As the story completed — it was about 14 minutes — we both looked at each other and then started to talk nicely. I love Alison and she loves me.

I don’t know who broke the ice first after the story ended, but I said, “Hey sweetie pie. I didn’t mean to criticize you. The Christians are not being treated fairly in Israel and in the West Bank, but I understand Christians are not treated very fairly in the Arab World either. You know how many of the Arabs already hate me because I write a column for an Israeli newspaper and blog for an online Israeli news site.”

She said something along the lines that she “understands.” I wouldn’t want to mis-characterize her words and start a fight. That’s how we have avoided fighting over the years, but listening to each other and not distorting our words. She believes what she believes and I believe what I believe. We live together in peace. And we both want the same thing, which is what we should never lose site of. Palestinians and Israelis can live next to each other, in a State of Israel and in a State of Palestine. It’s the politicians who mess it all up and the fanatics who keep it from happening. She does not like to see Palestinians or Israelis killed, and I don’t either. We oppose violence and believe that there should be fairness.

Can we get rid of the extremists on both sides? Can we get rid of the hatred on both sides?

Instead of focusing on that, we focus on what’s good. And we hugged, both wishing that the Christian Palestinians could live in peace in Bethlehem, Taybeh, Nazareth, Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, and in East Jerusalem, too. And that violence against Israelis and Jews would end. And that the ugly concrete wall would come down. And they could live like a family should live.

Together would be ideal, but for now, we’d both be happy to see Jews and Arabs live separately, so they would stop hurting each other. Just stop calling each other names. Stop blaming each other. Stop violating each others’ rights.

Can Israelis and Palestinians do that?

We can. And we do it well, even when the big bad ugly news media steps in to stir up trouble.

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 (www.TheArabDailyNews.com). 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.