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The Other’s Other

Reflections and Opacities in an Arab College in Israel

Helen Paloge

A challenge, a mission, a hope for a better life for all in an embattled country. This was the author’s vision in The Other’s Other. The challenge turned out to be greater and different than imagined; the mission more exasperating; the hope, more complicated. The book offers a new perspective on the problematic encounter between Jewish and Arab Israelis through the experience of a Jewish lecturer at an Arab college in an Arab city in Israel. The author’s unique insights into Arab Israeli culture gleaned from conversations with staff and students, students’ work, and everyday contact offer a window on the often conflicting feelings; the ambiguities, ambivalent identities, and layers of reality; the questions, doubts and dilemmas that mark the struggle of Arabs and Jews living in one country. It is also a meditation on the rewards and difficulties of discovering and accepting the other – and oneself as the other’s other. Of coexistence.

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Chapter 3: Freedom

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C H A P T E R T H R E E Freedom For many of my Muslim students, the desire for freedom is very strong despite the declarations of religious principles. I was curious what Rafa would do if she could get away from the confining gaze of her community, if she were living somewhere totally different. I pushed her to consider what she’d change, other than her clothes. She simply answered, “Maybe I’d become more free.” “In what way?” I insisted. “Doing what I want. Maybe I will have a makeover,” she laughed. “I think if I’m close to my God, my clothes don’t matter. There are women who are dressed like me, even all covered, but do many bad things. I think that I have a white heart. I think that my God loves me because I don’t do anything bad. Now I think that God’s love does not depend on my clothes or what I wear on my head. I think the most important thing is what’s in my heart, but it’s written in the Qur’an that we must cover our heads and wear loose clothes. That’s why I wear this,” she said, looking down at herself and lightly touching her head covering. “But the clothes don’t reflect us.…” For many other of my Arab women students, the desire for freedom is not strong enough to keep them from the sacrifice they say, and believe, they will gladly make. Janaan insisted that things have changed for...

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