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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 4: Meeting

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C H A P T E R F O U R Meeting Our first staff party was hosted by Hakim and his wife, Lamees, in their village. The village is basically the home of their vastly extended family. This is how Arab villages are settled in the main—by families. Sometimes there are other families that move in, either through marriage or by particular circumstance. These extended families can run so far and thin that neighbors with the same name might have nothing beyond a genetic connection. Some branches of the family are wealthier, stronger, better connected than others. They assume a certain amount of patronage over their relatives, but it is at their discretion, based primarily on economic considerations, or other, usually more transiently opportunistic reasons. Despite the myths about tribal clans being a tightly knit unit, this is mostly so when they are warring. Otherwise, they often fall into a hierarchical, and often cruelly indifferent social pattern. In the town where our college is situated, for example, the family that basically owns and completely runs the college also controls a variety of other institutions, stores, gas stations, and major business ventures in town and elsewhere. As such, it is a chief economic, social and political influence. Nevertheless, when I asked Talal, who is a member of that family, why the discrepancy in the wealth of its various branches, he laughed. “We are the same family, yes. But there’s no connection. We’re talking about an extended family, not a...

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