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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 6: Revelations

Extract

C H A P T E R S I X Revelations So, I’m envisioning the end of the honeymoon. I’ve already seen the warts, the flaccidity that was obscured by the sweet talk and posing; the temper behind the smile; the fingers crossed behind the back as the promises rolled out. I’m the troublemaker, so dubbed in semi-jest, demi-fondness by my colleagues. I raise issues of foul play or blind eyes and poke at them till I’m the one that’s raw. I can’t lay off them when I feel I’ve been made a fool of, that my role as teacher and educator at the college is no more than that—a role in what suddenly looks to me like a charade of higher education; when it becomes apparent that I stand in useless opposition to a system whose paralysis is virtually insurmountable in the face of Middle Eastern tradition, patriarchal power plays and moneyed interests. I try to grab onto the justification accepted among my peers that will enable me to let things go. Yes, I tell myself, especially around the end of semesters when final grades are pending and troubles with students start popping like our squirting cucumber plants. I am teaching those who will learn, I remind myself. Any education they can get from me is to their advantage. It will benefit them, and therefore the society in which we both live. Grades and bureaucracy are in place at least as much to ensure that students are serious...

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