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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 8: The Split

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C H A P T E R E I G H T The Split Waltzing with Bashir1 An Israeli soldier is lifted off his feet by the flight of bullets bursting from his machine gun. He dances crazily to the tune of a Chopin Polonaise in the middle of a ravaged street in this animated khaki-and-black camouflaged Beirut in the throes of war. We are there—our soldiers—figures part-primitive and cartoon-like, part-realistic, shooting at whomever’s shooting at us, shooting so as not to get shot, shooting because that’s what’s being done, shooting like breathing—automatic, rhythmic, constant and unquestioned. The soldiers—as human as the penetrating blue celluloid eyes of its “hero” will allow—exude a predominant sense of fear. When the fear hangs back, confusion is foregrounded. When the confusion subsides, it is ignorance prevails, with little effort to understand the little that can be understood. And when all else fails, a madness takes over that looks like heroism but is no more than waltzing with Bashir, dancing with the dead, shooting off in a paroxysm of euphoric dissociation from reality. One of the themes of the film is the ability—and the need—to dissociate, to forget and then to recreate memories. These actions serve no purpose but to cleanse the system—human and institutional—of all guilt, blame and responsibility. Scenes of war, revisited in nightmares and memories, are replaced by visions, observations by hallucinations, real people by cartoon shapes of themselves. All hiding, all camouflaged....

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