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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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Epilogue: Glimpses of change: The 7 fat years?

Extract

The Other’s Other172 settled on trying to tone down the rhetoric in the critical sections, and hoping for the best. I was also going to finish the book in a distinctly nationalistic frame of mind. My disappointments at the college, my frustrations with the mission I’d set for myself, the difficulties in dealing with issues that put my integrity as a teacher in question, all combined with a defensive pride in my people, my Israeli children, our army and our national project here in Israel in the face of the incessant and one-sided barrage of denouncements that have been raining down on us like so many Kassam rockets from just about everywhere. This combination was threatening to bury in the bowels of the book any clean sentiment of hope for true coexistence. After all, if a mature optimist turned dour, if a teacher lost her incentive, if a colleague lost her trust, what future could be expected between our peoples? And personally, could I live with myself as a bigoted, anti-democratic chauvinist motivated by mistrust, disgust and despair? If anything changed that—changed my mood, at least, since I still don’t know when I will pen that final full stop—it was my return to school after the summer break. I have two new classes whose combined 80 students I’m curious to get to know. I have my senior class, whose more imaginative and creative side I hope to help plumb in my Creative Writing course. And I have my...

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