Photo: AP
Weizman and Arafat
Photo: AP

Things Palestinians and Israelis share

We have the same noses, accents and blame everyone else for our problems, Ray Hanania writes

It’s too easy to come up with the things Palestinians and Israelis hate about each other. So I thought about trying to identify those things that might help bring us together, like things that we share.


I got the idea from the Network of Spiritual Activism conference I attended last week in San Francisco, where I was invited to entertain 1,350 activists with my Palestinian-Jewish standup comedy.


Humor is definitely something Palestinians and Jews share.


The conference was hosted by Tikkun and its founder, anti-war legend and the author of “Healing Israel, Healing Palestine,” Rabbi Michael Lerner.


So many people came up after the show and said they are so tired of hearing about the things that keep our peoples apart. They want to hear things that might bring us together. We share so much, we can certainly share the Holy Land.


Here are a few things we share.


We both eat a lot. A recent study showed that 39 percent of Israelis are overweight. In the Arab World, they measure it by how many Arabs are thin.


I have a theory about all this. The more conservative you are, Palestinian or Jewish, the fatter you want your wives and children. The more liberal, the more you are drawn into the Western image of anorexia.


So our mothers force feed us like ducks to produce a human version of foie gras.


Semites and food


We also claim the same foods as our own. So like the debate over the Wall or the Fence, which people in the middle simply call the Barrier, I’ll refer to Arab and Jewish food simply as the Shinui Party Platter, which offers something for everyone.


We both bring food on the airplane. And, we eat the food during the flight, not before or after. It’s not about being kosher, halal or safe, but about wanting something that tastes good. Airline food is like cardboard with salt on it.


Nothing beats fruit, dates, corned beef or falafel.


The downside is Middle East food has a heavy odor. I remember my mom opening a cellophane covered dish of grape leaves on a flight, once, and everyone jumped from their seat with frightened looks on their faces, the way many airline passengers react when they see me enter the plane wearing my kafeyeh.


Upon entering the plane, security often asks me straight out, “Do you have any weapons of mass destruction on you?”


To which I reply, “I am a weapon of mass destruction. I just ate a whole bowl of tabouli.”


It won’t be grape leaves forcing the other passengers to their feet during this flight.


We both are emotional. Very emotional. We love and hate each other all in the same moment. And we usually will say something kinder to a stranger than we will to members of our own family.


Overbearing moms


We both have overbearing mothers whose constant doting turns many of us into either physicians or psychotics. The line that separates genius from insanity is indeed very fine with Palestinians and Jews.


We both look a lot alike. Same skin color, same accents, same noses and we’re both cheap. That’s why we need a wall to keep us apart. In fact, at airports in Europe, Palestinians and Israelis are often mistaken for Pakistanis.


We both love to give advice, but we never take it ourselves.


We both blame everyone else for our problems, rather than ourselves.


We both have witty little derogatory sayings about each other that are intended to hurt, like, the favorite of the Jews: “Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” And the favorite of the Palestinians, “Jews never miss an opportunity to force Palestinians to miss an opportunity.”


Finally, we both love parables, like the one about the frog and the scorpion at the lake.


The scorpion asks the frog to give him a ride across the lake (which symbolizes peace). The frog says sure, but cautions, “I trust you won’t sting me because we will both drown.” Halfway across, the scorpion stings the frog and before they both die, the shocked frog asks why? The scorpion, not very creatively, replies, “Because this is the Middle East.”


The only problem with that story, of course, is that we both think we’re the frog.


Ray Hanania writes humor, satire and occasional analysis for A longtime peace activist whose family originates in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Hanania can be reached at He’d love to hear what you think Palestinians and Israelis share.


פרסום ראשון: 07.25.05, 20:37
 new comment
This will delete your current comment