I was three and a half years old when I saw my grandfather sitting outside the trench, listening to his small radio, and being very concerned. We spent the Six-Day War with grandpa and grandma at an immigrant transit camp north of Tel Aviv. There were no bomb shelters in the transit camp, of course, so my grandpa, like all other men, dug a trench for us.
My grandpa, just like many other grandparents at the time, used to listen to Arabic-language stations, mostly because of the music. Yet now, at the edge of the trench, the radio was talking about war, and the newscaster’s voice had a loud and festive quality to it that was difficult to define as “pleasant.”
Grandpa tried to tell us that he doesn’t believe a word, but everyone heard him choke up when he informed us that the Egyptians already conquered Tel Aviv, and that we shouldn’t think about traveling north, because the Syrians are already in Tiberius.
There’s something odd about thinking that an Arab army conquered Tel Aviv while you lie in a little pit in Herzliya, surrounded by aunts, some reading material, and piles of Tunisian sandwiches (which were prepared, as was customary in my family, based on the assumption that the war would last two years.)
In retrospect, this event was entrenched in my memory and in that of my family not as a time of terror and fear, but rather, as the ultimate proof of the dubious credibility (some will call it shameless tendency to lie) of our enemies.
Since then we’ve had quite a few opportunities to remember that war, in the trench, with the horrifying chatter of Voice of Cairo. So every time some Arab newscaster or spokesman boasts or whines, every time some Arab political leader or sheikh speaks with the familiar exaggerated passion, and again every murderer on their side becomes a noble hero and every move we make is akin to spreading uranium at the homes of babies, I recall that moment where grandpa finally allowed himself to switch to a different station. That was a beautiful moment.
‘Can’t believe one word they say’
So why am I telling you about the history of my family? Well, it appears that over the years, the problem of Arab credibility has turned from folklore to a strategic question and one of the main issues in the political debate on the question of peace. Regardless of whether it is nice to talk like that or not, or whether the words are uttered explicitly or not, the sentence “we can’t believe one word they say” keeps on hovering above the question of price tag, future, and borders.
And now, again we hear talk of a peace initiative, and again we see winds of hope, but also fear and anxiety. As usual. Yet it appears this is the first time when even naive civilians, Zionist patriots, mostly fear the credibility problem of the Israeli side. You can’t believe one word they say, we tell each other, but this time we’re looking inside, into our own home.
Or in other words, had my grandpa still been alive, and had his small radio still been working, I would have asked him to switch back to Voice of Damascus.