Photo: Reuters
'Why aren't we seeing mass protests of solidarity in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem?'
Photo: Reuters
Why is Israel keeping mum?
Op-ed: Israelis should overcome fear of change, raise their voices in support of Egyptian civil society
CAIRO – Most of you were born in Israel or spent most of your life there, but you don’t speak your country's second language and the language of hundreds of millions of its neighbors. You could, of course, blame Israel's educational establishment for not forcing you to study Arabic in school. But to be quite honest, when you did have the opportunity to study either Arabic or French, Spanish and German, what did you choose?


It's easier and more convenient to ignore the Middle Eastern "neighborhood," and see this geographical location as a historic mistake or punishment. The question is: Is it wise?


Israel is not and will never be an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, like Cyprus or Malta. Israel is located in the heart of the Middle East, and we all want it to stay here. But in order to guarantee the chances of staying, Israelis must start communicating with their surroundings, and mainly understand it, regardless of political opinions. Acclimation in the Middle East does not mean assimilation or cultural surrender. It is simply a precondition for any future coexistence, in any diplomatic solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict.


Quite a few young Egyptians, members of the civil camp, have asked me in recent days why Israel is keeping mum in light of the recent events in their country. The local press has been filled with reports on Israel's support for the Muslim Brotherhood and the yearning for ousted President Mohamed Morsi expressed by Israeli commentators, who are experts on the Middle East more or less like Barack Obama or John Kerry, mostly because they don't understand what is being said there.


Change is also hope for all of us

Most Egyptians took their media reports literally. Those I spoke to included some who noticed the Israeli government's silence and did not rush to see every writer of a column in an Israeli paper as an official spokesperson. And yet, they repeated their question: Why is Israel keeping mum?


I explained that the Israeli government has no choice. If it stands by one party or another, it will immediately be accused of being the source of all of Egypt's troubles since the days of the Pharaohs. Most Egyptians are anyway accustomed to blaming Israel for everything.


But Israel takes pride in being a democracy. The only real democracy in the Middle East. If so, then why doesn’t the Israeli civil society raise its voice in support of the Egyptian civil society? Why aren't we seeing mass protests of solidarity in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem? How can it be that Israelis don't understand that what has been taking place in the Arab world in the past two and a half years is an opportunity to break boundaries and psychological barriers and convey to our neighbors a message of affinity, of understanding?


I have experienced all stages of the Egyptian revolution, to this very day. I have been deeply impressed by the willingness of quite a few Egyptians to fight for their principles, in an admirable and inspirational manner. There are many phenomena in revolutionary Egypt which concern and alarm me. Mainly, the anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments spreading across all sectors of society, even – and perhaps mainly – among the elites.


Nonetheless, I would like to express my appreciation for the Egyptian people, from the bottom of my heart, for expelling Mubarak's corruption, for opposing a military regime and for toppling a dark religious regime.


I feel close to the Egyptian people and I am sure there are many other Israelis who feel the same way. It's time for them to raise their voices too. We should not be scared of every change taking place around us. Change is also hope for something better for all of us, Jews and Arabs alike.



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