Haaretz, Dec. 22, 2016

In an article by the writer and essayist Yehoshua Radler-Feldman, written during his first months in Palestine (where he settled in 1907), and published in a newspaper in his native Galicia, he describes the unfamiliar landscape of his new home in Jaffa: “And around are the Arabs, members of our race! […] How close to us these people are! – At that moment I hear the voice of the Arab shamash [the term for a synagogue beadle]: Awaken for the worship of Allah! The mosque has a tower, and very high up there is a banister around the tower, which the shamash circles and utters his cry to every wind of the winds of the universe, hastening the believers to prayer and supplications, five times a day. The voice begins with an ‘oy-vey,’ proceeds to a ‘shteyger,’ before moving on to a ‘hamelekh’ trill [reminiscent of chants with those names] from the High Holiday services, which penetrate your soul.”

[...] Adopting the Arab’s viewpoint allows him to challenge the network of images on which Zionist agricultural settlement was then based. Indeed, beginning with the Second Aliyah – the second wave of Jewish immigration to Palestine, 1904-14 – land purchases by the official Zionist institutions entailed the dispossession of the fellahin, who were the workers of the land in practice even if not its owners under Ottoman land laws [....]

R. Binyamin’s response was to describe a visit he had paid to Hebron after the period of the clashes. It was a trip to “a city that is wholly orient,” that houses those who are perceived as “others”: Arabs, Sephardi Jews (or, more accurately, Arab Jews) and ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazim. “In Jerusalem there was a clash, and in Hebron the Jews attended an Arab wedding and socialized with their intelligentsia,” R. Binyamin wrote.


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