You are more Lebanese than you think...

My husband and I have a good friend whom I met on my birthright trip to Israel, and who eventually was my fellow board member at our campus Chabad House. After college, he worked as an Arabic translator for the US Army in Iraq. He is now studying for his master's degree in Beirut, and he'll probably get his doctorate in Middle Eastern politics in Israel. Altogether, he's a pretty incredible person.

Anyway, it often strikes me that we live SO close together... if our coastal highway and train service didn't end before Rosh HaNikra, we could probably get to our friend's apartment in a few hours.

He reads this blog, but for some reason he can't post comments directly onto it. The other day, he wrote a bunch of comments on the version of this blog posted on my personal Facebook account.

On a post about the recent heavy rains: Ouf. The water was about half as much up here but we have the same problem.

On the post about Isra-fab decorating:  I broke my camera recently, but you will get pictures of my VERY yafefiyah apt soon. I was looking at what you were putting up and the similarities are eerie.

On the post about medusot: They're called "Medusin" here, but they all make their way up north!

On the post about not giving away information: It's a very similar dynamic here. Though facebook is an exception. In fact there is a saying here: "What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas, but what happens in Beirut goes straight to Facebook!"

(My favorite comment!) On the post about what's missing in America: We have the mop issue here too. In fact when I moved into my first apt with an American roommate here, when we went to clean he found the squeegee and said "I don't know what to do..." I responded "Wait! I have a friend from Israel that wrote a blog post on just this problem!" (I really did.) and explained based on your blog just how to use it!

Striking commonalities, no?

People from the blog Israelity (which talks about Israeli culture) have been working on world report videos for CNN. I agree with them that the most striking comment from this video is that the Jewish and Arab youths making a music video together look so SIMILAR:

I don't want to downplay the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or even the difficulty of making peace with Lebanon. I doubt I could meet a member of, say, Hamas or Hezbollah and glibly celebrate our similarities. Our country faces deep, difficult issues, and I am not comfortable making many of the concessions that Palestinians demand (or that Syrians demand in exchange for peace with Israel, which would lead to peace with Lebanon), and I see most of Israel's security measures as justified.

But the fact is that it's so easy to dehumanize any Muslim country as the "enemy" in this conflict, despite the fact that we're both sprinkling our pizzas with Zaatar and eating watermelon with labaneh in the summer. (I just made the last one up, but I bet they do that it Lebanon too.) We experience the same weather. We watch the same imported American and British TV shows. I mean... at times, Israel really does feel like one country among neighbors. My blond, blue-eyed friend says that in Lebanon (as opposed to Iraq) he is often mistaken for a native, and I guess I have a similar experience in Israel.

And yes, for the record, relations between Lebanon and Israel are not as fraught as Israeli-Palestinian relations. In fact, my friend says that there is deep discrimination against Palestinians in Lebanese society. But our two countries haven't exactly gotten along in recent years. I can't travel to Lebanon with an Israeli stamp on my American passport, let alone my Israeli passport. Lebanon is now upset at Israel for laying claim to hummus, and I got an anonymous comment on my hummus recipe informing me that hummus is Lebanese, not Israeli. (I didn't post the comment. To me, that's like claiming that Apple Pie isn't American because it has its origins in Europe. I don't think you need to have invented a food to have it be central to your culture.)

Maybe the more important point is that we're both swiping up hummus with our pitas.


  1. I absolutely agree!

    How annoying that your friend can't post comments directly onto your blog - how strange...

  2. yeah, we're not sure why that is... it could be some kind of odd firewall between Israel and Lebanon, or it could just be his computer.

  3. I've always been a fan of Lebanon's, and have regretted that the most likely friend Israel has in the region isn't really Israel's friend. Absent the interference of Hizbullah and Syria, however, and left to its own devices, I like to imagine Lebanon and Israel normalizing relations.

  4. Shimshonit, I agree. All of the Lebanese people I've met (mostly in the US) have been very open-minded and kind.

  5. Well, obviously they look alike, most of them are anglos.


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