Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Health Advisory

Sept. 8, 2015:
Today we woke up to a sandstorm blanketing the entire country. In Arrabeh it is so thick streetlights are on at noon. I don’t know if it is done automatically or if our mayor still turns them on and off manually himself because of budgetary constraints. Regardless, it is obvious that somebody up there is upset with someone down here. So, who is doing this to whom? I’ll leave figuring out the angry party to others and invest some thought in figuring out who angered Him or Her. Since this all is happening in Israel and Palestine, let me try and guess who is to blame, Abbas or Netanyahu. Abbas is threatening to resign. I think that should bring a smile if not a snicker to the continence of the Gods. The first page headline in Haaretz warns of him disturbing the status quo with his forthcoming UN speech. No wonder he goes around with that permanent whimsical look in his eye. I recall a fellow worker at the Ministry of Health once threatening to revolt if he didn’t get a pay raise; he would start referring to himself as ‘Palestinian,’ he said. Would Abbas do that now?

In my judgment it must be the Israelis who are raising all the dust. I just shared an outrageous piece on my Facebook account about teaching the Arabic Language at Jewish schools in Israel. It turns out that it is all done under the auspices of Israel’s security apparatus and in the context of stopping terrorist acts by Arabic speakers. The texts taught are inimical to the language and to its speakers and the overall scheme revolves around knowing thy enemy. That, of course, has meant that no Arabs are involved in the program thus leading to the current state of affairs where less than 10% of the teachers of the subject at Jewish schools are actually fluent in the Arabic language. For the several centuries that the Philippines was a Spanish colony, its educational system focused on teaching Catholicism to the locals. Many priests who served as school principles were actually illiterate. The important thing was to spread the faith.

Remember, we are speaking here of the Department of Jewish Education. In the Department of Arab Education in Israel, where for years a non-native Arabic speaker ran the show, the goal seemed to have been to help Arabs forget the language or at least not to be as stir crazy about its hypnotic charm, what with all its classic poetry and Koranic roots. Arabic language connoisseurs are regularly seen retching their guts out at hearing our youth speak Arabic with its generous sprinkling of Hebrew terms and structures.

And here is another potential brewing dust storm for you: This year, two weeks from now, Jewish and Islamic holidays coincide. Jewish customers calling to book rooms at the Crown Plaza (and some other resorts) in Tiberius and Eilat regularly receive an unsolicited advisory about the high likelihood that there will be many Arabs on site. As vacationers, that is, and not only as cooks, waiters, dishwashers, busboys, gardeners, maintenance staff and parking attendants. In some resorts officials went into some detail about known Arab characteristics such as offensive smell and tendency to messiness. The Channel 10 News team that aired the program went the extra mile and attempted to reserve rooms at the facilities under Arabic names and was not warned about the likelihood of finding Jewish vacationers there. It seems self-evident that Arab families would love for their children to brush against Jewish kids at the playgrounds.

I wonder if Israeli tour agencies issue regular travel warnings to their American and European pilgrim clients about the likelihood of running into some Arabs in Jerusalem despite the state’s persistent efforts to sanitize the holy site of such life forms.

WARNING: Because of the high atmospheric particle count, people with compromised lung and heart functions, pregnant woman, and the elderly should stay indoors and avoid physical exertion. Whatever you do, avoid exposure to Arabs, especially Palestinians.