Yalla Peace: The challenges of Arab-Jewish matrimony

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Yalla Peace: The challenges of Arab-Jewish matrimony
By Ray Hanania
Jerusalem Post/Creators Syndicate

Every week I receive an e-mail from Jews and Arabs asking me
for advice on how to make 
their relationships and marriages work.

We might not be able to have peace in the Middle East, but that doesn’t mean Palestinians and Israelis can’t come together in other ways. My wife Alison and I have been married 14 years this July, and the truth is we both enjoy Middle Eastern food, the Jewish religion, Palestinian culture and a living achievement in matrimony that Palestinians and Israelis can’t find in political negotiations.

Maybe that’s the problem – Palestinians and Israelis are negotiating too much. Of course, what I mean – lest the fanatics misquote me, as they always do – is that Palestinians and Israelis think things out way too much.

We’re too smart for our own good, and sometimes we don’t follow our hearts, but rather our fears. I’m not sure we would have married had we actually taken a lot of time to think it through. After all, my marriage has come under attack from some of the most notorious Palestinian fanatics in America, citing the Jewish-Arab relationship but pretending it doesn’t mean much in their hatred of me.

Not that Alison had a real choice, though. I made our relationship a cornerstone of my activism for peace and my constant war against the ugly extremists who I know hate Christians and secular Muslims as much as they hate Jews.

We found a balance in our lives, bringing together her family and mine as a result of ourmarriage, and it became the basis of my very successful standup comedy act, which lampoons extremism and pokes fun at this unusual relationship of a Jew and an Arab.

But is it a Jew and an Arab, or is it more a Palestinian and a Jew? The fanatics claim I’m not Palestinian at all, arguing that I speak English far better than Arabic, which is true. And although Alison doesn’t have Israeli citizenship, her heart is in Israel. Since I have one daughter from a prior marriage raised Christian (her name is Haifa), raising our son Aaron as a Jew doesn’t bother me. Maybe one day he’ll be the one who brings our people together in peace, the way only a person of Palestinian- Israeli spirit can.

BUT OUR marriage is not alone. Every week I receive an e-mail from Jews and Arabs, especially Palestinians, who ask me for advice on how to make their relationships andmarriages work.

I tell them it’s simple. Be honest. Accept the fact that we don’t have to see eye-to-eye, and that we can differ on political issues in the Middle East, but also be able to show compassion for the other side.

That’s the toughest thing for Palestinians and Israelis to do. We hate each other so much that we can’t fathom living together. So when we brutalize each other, we can justify it in our blindness to the reality around us.

We also keep a sense of humor, and use that humor to respond to the few moments that have been ugly. And there have only been a few. Some relatives ostracized us from their open house because I am Palestinian.

On the other side, people constantly ask me if it’s true that I married “a Jew” and if so, why.

You have to be able to recognize that we’re human beings first, and no one is perfect. That means our human frailties make us question sanity and appear to hate. Average people do stupid things when they just don’t understand.

But that’s what our Palestinian-Jewish marriage does. It forces us to understand.

It forces us to see the other the way we want to be seen. It forces us to be compassionate even after angry outbursts.

I created a group on Facebook to try to bring more of these anomalies of Palestinian-Jewish harmony together, thinking maybe we can commiserate and come up with solutions to the Middle East conflict. Maybe even serve as a support group for couples pursuing the dream that has so far eluded millions of Jews and Palestinians in the Middle East.

As hard as it is sometimes to argue in a moderate voice – our supporters are never as militant or outspoken as the extremists and haters are – we have to keep trying and make it spread.

One great idea, plus a sudden outburst of humanity, common sense, reason and respect could change things for both our peoples.

So if you have a chance, visit the Facebook Page (Arabs and Jews Married) and “like” it. Show some love, even if your spouse is not from “the other side.”

We only have three members so far. I just know there are more.

The writer is an award-award-winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host. www.YallaPeace.com

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com