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Forgiving Ali

On Logical Solutions And Human Feelings

By Israel Bonan

I am a Jew born in Egypt and I have lived in the United States since I was deported from Egypt in 1967. Much of what I saw and read so far expound on the logic and facts of the existing situation in the Middle East. But before we exercise logic to redress the situation, and commit to plausible and lasting solutions, we have to get over the 'hump' so to speak, of the emotional makeup of the two sides. It is not stereotypical to call Middle Easterners, in general, an 'emotional' bunch.

I am an Engineer by profession; when faced with a problem, I set out to deal with it rationally. Yet I can't deny myself the 'flying off the handle', once in a while, when I am faced with an emotional situation. I then allow myself to eject all the bile associated with the situation, then cool off and eventually come to terms with it., but not before exercising my G_d given right to 'fly off the handle'.

I believe that before we address the bigger issues of the Middle East, both sides need to be allowed to 'fly off the handle' emotionally, to allow each side to let out their aggression in a controlled environment, where each one allows the other to say the unsaid, deep down emotions; while the other side listens without judgment until both dispense of their bile and be able to come to reason after their outbursts.

In not doing so, we rob the discussion of one of its major elements, the emotionalism of the participants, which is half the equation, no less, of their makeup as human beings. After all it will not be governments who will solve these issues but it will come about from the people who will eventually create the exactly 'mixed cement' to allow the first edifice of understanding to take roots in this old land of tradition, culture, religion and civilization.

To wit, let me share with you exerpts from my own Exodus story that reflects on this very situation.

Aside from a few that emigrated from Egypt, I was not able to maintain contact with my old friends from Egypt. Of the few that did, we visited each other's homes and maintained a healthy contact. There was one event though that left me unsettled, to say the least:

Since the early 70's, I had been trying to reach Ali. It was important for me to thank him personally for what he had done to help my parents while I was waiting to be deported in 1967.

Recently, I got a request from one of my friends to ask whether I wished to correspond with a high school and college colleague named Mohammed. Although Mohammed was not an intimate friend, I jumped on the request and started an e-mail correspondence to reminisce about the good old days.

At one point, I asked him to connect me with a few more friends, and I did correspond with them. The one I dearly wanted to connect with was Ali. Mohammed promised to get me his e-mail and I waited.

A few weeks later I received an e-mail from Mohammed with a PowerPoint attachment, depicting a set of peaceful and serene landscapes. Imbedded between these scenes was the picture of the crouching Palestinian boy that was caught in the cross fire and was killed in Palestine during the time of the second Intifada.

A jumble of emotions ran through me like wildfire. I felt that all what I stood for, whether it be connecting with people, building deep friendships, knowing and befriending each other - was after all utter nonsense. At the end of the day, I was still reduced to only one common denominator, my Jewishness.

I felt the searing sensation of being thrown out of Egypt for the second time, having to relive my exodus anew. I became once again, not the human being that broke bread with them when in Egypt, not someone they once knew. I became only a Jew, and a Jew like all other Jews; thinking the same thoughts, arguing the same points feeling the same way i.e. a 'cookie cutter' Jew made from an ancient mold that the anti-Semites of old have forged a long time ago.

My natural reaction then was to reciprocate, by sending them some scenes of bloodied Israelis, or of planes flying into the World Trade Center. Anything to point out to 'them' that the pot should not call the kettle black. In a sense, dehumanize them and highlight their common denominator, they are after all Arabs and Muslims who must think alike, must behave alike, must share the same allegiances as other Arabs. I did not follow through with my vile outburst of anger and vengeful spirit, and I am glad I did not.

I do not wish to paint the event solely on Mohammed as its instigator, I believe he did what he did as a response, in my estimation, to Ali's snubbing any of my advances to touch base with him.

The closest thing to a closure was for me to draft an open letter to my old friend Ali:

I forgive you,

    For forgetting who I was, a friend.

And I pray to you Lord,

    To never let me forget I once befriended you and called you my brother.

I forgive you,

    For thinking of me only as a Jew.

And I pray to you Lord,

    To renew my faith and my resolve to be the Jew I always was and always will be. For that is who I am, much the same as you are a Muslim.

I forgive you,

    For believing that Jews are all alike.

And I pray to you Lord,

    To enrich the world with diversity of thoughts and open our minds to avoid the conformity of the 'one' thought, of the 'one' mind and of the 'one' opinion; for there lies the strength of any people or any culture.

I forgive you,

    For assessing different values for human life.

And I pray to you Lord,

    To never let me accept the tragic death of the innocent in terms of numbers we weigh in the balance and scales of vengeance; but to let me value each lost life as if it was my own.

I forgive you,

    For not wanting to communicate with me.

And I pray to you Lord,

    To grant me the wisdom to still hear what you are not saying to me.

Ali, I do wish to thank you for helping my parents, and long for the day when your heart will reason with your mind to address me as your friend.

The Voice of Peace is not Rational

I walked amongst them in the Holy land

About Israel Bonan

A Personal Exodus Story - By Israel Bonan, at the web site of 'JAC' (Jews From Arab Countries)

OR at: Abstract -- Story

Articles published in HopeWays' 'News & Views' section

The HSJE (Historical Society of Jews from Egypt)

E-mail Israel Bonan

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