One warm afternoon this past semester, I found myself in the car of a Saudi girl. We hadn’t met before – she was a friend of a friend — and had offered to drive us somewhere. While we were in the car, I blurted something out to my friend. At the time I was in a cross-continental, not-quite relationship with an Israeli boy, who I had always simply referred to as “the Israeli.” I don’t remember what I said, but I referred to him by that moniker, forgetting whose company I was in. I had let my guard down. How did this Saudi girl feel about Israel? Did she despise Zionism? Would she kick me out of her car and drop me on the side of the road?
The story ends well, and with me still in her car. She didn’t say anything at the mention of ‘the Israeli’. She’s a liberal girl, dressed in Western fashion, studying architecture at a prominent university, and apparently a Bernie supporter. But those facts alone weren’t enough to make me feel totally comfortable letting my Zionism show.
I should say here that my previous interactions with Saudis – and other Arabs – stemmed from my experiences in high school. The boarding school I attended regularly pulled well-to-do kids from various Middle Eastern Arab countries. Though they came from a mix of different countries, they all had a few things in common – a heightened sense of nationalism that likely came from being transplanted in a society so far from home at a young age, and a hatred (or a strong distaste for, to put it mildly) for Zionism. As one of the only Jews in my grade, and as one who had traveled to Israel during my high school years, I became the target of their anger toward Israel. I was, to them, what the country represented. My knowledge about Israeli and Middle Eastern history was, at the time, lacking, and so I found myself swallowing my words, arguing with someone whose history I didn’t know, and arguing a history I barely knew myself.
For the full article, visit the Times of Israel.