I am a lucky Arab. My grandfather, Mohammed, travelled on foot from his home in Iraq in the early part of the last century looking for work.
Jews had come to British-controlled Palestine in the thousands, joining the Jews that had always been here, buying up land from absentee Turkish Muslim owners, and they needed many workers to help them build the land. He married, raised a large family, worked hard, and lived quietly.
I live in Haifa in Israel. In 1948 when Israel declared its independence, Arab armies from surrounding Arab states attacked with the intention of destroying the new state. I was about 15 years old and remember well the radio broadcasts from Arab states telling us to leave our homes and move eastward 'temporarily' while the advancing Arab armies wiped out the
They told us we would then return in triumph to our homes and would have the joy of taking over all the Jewish assets-their homes, farms, shops, cars, and bank accounts.
My father, Ibrahim, was a very wise man, a learned man, and a man of peace. We had good relationships with our neighbors, Christian, Jew, and Muslim.
He gathered the entire family and explained why he did not believe it
Wise to flee, that he did not believe the Jews would mistreat us. We stayed put.
We are still here.
Today I still live in my father's old stone house with my wife and the youngest of our eight children. My older children and my many
Grandchildren all live nearby. We have never been mistreated, and we are much better off than those Arabs who fled and who ended up in miserable refugee camps being supported by the UN and charities.
I want you to know what my life is like as an Arab citizen of Israel. I was educated in Israeli schools and universities. I became a pharmacist and worked in a large pharmacy in Haifa. I was paid the same salary, and received the same benefits as Jewish colleagues. Now I'm retired. I receive two pensions; one based on the investment plan to which my company belonged and I contributed. The other comes from the Israeli government National Insurance plan.
I have eight children. Every month I received child allowance paid from the government until each became 18. I know of no other country where this happens, certainly not any Arab nation.
Our entire family is covered by the National Health Plan which provides good medical care. All my children were born in hospital, my wife received excellent ante and postnatal care. All medical and surgical is covered from the first Shekel from birth to death, and when we die even the cost of burial is covered!
My children went to school with Jewish children, they were members of
the same sports clubs and the community center, and they all received
University educations, some with state scholarships.
I pray in a Mosque, which was built on land donated by the Jewish
National Fund. I am a citizen, I have a passport, can travel anywhere, anytime. I vote in local and national elections, and we have a number of Arab members in Parliament.
I have a very good life, and so has my family. I feel for those forced to live under Arafat, for they are being used and abused badly. I long for the day that Arafat is no more, that a real peace treaty can be negotiated with Israel, so that the Palestinian Arabs can have a better life also.
I long for the day I can travel to visit cousins in Ramallah without being called a collaborator and executed. I thank Allah my grandfather came here.
I thank Allah my father didn't leave in 1948. I thank Allah my children were raised here, in the only free country in the Middle East.
We are very lucky Arabs.
[Name withheld for security reasons]