Friday, August 11, 2006

The map of Israel as a message

This post, like the previous one, will be about one of my students.
At the beginning of the second semester, I had a group of freshmen whom I was meeting for first time. Among them there was a boy with a strange piece of metal hanging from his neck. Its shape was roughly triangular and seemed familiar to me, though I couldn't recognize it.
Checking the students' files, I saw that boy had Arab name. I asked him where he was from. He answered, "Palestine".
When I heard this, I figured out what the strange metal object was. I felt physical discomfort, some kind of pressure in the stomach. But I still had to check to be sure. When I returned to my room, I launched Google Image Search and typed two words: "israel map". The roughly triangular shape appeared: it was the map of Israel plus the Territories, "the whole Palestine".
You would ask what I did then? Nothing. If I were a fellow student of the boy, I would say, "What the hell you think you are doing, walking around with this map of Israel? Doesn't it come to your head that I could be a Jew and have in Israel a brother, a sister-in-law and two little nieces? Do you think that only you in this world have feelings, wishes and rights?" But I was his teacher and my lips were closed, as if I didn't see the stupid little thing.
Once I supported the Palestinians because I believed all they wanted was a state of their own in the West Bank and Gaza. This was what their leaders said, wasn't it? They were just making fools of us. But even fools cannot be made fools indefinitely.
Another detail about that student: He spoke excellent Bulgarian. I asked him whether he had something Bulgarian in his origin and he said "Yes", without elaborating. I guess his mother was a Bulgarian. He also said he had attended secondary school here (the Iraqi school in Sofia, I'll write a separate post about it some day). I wouldn't be surprised if he had been born and spent his entire life in Bulgaria. Yet his behaviour and performance didn't show a single element of influence by Bulgarian culture, except the ability to speak the language. I think this resistance to integration can teach us a lot.

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