"I oppose a Jewish State."
Muhammad Abu Rachal
Location: Old City of Nazareth
The encounter: I was spending the weekend in Nazareth with friends at the Fauzi Azar Inn hostel, a beautiful old mansion in the old city of Nazareth, co-owned by a Jewish and an Arab family. Chatting with my friends in the elegant courtyard, I could imagine a harmonious Middle East without ethnic and religious conflict. But in the morning I went out by myself for a walk in the market, where I met Muhammad. His anger shook me out of my bliss. He referred to Palestinians as the “true” residents of the land and insisted that there won’t be peace until the descendants of the Palestinian refugees return to their ancestral homes.
What are you doing here right now?
This is my shop. I’m a barber.
How do you describe your religious or national identity?
I am a religious Muslim Palestinian Arab who lives in Israel.
Can you tell me a bit about your family?
I have five children: three daughters and two sons. I have two grandchildren. The man in the photograph on the wall is my father.
Where is your family from?
My family has lived for many generations in Nazareth. My wife's father was born in Safurriya, which is now the Jewish town of Tsipori. His family used to have a lot of land there, but they came as refugees to Nazareth. On my mother's side, they are refugees from Kafr Kanna. Some of my mother's brothers live in Syria and in Jordan and Lebanon.
My house in is Eastern Nazareth, next to Nazareth Illit [a Jewish town]. When they established Nazerth Illit, they took our land. Our neighbor can't even harvest his own olive trees!
What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
I hope for peace, and that the Palestinian people can return to the places where they were born.
I oppose a Jewish state. Twenty percent of the citizens of this country are Arabs. I want to live in a state that's not just for Jews, but for everyone. Where is my right as an Arab in a Jewish state? One day, when we have power, we will demand our rights! For example, the grandfather of this boy [the boy in the barber chair] came from Indur, near what’s now Kfar Tavor. They used to have a lot of land; but now they live in poverty, as refugees, in Nazareth. The Jews were victims of the Nazis, but that’s not my problem! Now they are doing the same to the Palestinians. The whole world saw what they did in Gaza. That was not a just war. The Palestinians live in a big prison now.
The Jews lived in peace in the Arab countries. When the Jews fled Spain, they came to Arab countries because they were welcome there. Nobody bothered them. Why do we have to suffer for what Hitler did to the Jews in Europe? Why is this our problem?
You say you live in Herzliya? That used to be the village of Al Haram! And do you know where the real inhabitants of Herzliya now live? They live as refugees in a a village called Muqeibila, near Jenin.
There won't be peace until all the Palestinian refugees can return to their original hometowns. The politicians think that when the old people die, the young generation will forget. They won't!