"I worry all the time: about work, money, war... "
Residence: Umm al-Fahm
The encounter: Rami does deliveries for our neighborhood supermarket, next to the café where I like to sit. All day, he passes by with crates full of groceries. I had asked Rami for an interview, but he couldn’t find time to talk. Every time he passed by, we’d greet each other and he’d promise he’d talk to me soon. I had already given up, when one day, he suddenly sat down beside me, bought me a drink, and told me to ask away.
What are you doing here right now?
I’m in between deliveries, taking a break.
What is your occupation?
I work for a moving and delivery company. I wish I were independent!
How do you describe your religious or national identity?
I’m an Arab Muslim; not Arab Israeli and not Arab Palestinian. I’m just an Arab Muslim. I don’t believe in nations.
Can you tell me a bit about your family?
I have two children, two boys – may they be healthy – the oldest is one year and eight months and the younger is two months. My wife used to work as a teacher, but now she stays home with the kids.
I have two brothers and three sisters. My sisters moved out when they got married, but the rest of us live together in one building with my parents. We each have our own floor.
Where is your family from?
My grandparents are from Megiddo. During the war [in 1948], when my father was little, they fled. You can still see the stones where my grandparents’ village used to be. My mom is from a village near Umm al-Fahm. I grew up in Umm al-Fahm. Anytime there’s trouble in Israel, we get blamed. We have this stigma of being trouble- makers because we are the largest Muslim city in Israel. But 90% of us are just regular working people who want to live in peace.
What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
I don’t know about the future. I don’t understand those things. I’m not political. But I can dream about my own future: to be independent, earn a better living, rest a little from all this hard work...
Nobody knows what the future in this land will be. I think we all feel that it can all explode any minute. But for my kids’ future: I just hope they’ll have a good life, that they’ll get an education, that they’ll be all set. I worry all the time: about work, money, war... In this country, you never know. You can wake up in the morning one day and everything is gone.
There can be peace between Arabs and Jews in Israel. We’ve been living together peacefully for decades! But I don’t think there will ever be peace with the Palestinians. No chance. Never... The people want it – it would be better for everyone – but the ones up there in power don’t want it. We’ve lived here peacefully all this time because we have work. But over there [in the occupied territories] they don’t have work. People who don’t have food and security, what will they do? The government could help them, but they purposely keep them under duress.
Even if there would be a war or something – God forbid – I’m not going to live in Palestine. I’ll move somewhere else. Nobody can survive there. I don’t put any faith in the political leaders – not Abu Mazen, nor any of them. They don’t care about Israeli Arabs. They don’t even care about Palestinian Arabs. They just care about their own position. That’s why I don’t even bother voting.
If there’s a big war between the Jews and the Palestinians, I’ll just take care of my family and get out of here. I’m not willing to fight for any side. Everybody is thinking about getting out. We’re all waiting for the final whistle.
It has been building up for seventy years. Even when someone wanted peace, they killed him: Rabin. Back then, there was hope. But they killed it. That’s how it goes: either on our side or on their side.
I just want to live somewhere where I can keep my children safe. What would I do with them if there’s a war tomorrow? I don't know where I'd go. There’s war everywhere around us: in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt... I have nowhere to go, but the thought is with me: I want to leave. I just want to get away from it. I don’t want to hear the news. I just want to watch soccer and live quietly with my family.