"Before 1948 there were plenty of Arab villages here, but now they’re gone. They went wherever they went. I don’t know where."

Tabet Abu-Ghosh

Location: Caravan Inn Restaurant, Abu Ghosh

Residence: Abu Ghosh

Age: 73


The encounter: One weekend, on our way back from Jerusalem to Herzliya, I stopped with my kids for lunch at the Caravan Inn, in the Arab town of Abu Gosh. Abu Ghosh is a popular place for non-observant Jews to eat on Shabbat, when all kosher restaurants are closed. The town attracts hundreds of Jewish visitors every weekend. After I talked to Tabet, I found out that just a few months earlier earlier Abu Ghosh has been targeted in a “price tag” attack. Jewish terrorists had sliced car tires and spray painted racist slogans. Tabet did not mention the attack. Maybe he preferred to forget that it had happened. The town’s livelihood depends on maintaining peaceful relations with the surrounding Jewish population.

What are you doing here right now?
I’m supervising the lunch shift. This is my family’s restaurant. It belongs to my brother-in-law. I am retired.

How do you describe your religious or national identity?
I’m a Muslim, Israeli Arab.

Can you tell me a bit about your family?
I don’t have children. But my two sisters do.

Where is your family from?
My family has been here for five-hundred years. We’re originally from the Caucasus, from the region that's now Chechnya. We settled here in the 16th century and came to control this whole area. 
We are alone here now, amidst the Jewish towns. Before 1948 there were plenty of Arab villages here, but they’re gone. They went wherever they went. I don’t know where. That’s what happens during a war.
During the Ottoman Empire, the Abu Ghosh clan was very powerful because we controlled the trade route between Jerusalem and Jaffa. The Jews were still a weak minority then, and we helped them as they settled in this country. We had a good relationship with members of the Lehi and the Palmach and we helped them in their fight against the British. That’s how a friendship developed between the Jewish people and the Abu Ghosh clan. I hope that this relationship continues, and not just from our side.

What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
I long to see peace in this country and in the whole region. I’m hoping for real peace and love between the people. If the political leaders want it, it’s possible. It doesn’t come down from the sky: people can create peace. But if they want peace, they have to make concessions.
After the Oslo Accords, things were going so well here. It was beautiful! People in the Gulf States wanted to do business here!  But then it was all of a suddenly cut off and we returned to conflict. I’m still hoping that there will be real peace, for the next generations, for the future... We have to look at the long term. The Jews shouldn’t just look at the next ten years; they should plan for a stable future in this land. But today’s politicians today don’t have a vision, all they think about is their own money and their own reelection. We no longer have leaders like Ben Gurion, Begin, Rabin, and Peres, who used to care about the country and the people. Today’s leaders only think about themselves. It’s a shame.