I’d like to wish everyone Happy New Year and G’mar Fatima Tova (May You Be Sealed in the Book of Life)! As you know, since our unique, terror-laden trip in Israel, the subject of my book, “Blasted from Complacency” a Journey from Terror to Transformation in Israel,” Peace (I capitalize Peace because it’s so important) has been on my mind. Being human targets made me want to work on Peace. What I learned when I wrote my book, was that that I’d been working on Peace all of my life—but it had been internal.
So it was with added interest when I attended the Jewish National Fund’s Annual Conference and found that Lucy Aharish was being interviewed. JNF CEO, Russell F. Robinson, was also being interviewed by Lucy at a later session and my curiosity was aroused. My experience with JNF has taught me that I would learn something important and I wasn’t disappointed. You can learn some of what we learned about Russell in my previous blog.
For Peace to be a viable option in our lives, it first starts with ourselves. Are you feeling Peaceful? Take a close look at yourself and if you aren’t feeling Peaceful, look at why. But don’t just look, take steps to move closer to a Peaceful reality by closing the gap through your actions. You have the power to step closer to making Peace your reality, why not do so? For Peace between people to develop, dialogue is necessary. Lucy Aharish definitely does her part.
Lucy Aharish, describes herself as an Israeli, Woman, Arab, and Muslim. As a Jew, I was excited to learn what Lucy, an Arab woman had to teach. For me it was a unique opportunity to hear what she had to say and admittedly so much of what she said and what I later learned surprised me.
Take a moment if you’ve never heard of her. I hadn’t either. She has so many aspects of her personality, no actually her soul that is always openly on display that I admire. I would have a hard time choosing which characteristic impresses me the most.
Besides her driving intellect, her warmth and appreciation for others bursts forth as she met me warmly with hugs before and after her interview. I was graciously introduced by a new Israeli friend who was familiar with Lucy and she spent time explaining to her in Hebrew what my book was about, as I stood by with a grateful smile on my face wondering what she was saying.
Others would also describe Lucy as: an Arab-Israeli news anchor, reporter, television host and actress. She is notable for being the first Muslim Arab news presenter on mainstream Hebrew-language Israeli television. She is beautiful inside and out. She had a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face that day—but that’s far from always the case.
She is not afraid to speak the truth as she sees it no matter who it might offend. She lets that be the listener’s problem, not hers. She makes me proud to be a woman. She speaks her mind and is courageous.
To write this blog, I felt compelled to do research, and discover more about who Lucy Aharish is. Frequently what she says makes sense to me and she defends Israel—it is her home. Perhaps you’re not used to hearing an Arab speak this way about Israel, me neither, and I was intrigued. She opposes hate no matter from what direction it is shouted. She admits she doesn’t contain her thoughts even when it might be more comfortable for others.
From interviews of Lucy I have read, I’d say she has a bit of a potty mouth (don’t worry she does adjust it to whomever or where she is speaking) but that only makes me like her more . . . she doesn’t buckle under social graces that expect women not to cuss—but it’s alright for a man to do so. Sometimes an f-bomb seems warranted and considering the conditions she works and lives under, it’s understandable.
Lucy Aharish is a woman who is so courageous that her bravery would challenge any soldiers.’ Threats are part of her life whether standing up to Palestinians, other Israeli Arabs, Orthodox Jews or even her Arab family on both of her parents’ sides.
She publically spoke out against her fellow Arabs who justified the kidnapping and murder of the three teenagers that preceded Operation Protective Edge.1 During the war she did an interview with a Hamas official where she accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields. She also encouraged Gazans to fight Hamas.2
Lucy says of the much-stated inaccurate trope, Israel is not an apartheid country. She is living proof. She does whatever she wants and lives wherever she wants. Her perspective and honesty deserves respect.
What was her childhood like? When she was five, she was with her parents and they had been shopping in Gaza. They were in a traffic jam on a hot day with the windows open, and a Palestinian terrorist dropped a Molotav cocktail into the car. He threw another on the car’s roof. Her father was able to get hold of the one inside the car and threw it outside. Then they heard a loud bang and the car was engulfed in flames. Although Lucy and her parents escaped without extensive physical trauma—no one could ever mentally be free from the terror of such an experience—her three-year-old cousin suffered burns over his entire body and was in the hospital for months.3
She had a very unusual childhood in other ways as well. Her family had moved to the Israeli town of Dimona because of a job for her father—an Arab family living amongst Jews. She grew to consider a Holocaust survivor her grandpa.
Both Arabic and Hebrew were spoken in her house. Today she speaks six languages. In school when she sometimes encountered prejudice, with graffiti being scrawled on walls of the school, the principal steadfastly put a stop to it. Later he became Mayor of Dimona and today Meir Cohen, the former high school principal is a member of the Knesset with the Yesh Atid party. Lucy credits him for having fostered an uncompromising stance against racism.4
Thankfully her parents have stood by her side throughout her tribulations, while each of her parents’ familys attacked her, but at what cost?
How heartbreaking it must be to have your family so opposed to your views that they distort reality and intentionally cause pain. They’ve called Lucy everything from child molester, to slut, alcoholic and drug addict.5 They refused to let her mom see her own mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s before she passes away. Lucy was never close to them, but because of the pain they caused her mother, she found their actions “shocking.”6
Lucy was told that her 16-year-old male cousin said that, “Lucy disgraced our family’s dignity. It’s our dignity and it must be restored.” Reading between the lines, Lucy contacted her sister and asked, “‘Let me get this straight, is this a threat to carry out an honor killing? Because if it’s a threat, let’s deal with it nicely through the police.” Thankfully, it quieted down.7
Her father was forced to completely separate from his siblings. And as for her mother…What mother could handle being told from their Arab brethren, “You’ll receive her in pieces in a garbage bag?” OMG.
The stress accumulated until one day Lucy couldn’t handle it anymore and she had a nervous breakdown, and physically—her foot became paralyzed, she needed back surgery and she was incapacitated and on her back for 1½ months.8 Wow, can you imagine the pain she and her family have been withstanding?
She looks at Arab positions within and outside Israel with an objective eye and calls them to task—she says, “What woman puts on a hijab and prays to God, takes a knife out and tries to stab innocent people? I don’t understand it and I don’t justify it in any way.”9 She accuses the Arab leadership, “You are inciting thousands of young people to go to the streets. You are destroying their future with your own hands,” she said.10 And she is unapologetically PRO-ISRAEL.
Does she sometimes say things that bother me? Absolutely. But in ways that might surprise you. It’s not that what she is saying is inaccurate, but it forces me to look at ways in which Israel falls short of the mark. Maybe something to think about during these High Holy Days. She’s like a dose of medicine that I may not want to take, it tastes bad, but it’s necessary and the truth will make me more knowledgeable and ultimately stronger—something good for Israel as well.
She laments how racism in Israel is pervasive—Arabs, she says, are second-class citizens. Yes, Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East but there are plenty of buts to go around that don’t make equal access a reality. We’re not talking about Palestinians, we’re talking about Arab Israeli citizens.
She also brought up the treatment of the Ethiopian Jews who were brought to Israel in a series of massive immigration projects called Operation Moses and Operation Solomon. We saved 20,000 Ethiopian Jews in Operation Solomon in 1991 (I say we because the U.S. helped—with pride we say they were brought to Israel to protect them from the government falling apart in Ethiopia and Israel provided freedom, not slavery.11 Amen.
Despite the good intentions, still today there are tremendous issues when trying to absorb people who were uneducated farmers and very different from the educated urban dwellers living in Israel. Even when compared with other immigrant competition for jobs, the Ethiopians didn’t speak Hebrew, never used electricity, elevators, flush toilets, or televisions and it has been a major problem to improve conditions even after 28 years.12 And part of looking at the difficulties, unfortunately involves facing the age-old fact of bigotry.
Another brave and surprising revelation about Lucy Aharish is that she is married to an Israeli Jewish actor, Tsahi Halevi. As I told her when I spoke with her after her interview, she lives Peace within her home. Her ability to love, regardless of others’ objections impressed me—how about you? As you can imagine she faced backlash from the Jewish community and her Palestinian and Arab brethren for her audacity in marrying a Jew.
As we approach the final decree for the beginning of the year 5780, I know I will be personally praying for Israel and myself to be blessed with Lucy’s attributes that she shows in abundance: her love and openness to others and her ability to stand her ground for her beliefs.
So to Lucy and her family…if one day you are feeling sad because so much hate rains incessantly down upon you, please remember this one Jewish woman who understands that the world is a much better place because you live in it.
G’mar Fatima Tova
Peace, שלום, سلام
I invite you to Join Me On My Journey. . .
1 Elhanan Miller, A survivor of terror, Israel’s first Arab news presenter is done being a victim, The Times of Israel, April 20, 2015, https://www.timesofisrael.com/a-survivor-of-terror-israels-first-arab-news-presenter-is-done-being-a-victim/
2 Lucy Aharish, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_Aharish
3 Elhanan Miller, A survivor of terror, Israel’s first Arab news presenter is done being a victim, The Times of Israel, April 20, 2015, https://www.timesofisrael.com/a-survivor-of-terror-israels-first-arab-news-presenter-is-done-being-a-victim/
4 Elhanan Miller, A survivor of terror, Israel’s first Arab news presenter is done being a victim, The Times of Israel, April 20, 2015, https://www.timesofisrael.com/a-survivor-of-terror-israels-first-arab-news-presenter-is-done-being-a-victim/
5 Yehuda Nuriel, No one will shut me up, says Israel’s first Arab news presenter, Ynet Magazine, November 4, 2016, https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4874171,00.html
6 Yehuda Nuriel, No one will shut me up, says Israel’s first Arab news presenter, Ynet Magazine, November 4, 2016, https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4874171,00.html
7 Yehuda Nuriel, No one will shut me up, says Israel’s first Arab news presenter, Ynet Magazine, November 4, 2016, https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4874171,00.html
8 Yehuda Nuriel, No one will shut me up, says Israel’s first Arab news presenter, Ynet Magazine, November 4, 2016, https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4874171,00.html
9 Debra Kamin, Amid violence, Arab-Israeli newscaster Lucy Aharish keeps on smiling, JTA, San Diego Jewish Journal, October 22, 2015, http://sdjewishjournal.com/sdjj/october-2015/amid-violence-arab-israeli-newscaster-lucy-aharish-keeps-on-smiling/
10 Steve, Lucy Aharish Israeli-Arab TV Anchor Tears into Arab MKs for Inciting Violence, IsraelSeen.com, October 16, 2015, https://israelseen.com/2015/10/16/lucy-aharish-israeli-arab-tv-anchor-tears-into-arab-mks-for-inciting-violence/
11 Conor Gaffey and Jack Moore, Why Ethiopian Jews Face Increasing Discrimination and Police Brutality in Israel, Newsweek Magazine, September 28, 2016
12 Ethiopian Jews in Israel, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopian_Jews_in_Israel