An American Muslim Woman Visits Israel: Stop Hating, Start Loving
By Judith Bergman, Israel Hayom, January 22, 2016
A young Muslim woman from New York, Farhana Rahman, who works for an Israeli startup company, has stirred a small storm on Facebook. But for once it is a happy and blessed storm of love and hope for the future.
Rahman posted a status from her second visit to Israel and it went viral for its sheer message of overflowing love, gratitude and camaraderie.
"When Muslim me visited Israel this time around, the country and her people did indeed forcibly steal precious things away from me: My heart, my soul, my loyalty, my dedication, my essence of being. . . . Muslim me went to the heart of Israel, and exploded—with emotions. Because everyone loved me. Everyone went out of their way to love me. No one could dare say that my online friends in Israel aren't real friends. Because yes they are. It's insulting for me to even refer to them as my friends. It is also insulting for me to refer to them as my family. They are a part of me. My lifeblood. They collectively transformed me into a much better version of myself," she wrote.
She also had a word to say about the media: "Everyone of all ages in Israel gave me exceptional, world class treatment. . . . Why am I saying this? To let you know that the people of Israel of all generations love, and love to be loved. And believe me . . . I didn't only see a small handful of people in one town. . . . Don't blindly go by the ridiculous headlines and stories by the media. . . . Take what you hear with a grain of salt, and do your own digging by going straight to the source. And also pay attention to the other side of the story. Apply this with any issue you hear about in mainstream media. Your efforts will unearth all that isn't covered by mainstream media. And that is a lot."
And about the status of Muslim women in Israel and the accusations of apartheid: "It's almost crazy how many Muslim women I saw driving, shopping independently, studying, working, and enjoying life in Israel. Freedoms they couldn't even dream of elsewhere in the Mideast. And yes, many of them were all burka'ed out to the nines. Also, it's way safer to walk outside late at night in most parts of Israel, than in N.Y. Because the people are civil and good. If you reply with anything contradictory, I'll simply ignore because that won't be worth my time."
"Anyway, I went to businesses run by Jews, and got great customer service. I went to businesses run by Muslims. Also got great service. Customers were mixed everywhere, and everyone got along just fine. Interestingly enough, in both cases, the shop owners/staff weren't able to figure out whether I was a Muslim or Jew. I took that as a compliment. I didn't think it would be possible for me to love Israel and her people more than before. But yep. This trip did it. Does that make me a Zionist? Probably. You will be surprised how many other Zionist Muslims I came across there. So bring it on haters, bring it on. I will stand at the front line for the chosen people. And after the smoke clears, we will cuddle and play board games together while enjoying bourekas (ed., savory Israeli hand pies) and lemonade with mint."
Farhana Rahman later posted about the reactions to her original post. She describes how she was inundated with heartfelt messages of support on Facebook. Most interesting was that she says she did not receive any negative messages. But this part was probably the most interesting one:
"Here's the best part though. Muslim Zionists were the ones that sent me the most messages! Tons! They hailed from many Arab countries, South Asian countries, and European countries. Each of them told me of their efforts to spread the truth in their respective communities and social media. It gave me a lot of comfort to know that the younger generations of educated Muslims are indeed stepping up. Our efforts are but a drop in an ocean of madness, but it is something, and in time, over a few generations, it will create a glorious ripple effect. I feel great about this. I love watching them band together to tackle anti-Semites. The basic message they spread is that you can't say such things about Israel and her people if you don't personally know—and you don't really know until you go!" Rahman wrote.
Rahman's message is strong, encouraging and heartwarming in all its exuberant love for Israel and its people. There are also several important lessons in it.
First, the importance of Muslims interacting directly with Israelis, coming to see the country and daring to speak the truth about what they have seen and learned in their own words. Working for an Israeli startup company, making Israeli friends on Facebook, and then meeting them in real life, clearly played a crucial role in Rahman's experience and shows how important the element of human interaction is in delivering the truth about Israel to the world. There is hardly any substitute for the direct and personal contact between Israelis and Muslims in furthering this kind of understanding and it shows that there is an extremely beneficial side to social media such as Facebook, despite the many problems it poses.
Second, it shows that it is possible to rise above the anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish bias that comes as part of most Muslim environments and that fact in itself brings great hope, especially for future generations. For that hope to materialize as reality, many more Muslims will have to come and see the reality for themselves, of course, and many more Muslims who sympathize with Israel will have to find the necessary courage to stand out from the crowd and speak up for truth and justice. When they do-may it be sooner rather than later—they should know that their courage will be reciprocated with eternal friendship from their Israeli friends. We in Israel know how to appreciate true friends.
Judith Bergman is a writer and political analyst living in Israel.