Comedian | Professor | Writer
(& Smartest) Arab
I love watching reality TV. Whether it’s “Cupcake Wars,” “Storage Wars,” or “Shipping Wars,” I just can’t get enough. And no, I don’t just like them watching them because I’m an Arab and they all have the word “war” in them.
A particular favorite of mine is “House Hunters.” In this show, the cameras follow an individual, couple, or family searching for a home. As a Palestinian, I am familiar with this concept. We have been searching for 64 years.
Anyway, each show features three properties, and at the end of the broadcast, the buyer chooses one as his new residence. The show is extremely popular and has produced an interesting spinoff, “House Hunters International.” In this version, the buyer looks to buy a home in a different country. A few nights ago, I happened to be watching when a very interesting episode aired… “House Hunters International: Jerusalem.” A very nice Orthodox Jewish woman named Hayley was looking to relocate from New Jersey to Israel. She wanted her children to have the experience of growing up in the Holy Land.
Hayley arrived in Israel to look at three houses. I imagine she had an easier time getting through Tel Aviv airport security than I do. She made her way to Jerusalem and began her search. The first house Hayley looked at was in the “fashionable neighborhood of Baka.” Wealthy Muslim and Christian Palestinian families established Baka in the 1920’s. After 1948, Baka ended up in West Jerusalem, inside Israel. As a result of this development, in Baka, “the population changed.” (Wikipedia) “Changed” is a nice way of putting it. In reality, the Arab families who built those houses were expelled.
The second and third homes Hayley looked at were located in the German Colony, what the narrator referred to as a “pre-war neighborhood.” Before 1948, affluent Arab families who had built mansions there called it home. After 1948, “the abandoned homes were used to house new immigrants.” (Thanks again Wikipedia) “Abandoned” is a nice way of putting it. In reality, the German Colony was ethnically cleansed of its Arab population.
All three houses were brimming with Arab architecture. As Hayley walked through the homes, I heard things like:
“She wants a traditional, old Jerusalem home.”
“This house was built in the 1920’s.”
“It’s got the tiles, built in the old style.”
“The arches… love it!”
“This is authentic.”
For those of you don’t speak “Israeli,” let me translate:
“Traditional, old”: Palestinian
“built in the 1920’s”: Palestinian
“Tiles in the old style”: Palestinian
I guess that even though Israel definitely didn’t want us there, they really liked our style. And I don’t blame them. We Palestinians are pretty cool. They even made falafel and hummus part of Israeli national cuisine. It’s not that surprising actually. When you can steal someone’s home without thinking twice, stealing the food is really easy.
After the 1967 war, Israel “united” East and West Jerusalem. The Palestinian residents who remain hold Jerusalem ID cards. They are “permanent residents” of Israel, pay Israeli taxes, are citizens of no country, and do not vote in national elections. We have “permanent residents” here in America, but they came from Mexico. The “permanent residents” of Jerusalem came from Jerusalem. They must periodically renew their status, and if they are absent for more than seven years, they forever lose their “right.” Of course, Jews can become full citizens of Israel whenever they like. And they can buy abandoned homes with authentic tiles and arches.
Israel looks to rid itself of all Palestinian presence, and nowhere is this more evident than in Jerusalem. All Israeli politicians proclaim that Jerusalem will remain the “eternal and undivided capital of Israel.” Simply put, it is Israel’s view that the city cannot be Arab in any capacity. It’s as if we were never there. But the authentic tiles in Baka don’t lie. They tell the world that Palestinians walked atop them. The stones of the walls don’t lie either. They tell the world that they were set by Palestinians who call Jerusalem home. And the arches don’t lie. They tell the new residents, as they peer out onto the Old City, that no amount of denial can erase their Palestinian creators.
As that episode came to a close, another one immediately followed. It was a “House Hunters: International” marathon. Again, an Orthodox Jewish American couple was looking to relocate to a new country. This time, they were searching for a house in Costa Rica. Before I turned off the TV, I wished them the best of luck.