Mohammad Darawshe —
Children of Both Identities

Mohammad Darawshe is Arab with an Israeli passport — a Muslim Palestinian citizen of the Jewish state. Like 20 percent of Israel's population, he is, as he puts it, a child of both identities. He brings an unexpected way of seeing inside the Middle Eastern present and future.

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is co-executive director of The Abraham Fund Initiatives and a Palestinian citizen of Israel.

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Refusing to Become Refugees

From the BBC, Mohammad Darawshe reads this moving essay from August 2006. He tells the story of innocent Arab-Israeli citizens who were caught between Hezbollah's rockets and Israel's politics during the Lebanese bombings.

Listen to Mohammad Darawshe's report. (RealPlayer, 5:11)

Video Interviews with Krista Tippett

In the Room with Izzeldin Abuelaish

Izzeldin Abuelaish, the Palestinian doctor who first came to our attention when shells hit his home in the Gaza Strip and killed his three daughters and niece, sits down with us for a one-on-one interview about his experiences growing up in a refugee camp and his hopes for a new road to peace.

About the Image

In the foreground, Mohammad Darawshe chats with On Being staff after his interview with Krista Tippett at his offices outside Jerusalem. (photo: Trent Gilliss) The background image overlooks Iksal, the village of Darawshe's 28 generations of family. (photo: Gil Eilam/Flickr, cc by-nc-sa 2.0)

Photo by Trent Gilliss

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What struck me most about Mr. Darawshe was that he did not even once invoke the "state" or coercive politics as a path to better understanding. He speaks instead of the various social and culturural collectives. As exemplified in his encounter with the Israeli police officers, he describes the need for inserting and communicating human identitiies rather than political polarizations. His refusal to join the Knesset and that of many other influential thinkers of today to become involved in politics is a manifestation of what I would think of as the dawning a new age of post polital discourse.

Again, you've opened another concealed door to human experience that only true curiosity, integrity and love makes possible.

Mohammad Darawshe is a powerful spirit; a prophet. He has been able to shake-off the conventions of black/ white; Arab/Jewish; Israeli/Palistinian; good/evil; right and wrong and a move to a social, spritual and psychic clearing that permits him to see clearly. Put another way, a victim who does not create new victims.

As he spoke, it reminded me so much of the dilemma of African Americans in the United States. Although our history of oppression apartheid is so much longer than 60 years, I could not help but draw parallels to Mr Darawshe's experiences in the state of Israel.
That existential experience of being an outsider/insider; that experience of owing allegience to a nation that: took us from our land; enslaved us in a new land; and granted citizenship and other constitutional rights only grudgingly --- even now.

Dr. King found this clearity of thought and spirit as did prophets before him.

Mohammad Darawshe represents a modern day prophet who has summonded every one of God's gifts to make a safer world for his family and for all living things. We all have much to learn from him.

When I first began listening to the interview with Mohammad Darawshe, a Muslim Palestinian citizen of the Jewish state, I prepared myself for an introspective view of the trials and hurdles facing a multicultural citizen with no clearly defined identity.
What I soon discovered was that this is an individual with incredibly broad insight, the ability to see all sides of both the Arab and Israeli mindset and the foresight to know the direction he must lead his village in order to move beyond the past differences.
Once he saw his dual identity as a Palestinian and an Israeli as an asset, a unique skill, rather than a burden, Mohammad Darawshe knew it was up to him and his village-some of his 6,500 family members- to initiate change. Sending his wife to the University as a married woman with four children was certainly forward thinking, but it paved the way for thirty additional married women with children to follow her lead. Now, despite being a conservative community, Iksal has the highest rates of female education in the Middle East. What an amazing example of positive leadership!
Mohammad Darawshe sees the inhabitants of his village as the bridge to cultural, political, economic and social integration. He acknowledges that there needs to be a solid foundation on both sides of the “bridge” and is working hard towards solidifying that foundation. One of his most important messages is also one of his most simplistic. “Once we realize that everyone is here to stay…that everyone deserves to stay..this is our homeland. We need to learn how to do it together.” He goes further to explain the importance of active involvement towards reaching the goals. “If you want to change reality, you need to engage in your reality. You have to get your hands dirty.”
It makes perfect sense that a culture which possesses the rich historical and social skills be the obvious leaders in the quest to actively empathize and include both sides to reach for common ground.

After reading Children of Both Identities I realized Mohammad Darawshe could not be in a more difficult situation. Although to him he is just doing his job. Darawshe is trying to help initiate equality to the people of the Middle East. Darawshe believes in time the "cultural bridge" between Israel and Palestine will eventually co-exist. American's take for granted what people of other countries strive so hard to achieve, equality and freedom. I am an American citizen with no strong religious background; however my parents were raised with different religious beliefs. As a part of growing up in America it is our choice and right to believe in whatever we choose, live where you want to live and be who you want to be. Unfortunately, that is not the case in the Middle East. After listening to Mohammad Darawshe's story of being a descendant of Palestine and living in Israel, it helps me to realize even more just how important peace and freedom really are. When Darawshe's sister-in-laws requested him and his family move to America, saying life would be easier, he declined. It just shows Darawshe's dedication and commitment to his country, his family (of 6500) and himself. He raised his four children with very important values, and by him leaving for an "easier" life would be contradicting himself. He (Darawshe) is proving to himself that living with dual identities is not in fact a handicap or a burden, but is in fact proving to be an asset. Darawshe says that he is dealing with the surface of the problem. He is only one person, one person trying to accomplish something tht may take the majority to help with. He is optimistic that this can happen. Women are going to college at staggering numbers. This is a huge accomplishment itself. Darawshe commented in the interview that he asked himself what his purpose or role was and my answer to Darawshe would be that you have exceeded expectationsmany could not. He is clearly the energy behind this driving force.

Listening to the podcast of this show I realized how very little I really know about the middle east. I didn't realize how many Arab people lived in Israel. I guess I have just had my head in the sand. I felt like although Mohameds family has been in Israel for 27 generations he is still viewed as an outsider. This made me feel very sad. He mentioned that his wifes family has suggested moving to America but how can they leaving 6500 family members behind. I feel him in this point. I live in a small town with 90% of my family within a 25 minute drive from me and I couldn't bear to leave the state much less move from my country.

The part of the story that I enjoyed hearing is when he said that after having four kids his wife is now going to university. I love that although it was not the norm his family seemed to start a trend in his community to get woman an education and trained in a profession to help grow their families stronger. I in my naivity didnt' think woman were allowed schooling in the middle east. I thought they were still very much at home and the man lead the household.

This story was a huge eye opener and I am better for hearing it. I feel as though I have so much more to learn and I can learn so much more by investigating more on Israel and the middle east. Sometimes us americans are so self involved we forget there are other cultures in this world.

What a fantastic, riveting, and hopeful show today. I think you (Krista) said that the fact that the conversations are happening, as difficult as they are, is what is inspiring. As a 48 year old American Jew--in many ways more political than religious--I have for years felt saddened by most of the news coming out of that part of the world. Your program today gave me reason for optimism. I would love to have met your guest today and am eager to learn more about the Abraham Initiative. Thank you.

I generally applaud the willingness and desire to tell a difficult and multifaceted story, like the Arab Israeli challenges through the voices of people we aren't always hearing from. Today's decision however, to air the Arab Israeli citizen's viewpoint, on Yom HaShoah, was insensitive and hurtful. As an American Jew, I want to hear a variety of views as we attempt to understand this longstanding conflict. Choosing to air a show such as this - on Holocaust Memorial Day - likely hardens listeners against the message, then makes those who might be receptive to it - like me - against the message. I turned off your show today, b/c I was so offended. Any other day, and I would have been inclined to listed. Please show some sensitivity to our losses, any the losses suffered by many, when thinking about your programming.

Mohammad Darawshe has been able to successfully live, and indeed thrive, in a country where straddling the fence between two rival groups is a daily occurrence. It is absolutely amazing that he lives in the same town with some 6,500 relatives, and that his family has lived there for 27 generations! Having grown up in a town of 2,500 people myself, I can’t imagine living amongst and being related to so many people.

I was surprised to learn that 20% of Israel’s population is Palestinian. I admit that I am terribly ignorant when it comes to Middle East politics, but after hearing Mr. Darawshe’s story, I agree that he has a special set of skills which enable him to express his views to both parties without ruffling feathers and shutting down communication. His vested interest in both the Jewish and Arab communities is necessary to finding common ground.

As a Palestinian citizen of Israel, Mohammad Darawshe has an excellent vantage point of the present situation in Israel. I found the discussion between him and Kristen Tippett regarding some of the ironies of the situation his community faces to be quite insightful. Because of their location, Darawshe’s community has been attacked by members of their own ethnicity, as was the case in 2006. It is sad to realize that Arabs living in Israel receive inferior medical treatment as a result of religious conflicts, and yet it is hard to imagine a bridging of this gap in the midst of such a sensitive scenario. I was very impressed by the position and perseverance of Darawshe. He recognizes the complexity of the situation, and yet he does not meet it with a feeling of hopelessness in achieving reconciliation. His determination to play a role in building compromises and finding a middle ground between the Palestinian’s and the Israeli’s is remarkable. Darawshe realizes that he is in a position of influence as a direct result of his heritage, and he is making the most of that potential to assist in bringing together the people of the Middle East.

I reflected upon the concept of the heart. Motherhood for me was based on loss, my own loss and the loss that my daughters suffered to be in a new family, and call me mom. So, I have constantly thought about 'heart,' what is in my heart for my daughters, the locks they and I keep on our hearts as a result of loss, and was so struck by the concept that our sons and daughters hold 'a mortgage on our hearts' for life.

I think his divorce metaphor was brilliant ... can we at least start admitting this is a divorce (unfortunately), but let the children be saved, let them be the common joining point. I agree that the Arab Israelis / Palestinians living in Israel are forgotten in many ways, but they are so crucial to finding solutions to the conflict. As Mohammad Darwashe says, he speaks Hebrew and Arabic and can sympathize with Israelis and Palestinians. All I can say is thank you for this unique interview. I wish more Israelis and Palestinians can hear his story and learn from his maturity, wisdom, and leadership.