There is a specific event circulating in the news for a while now, and it is just one of those articles that i am deeply conflicted about. The one I am inclined to name. I don't want to just express my thoughts about it or react to it, so i am trying to see through the symptoms and think about the core issues at stake.
A very brief background about the topic: In an effort supported and pushed by the Israeli authorities, a group of Palestinian Christians living in Israel is seeking to be acknowledged and recognized as Aramean Christians. They do not see themselves as ‘Israeli Arab’, as the state calls them, or ‘Palestinians living in Israel’, which is the term most accepted among themselves. The most visible cultural trend they have created is to enlist their young into Israeli national service or military service as part of their new identity. Read another article about it here.
I don’t understand how far one can go to deny himself or herself. There are only a few things you can do to make the majority accept you. You can change your name to sound more familiar to their ear. Instead of Yosef, you can be Yosi. Instead of Nardine, you can be Nina. You can change your look to become more western. Maybe lose the half golden heart chain you wear and replace it with a sea shell. You can tweak your accent where you speak more 'majority slang', even when you use your own language. So, instead of saying ‘yany’ (Arabic word for like) you can say ‘ke’elo’ (Hebrew word for like). Maybe instead of buying a BMW or Mercedes, you can buy a Mazda or a Honda. By all means, you can change most of these, and even more, external features.
Yes, you can! But you will still be one of the minority group. These are only cosmetic surgeries you can spend most of your resources on. You can NOT change, your internal features. You can not change something you didn't decide from the first place, and have no control over.
Allow me to add a religious perspective. Simply put: God created you just that way for a reason. And trying to change that would be an act against God himself.
Think about it, acceptance is a two way action. It is relational. you accept yourself, and your other is required to do so too. In this case, your other is the majority. They have to come a certain length to accept who you are. Yes, there is a national minority living in our midst that speak their own language and share their own culture. If they don't accept that, then trying so hard to be like them won’t take you far. It just reflects how bad you want to be accepted. And in the time being the majority is not interested.
This reminds me of the famous children’s story about a mother who had several ducklings. All looked alike except for one born different. It was outcast because of that and doomed to live in solitude and hardship. I remember the cartoon and how he cried on the lake when he realized he looked different, and all he wanted was to be accepted. Despite that, he went on a journey in search of home. He tried to find different bird families, and even a wooden one, but his attempts fail. He does not give up. He accepted himself, and his yearning to belong pushes him to keep trying. And when he finally succeeds in finding a home, he blossoms into a beautiful swan.
I am not an expert on American history, but I don’t think African Americans ever accepted the term ‘slave’ given to them by the White majority in the 19th century. The only term they accepted is the one they chose for themselves. But their yearning to be accepted never let them give up. You can try to be all what the majority wants you to be, but until they accept you, you will not be happy. For that to happen, you need to have people from the majority group to be on your side. And that happened for the African Americans and eventually ended slavery era in the United States.
So what does that mean to Palestinians in Israel. Well, our yearning to be accepted is our drive to keep trying. To keep trying to find people within the majority group to see us as part of their home just the way we are.