Can sworn enemies ever be­come friends?


In my youth in Morocco I was taught to hate Jews, and es­pe­cially Is­raelis. I was con­vinced that Jews and Mus­lims could never be­come friends and that the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Is­raelis and Arabs was based on hos­til­ity. The re­al­ity of cul­tural and re­li­gious plu­ral­ism in my new home coun­try of Ger­many and an ex­am­i­na­tion of Moroc­can his­tory, which shows that Jews and Mus­lims have lived in har­mony for cen­turies, have con­vinced me that dif­fer­ences in reli­gion can­not be the true rea­son for the an­i­mos­ity be­tween them in the Mid­dle East to­day.

I won­dered why peace and living to­gether in har­mony ap­peared to be im­pos­si­ble in the land of our com­mon an­ces­tor Abra­ham, and that ques­tion about the pos­si­bil­ity of peace be­tween Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans be­came a main topic of my sci­en­tific re­search. Dur­ing my in­ves­ti­ga­tions I came to re­al­ize that there are still Jews in to­day’s lead­er­ship elite of Morocco who are com­mit­ted to serv­ing the coun­try as a whole. I was able to meet An­dré Azoulay, the ad­viser to both king Has­san II and the present monarch, Mo­hammed VI. I also had the honor of meet­ing Simon Levy, the founder of the first and only Jewish mu­seum in the Arab world, lo­cated in Casablanca, and I re­al­ized that the Moroc­can throne has been me­di­at­ing be­tween Is­rael and its Arab neigh­bors since the 1970s, ob­vi­ously still be­liev­ing in a fu­ture peace.

My re­search also led me to meet the Ger­man-Is­raeli his­tor­i­cal and po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Michael Wolff­sohn, whom I came to ap­pre­ci­ate as a sen­si­tive, em­pa­thetic, charis­matic and open-minded per­son. Last but not least, my re­search obliged me to travel to Jerusalem, where I vis­ited both parts of the city and could see for my­self what Jews in the Mid­dle East are like in re­al­ity and how they in­ter­act with us Mus­lims. I was ex­tremely sur­prised at the hu­man­ity I ex­pe­ri­enced there and I am now con­vinced that friend­ship and peace be­tween us, the chil­dren of Abra­ham, is in­deed pos­si­ble.

My ex­pe­ri­ences dur­ing the Jerusalem trip have also in­spired me to write a trav­el­ogue con­sist­ing of 10 parts, which is cur­rently be­ing pub­lished un­der the Ger­man ti­tle Salam Jerusalem at the pub­lish­ing house Rim­baud in Aachen. The book de­scribes the dif­fi­cul­ties a Mus­lim and Arab man faces while in the Jewish state, es­pe­cially upon ar­rival at the Ben Gu­rion Air­port in Tel Aviv. But it also ex­presses the hu­man warmth I ex­pe­ri­enced in nu­mer­ous en­coun­ters with the peo­ple of Jerusalem – Mus­lims and Jews alike.

Es­pe­cially the meet­ing with one Jewish shop­keeper in the West­ern part of Jerusalem was un­for­get­table. My ex­pe­ri­ence with this friendly and open-minded man, named Abra­ham, mo­ti­vated me to write him a let­ter, which I in­cluded at the end of the book.

In that let­ter I ex­press my ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the hu­man­ity he showed me, a hu­man­ity rooted not only in Is­lam but in Chris­tian­ity and Ju­daism as well. I tell him that his ac­tions are living proof for my be­lief that, be­cause the eth­i­cal prin­ci­ples of their re­li­gions are so sim­i­lar, with man at the cen­ter of both, Jews and Mus­lims need not be sworn enemies. While I do of course ex­press my dis­agree­ment with the present Is­raeli po­lit­i­cal po­si­tion in the Mid­dle East con­flict, this does not mean our re­li­gions pre­vent us from be­ing on friendly terms with one an­other. More­over, I try to tell Abra­ham and all the Is­raeli peo­ple that hu­man­ity, in the way I my­self ex­pe­ri­enced it in Jerusalem, could be the ba­sis for re­solv­ing the po­lit­i­cal con­flict.

Con­sid­er­ing my own ex­pe­ri­ences in the Holy City, I won­der why this con­flict has yet to be re­solved and has re­mained so vir­u­lent over the past 70 years. How is it pos­si­ble that re­li­gions with the same eth­i­cal ba­sis and ori­gin view each other as sworn enemies when the mem­bers of th­ese re­li­gions can meet in the mid­dle with­out fear and help each other?

The let­ter is a re­quest to Is­raeli so­ci­ety to re­mem­ber its own hu­man­ity and eth­i­cal prin­ci­ples. It is a re­quest to view Abra­ham, the man to whom the let­ter is ad­dressed, as an ex­am­ple of how Is­raeli Jews and Mus­lim Arabs can come to­gether, ig­nor­ing the prej­u­dices pro­duced by me­dia and ex­trem­ist politi­cians, and rec­og­nize their fel­low hu­man be­ings with shared hu­man rights and needs. Fi­nally, it is a plea for peace be­tween Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans, a peace based on hu­man jus­tice as well as the eth­i­cal prin­ci­ples com­mon to Jews and Mus­lims. The hu­man­ity I ex­pe­ri­enced in my en­counter with Abra­ham is not an anom­aly but can be found in the hearts of peo­ple all over the Mid­dle East and will lead them to peace.

Jews and Mus­lims need not be enemies. They can be friends in Jerusalem and all over the world.


MOROCCO’S KING HAS­SAN II reads prayers dur­ing the in­au­gu­ra­tion of the mosque called after his name in 1993.

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