And it’s a wonder she’s not a certified schizophrenic! Educated with her two older sisters in the development town of Dimona, after her parents left their home town of Nazareth, only her strong personality and willingness to assert herself helped her to survive in the narrow-minded atmosphere of this southern desert community, largely settled by Moroccan Jewish immigrants. She celebrated the Jewish holidays and Israeli Independence Day with her Jewish classmates and returned to Nazareth with her parents for the Muslim holidays. And her parents encouraged her in her efforts to integrate and excel – which she did, going on to attain an academic education, and specializing in journalism and communications.
But – and here is the problem. While outside the home Lucy was indistinguishable from her Jewish friends, within it she and her sisters were made to speak Arabic and were reminded constantly that they were different. Moreover, their parents will not conceive of their marrying outside the Muslim faith. And while there is no shortage of educated Muslim bachelors, most remain in their parents' villages and towns, where tradition reigns. As a result, Lucy and her sisters, all of them over 30, are unmarried. “I am depriving myself of that, because it’s the only thing my parents asked of me,” she said in an interview to Ha’aretz, “and if the price is that I’ll never find a partner, then I won’t find a partner.” With a few exceptions, the people she mixes with are almost all liberal, educated Jews. Yet, she is aware, too, of the possible negative reaction of Jewish parents if their beloved son were to bring home a Muslim bride-to-be.
Israeli society is full of stigmas and stereotypes, and Lucy encounters them on a daily basis, mainly because people don’t realize she’s not Jewish. In an article about her published in the weekly supplement of Yedioth Ahronot (May 4, 2012), she describes an incident that occurred while she and a Jewish friend were sitting at a Tel Aviv beach café. When he saw the two attractive women, the head waiter approached them, and after asking for their order began chatting flirtatiously. After he left, another waiter arrived with their drinks and rudely dumped them on the table. The head waiter noticed and came to apologize:
“Sorry about what happened, but he’s an Arab. They’re not polite.”
“What you just said is not very nice,” said Lucy.
“Why, is one of you going out with an Arab?”
“No,” said Lucy, “one of us is an Arab.”
The young man looks at her friend: “Are you an Arab?”
“No, she’s not,” replied Lucy, “I am.”
Dumbfounded, the head waiter compounds his embarrassment by blurting out:
“I want you to know that I was in a combat unit in the army and I never did anything beyond what was demanded of me.”
And that, more or less, sums up Lucy’s situation in Israel: torn between identities and made to feel uncomfortable in both societies. Sadly, her solution is to go abroad where such problems would not be an issue.
We can accuse Lucy's parents of putting her in this impossible position - on the one hand, demanding that their daughters receive a high level of education and exposing them to a more open, liberal society, and on the other, requiring them to adhere strictly to Muslim custom. However, what we actually need is dozens more Lucys to enrich and educate Israelis. Maybe only then will parents and society as a whole be more tolerant of their children’s relationships.