Dhia from Tunisia interviewed Raz from Israel as part of the YaLa Citizen Journalism program. This is what meeting the other looks like when both sides are ready to listen.
Raz is not so different from your average Facebook user. Just like anyone else, his profile is adorned with a picture of himself and some of his favorite places and activities, but perhaps what was most intriguing was the abundance of politically themed posts he shared. These posts ranged from satirical and critical to retrospective posts. I found some quite intriguing, especially since most of them were in Hebrew, a language which I have yet to learn. All of this would perhaps give a bit of a background to why I chose Raz as an interviewee and I’m glad to say he was as intriguing as his Facebook wall, if not even more.
Unlike many from the Middle East, Raz’s favorite food are sweet potatoes. As a lover of all things cheesy and spicy I have a hard time relating… but just like in food and life, to each his own. I imagine sweet potatoes are a lot easier to come by in Tel Aviv, Raz’s current city. Tel Aviv, a vibrant and dynamic city provides him with a lot of professional options in the field of computer science. As a nature lover, he loves the beach in Tel Aviv and the Yarkon River, which offer great bike lanes for days with friends or a break from the rush of the city. Perhaps, what Raz speaks of most, and the memories he holds most dearly are his childhood memories.
He recalled a memory when a number of nomadic people came to Israel and befriended his family. In one particular instance he was offered a fishing pole from a Polish friend in kindergarten. It was this experience that fuelled his lasting curiosity with people from other regions, whether it’s through participating in the YaLa Citizen Journalism Program or practicing his English with people travelling around the world and visiting Israel.
His grandfather grew up in Poland and could not even envision an institution similar to the European Union in his times, but now because of the EU, one can travel from former enemy territories during World War II freely without the need for visas and interviews. So perhaps the installation of something similar to the EU in the Middle East might not be as impossible as it seems, and what better way to ensure peace and security then through economic stability and trade relations. Raz, like many of his peers, wishes to find success in his field, get a chance to see a bit more of the world, and start his own family. Like many other global citizens, he also wishes to increase his proficiency in other languages, mainly Russian and Arabic.
One of the most surprising things that Raz learned at YaLa was the courage of some of his Sudanese friends on Facebook , as they were not hesitant to criticise the regime. He always believed that most people kept their opinions secret when living under authoritarian regimes, but was surprised to find how open the public debate was online, something I know first hand being raised in the shadow of a dictatorship . Even with the claims of widespread piracy, fraud, and other cybercrimes, the regime made their first conviction relating to concerns surround child abduction. This was contrary to the ‘Tunisia is well’ propaganda campaign all too often sung on the national media.
Last but not least , one of the places that Raz would most like to visit is Iran. He was told by a British couple, of whom he is an acquaintance, that it is a beautiful and interesting place
At the end of the day , even these type of conversations about matters such as food and childhood memories, which may seem trivial are as important as deep conversations . They remind us that we’re all much more similar than we think, or than we were taught to think. Although, this was mostly an interview piece about Raz , I couldn’t help but to see the similarities between us , above and beyond just people, but for our mutual passions for both software engineering and the ocean, as people who are curious and accepting of differences , and as people who want to see more of the world. I can only hope that this curiosity and both of our countries and the entire region will defeat the prejudice that poisons our region. Perhaps, they may to see the light of peace and economic solutions that ensure the growth of all countries, and, in ending on a slightly geeky note as Bill Gates once said:” For Microsoft to win, Apple doesn’t have to lose” If these bitter rivals could figure this out , I believe there’s hope to be found in the region as well.
To apply to the YaLa Citizen Journalism Program: www.yalaacademy.org/apply