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October 13, 2015 | 30th Tishrei 5776

Noisy Neighbors

Galilee Diary #518, December 1, 2010
Marc Rosenstein

Mar, the son of Ravina, made a wedding for his son. He saw that the rabbis were getting too merry so he took a glass that was valued at four hundred zuz and broke it in front of them and they sobered up.

        -Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 30b

It is told that when the early Jewish settlers in Rosh Pina, in the 1880s, celebrated their first wedding, they adopted the local Arab custom of firing a pistol into the air as a form of celebration. Somehow a bullet went astray and killed an Arab in the neighboring village. This was almost the beginning of a disastrous vendetta, but mature leadership on both sides managed to avert further bloodshed.

Here on Shorashim, located less than a mile from the Muslim Arab village of Sha'ab, we are reminded of the custom of celebratory explosions almost every day. In general, much of the public business of Sha'ab is conducted by loudspeaker, and we hear it: funeral announcements, wedding invitations, the Friday sermon in the mosque, the vegetable vendor with his pickup truck - all these come through loud and clear. And of course, the music from the weddings, held outdoors, is amplified to a degree that we can only assume leaves the neighbors with hearing loss. (Here at Shorashim, as the oldest children are now in the getting-married phase, a few families have held outdoor weddings, but as the community has grown, there are residents who don't appreciate the prospect of their houses vibrating until the wee hours with the bass notes of the DJ's selections, and it appears that this will not become established custom.

The custom of firing weapons at Arab weddings has given way, in our area, almost entirely to firecrackers and the kind of rockets that go up and explode with a bang and a flash. These are a constant part of the sounds of summer for us. And when the family wants to be extravagant, we are treated to a full display of colored fireworks across the valley. (I have heard Arabs complain about the nuisance, the danger, and the wasted expense of all this). Rarely, we notice that we are hearing not firecrackers but bursts of fire from an automatic weapon. This is illegal, but it's not like the police come racing into the village to apprehend the perpetrators. Israel has weapons licensing laws; quite a few people carry pistols, especially around Jerusalem; and there is some legal hunting, mostly, I think, in the Arab community. But this is also a country in which firearms are all around us all the time. Soldiers are not allowed to leave their weapons unattended, so they bring them home for the weekend. Everyone knows that there are large quantities of weapons and ammunition and other army equipment that somehow never get returned, that remain in closets, or move into more sinister lines of distribution. Once our son fell asleep on a bus on his way home from the army and when he awoke suddenly and rushed off at his stop, discovered he had left his ammunition clip behind. This is a serious offense, but by the time he had to go back on Sunday, neighbors had outfitted him with what he needed, from their stash, so his commander never knew. And the bus company lost-and-found never saw his lost clip.

The lack of enforcement of the weapons laws at Arab weddings, like the lack of traffic enforcement in the villages, represents another example of a dangerous ambivalence in the relationship of the state to its Arab citizens. If, in the name of cultural pluralism, we treat their villages as outside the law, then we give the message that they are, in some sense, outside the state. It seems to me that this has not been a constructive policy - and that the longer we allow it to continue, the harder it will be to undo.

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