Ahmad Jum’a, a 25-year-old student from Nazareth, feels the need to defend Israel from the misconceptions and untruths he hears from fellow Muslims during the Haj:
Explaining that he is a Muslim Arab with Israeli citizenship often leaves his audience gobsmacked. . . .
Jum’a also encounters anti-Israel views. He holds the Arab media partially to blame for this, for failing to provide an accurate and comprehensive picture of Israeli culture and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The Arab media always shows negative things about Israel and as a Muslim Arab living inside Israel I want to show a positive side of the country. I tell them there are good things in Israel and that we live side by side with the Jews. There are problems sometimes but the relations with our Jewish neighbors are generally good.”
… On his recent trip to Medina he found a group of four Palestinians from a refugee camp in Lebanon. They told him they agreed with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Israel should be wiped off the map.
… The Muslims in Israel have freedom and passports, he tells them. They have a good economic situation and good jobs; they get along with their Jewish neighbors and they benefit from Israel’s services.
… Jum’a is not alone in this conviction. Sheikh ‘Ali Bakr, 47, an imam from northern Israel … has been to Saudi Arabia 24 times on pilgrimages. Bakr does not feel a contradiction in holding Israeli citizenship and attending the Haj.… “Some think that Israeli Arabs are neglected and underprivileged, so we tell them that’s not the case, that we live here as equal citizens and that we fit well into the Jewish social fabric.”