"Israel is my country and I am proud of it"
One of Israels greatest patriots and social network activists is Mohammad Zoabi a young Israeli Arab Muslim guy who is only 15 years old. The love for his country has been a part of who he is for almost as long as he can remember. His aim is to make the Israeli Arabs and the world in general realize why they should support Israel. The dream he has is to one day be a part of the Israeli Knesset and proudly serve his country.
Tobias Petersson from the network Perspective on Israel (PPI) was amazed by how active he is on Facebook to support Israel in so many pro-Israeli groups and how much hope and inspiration he creates among supporters of Israel and we decided to interview Mohammad to know more about who this proud Israeli is, what he stands for and how come he has the courage to stand up for Israel despite all hostility against his country that he is facing.
PPI:For how long have you had this feeling that you want to support your country?
MOHAMMAD:-Since I was a young child actually. I used to watch the news from neighboring Arab countries and Israel. I compared the attitudes between the two sides. We call them by their nationality, we respect them but instead they attack us and call us "the occupying enemy ".
It bothered me a lot how they portrayed Israel. I was also affected by two sides in my family, the two views of my parents who are now divorced. My mom raised me and thanks to God my mother and her views won over my fathers family's views that are totally against the country.
I always have had this feeling of that it is my country and if anyone wants to harm Israel it is my country they harm. This feeling especially grew after the second war with Lebanon, when I was a kid and I was at a friends house in Nazareth. My mother left me there and went to work, and rockets from Lebanon hit the city which is the largest Arab city in Israel.
Two innocent children were killed by the rockets, Israeli Arab children, and I remember how scared I was as you could hear and feel when the rockets hit the ground and people were full of dust from when the rockets hit. And when I remember these things I realize how important it is that we feel connected to Israel. When somebody wants to destroy this country it means that somebody wants to destroy and kill us - all of us. No matter if you are Jewish, or Arab we are Israelis and to them we are their enemies. That is why I started to have this feeling of why I want to support my country.
PPI:How would you compare the Israeli media compared to Arab media and how do they talk about the the conflict ?
MOHAMMAD:-In the Arab media in neighboring countries like Egypt they say very disrespectful things about us.The Israeli media is very different and I support our Israeli media because it is totally peaceful.
PPI:How do you define yourself and your identity?
MOHAMMAD:-I am proud to say I am an Israeli Arab Muslim living in Israel. And it is Israel not Palestine. It is Israel the Jewish democratic country and yes it is my country and I am proud of it.
My most important identity is Israeli, the second identity I have is Arab and the last one is Muslim.
I am going to explain why I think this way:
First of all my nationality is Israeli. Israel is the country I belong to. It should be the first thing I say that I identify myself as. That should be the first thing that I should be proud of and why I say Arab in the second place is because I am an Arab and I am not denying that. I put Muslim last as yes I believe in God. I may say that I am Jewish, I may say I am Christian or Muslim but it is all the same to me as all the three religions believe in God so that is why that is the least important identity to tell something about me.
PPI:There may be people out there who thinks you should not call yourself an Israeli, especially Arabs what is your response to them?
MOHAMMAD:-The USA for instance have Arabs and they may identify themselves as Arab Americans, in Syria Arabs are Syrian Arabs, the same for all the Arab countries. And as an Arab who is an Israeli I think I have the right to identify myself as an Israeli Arab.
PPI:Is there discrimination against Arabs in Israel?
MOHAMMAD: -In general I do not think there is any discrimination against Arabs here.
PPI:So what are you proud of about Israel?
MOHAMMAD:-It is my country and I am proud of it because of that in the first place.
The other things that make me more proud is my country's success in a lot of different fields.
I am proud of my democratic country. I consider my country as the heaven in the middle of hell.
The hell is the rest of the Middle East and the heaven is Israel.
Israel is not perfect - there is nothing in the world that is perfect but it is much more closer to being perfect than all the other Middle Eastern countries. All the other countries around in the region lack democracy but we have democracy in Israel. I am also proud of my Israeli society as we are a very peaceful and openminded society. We accept everyone and we do not discriminate against you because of your beliefs or your gender. Those are some of the reasons I support my country.
PPI:You support Israel but who supports you in what you are doing Mohammad?
MOHAMMAD:-My mother supports me. She is my biggest supporter even though she is sometimes afraid and worried about me and she is careful she still supports me. She raised me so that if I believe in something nobody should have the right to stop me or silence me. Because of her I have got this courage to go out publicly. And thanks to that I met a lot of great people who are not only Jewish but also Christians and Muslims who support me. So the one I want to thank for all this support is my mother.
PPI:What place in Israel do you like the most?
MOHAMMAD:-All the country is great but if I want to compare between cities I want to live in I would compare between them based on how close they are to hostile neighbors. When it comes to Jerusalem, our capital that I hope will remain our capital forever I like it as a holy city but to be honest as a city with a lot of tension I don't like that aspect of it and I don't like the aspect of that people who are hostile to Israel live inside our capital. The place I like the most in Israel is Tel Aviv.
PPI:Do you and your family celebrate Yom Atzmaut, the Israeli Independence day?
MOHAMMAD:-On my fathers side of the family we don't celebrate it .With my mom and her family yes we celebrate every year the Independence Day.
We celebrate it by going to the Independence Party in my town where Israeli singers sing. We go to Nazareth Illit the municipally where this party is in the Yom Atzmaut evening. In the daytime we usually go to the sea or barbecue with our friends and my moms family of course.
PPI:You have some criticism against some parts of the education in schools where Arabs study.What is that?
MOHAMMAD:-Israeli Arab schools, they are Israeli schools, as they get supplies from the Israeli Ministry of Education, they are in Israel, their students are Israeli. But the difference between these schools and Israeli Jewish schools is that Israeli Jewish schools are truly Israeli schools. Israeli Arab schools unfortunately are not because some people in these schools want them to be anti-Israeli schools.They raise generations to hate the country. In the school I learn the Arab history, about my religion, I learn about my language, Arabic. So there is no discrimination. What I want to change in the Arab Israeli schools is that they talk about our Independence Day and teach us to be happy of that day.
PPI:Do you think your views on Israel is held by a majority or minority of the Israeli Arabs?
MOHAMMAD:-We can not have a one hundred percent correct answer to that yet as some people may be afraid of being harassed if they express my views. I can not say however that we are a majority who think like me but we are a lot.
PPI:Which are your career dreams for the future?
MOHAMMAD:-First I want to serve in the Israeli army and for this I will need a lot of support and people to be there for me as I may have some problems to face from my fathers side of the family.
After the Israeli army service I think I want to become a lawyer because it is connected in some way to politics and also I would like to be a member of the Knesset. Then I can continue to defend my country against those who are anti-Israel.
And I am sure with the loyalty to my country I can be even more than that. I am going to prove to all the haters that Israeli Muslims when they are loyal and they prove to their country they won't betray their country they can reach any position they want.
PPI:What would your message be to people in Scandinavia who are reading this interview?
MOHAMMAD:-Scandinavians, I know that you could be the role model to a lot of nations to teach them democracy.You can teach the world how to truly be nations who live in the 21th Century. Look at the Middle East on fire and inside this there is this one small protected piece of land which has democracy, that has all the features that a democratic and civilized nation could ever have, that's Israel.
If you consider supporting anti-Israeli countries and organizations you should review their history, their leadership and the way they think.
Interview by Tobias Petersson for Perspective on Israel
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